Monday, July 20, 2009

Kicking Against The Goads

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

Acts 26:14-18

Not many know what a “goad” is now days. In today’s fast-paced and abbreviated society, terms used only a few decades ago are no longer part of our vocabulary. To modern man, it is easier to use a form of shorthand when communicating with others, as is most evident in the electronic technology flooding our markets. For those of you who are not familiar with this archaic term, a “goad” was a wooden stick or rod that was sharpened to a point on one end. Used by men training oxen to pull, its purpose was to break the animal of its stubborn kicking. The more it kicked, the more it was poked, and eventually the ox would move forward in its attempt to get away from the painful object behind it. As cruel as it may seem to some, it was not long before the animal learned the commands and became subjected to obedience.

Saul of Tarsus carried his own goad on the road to Damascus. A Jew of Jews, a Pharisee in the first order, Saul moved from synagogue to synagogue, and even into foreign cities with his own sharpened stick. He arrested and imprisoned, had flogged and stoned those who were followers of Christ and who refused to deny Him. As Stephen was martyred, his clothing was laid at Saul’s feet as Saul nodded with approval while the false witnesses cast their stones (Acts 7:57-58). Saul’s goad was honed to a keen and brutal point, intent on destroying what this man Who called Himself God had started.

But Saul also learned about God’s goad on the road to Damascus. Saul the persecutor of Christians became Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles. By all appearances and human logic, Saul was the worst choice God could have made. He was obsessed with his hatred for Christians. His cruelty knew no bounds. His determination to stop the blaspheming Jews consumed him and he made it his mission to put an end to it once and for all. But God’s wisdom far surpasses our own. He had His own sharpened stick which He used to subject Saul to obedience. And as history reveals to us, Paul’s mission dramatically changed history the day he met the Lord he was persecuting on the road to Damascus. His “kicking against the goads” had finally come to an end.

As I read this account, I am forced to ask myself how many times I have “kicked against the goads.” How many times have I stubbornly refused to heed God’s commands? God is not a harsh taskmaster or a cruel herdsman who harnesses and drives his children with no concern for their well-being. He does not force subjection and obedience, but His goad can be painful when we kick against it. My life has proven this to be true. On my own road to Damascus, many times I have felt the sting of the rod when I refused to obey.

Our God is a faithfully persistent God. He is patient when applying His lessons. As He proved with Saul, if we are chosen by Him, He will have us no matter how much effort we put into ignoring and avoiding Him. I began my search for Jesus early in my childhood. But it took half a lifetime to finally yield to His gentle prodding. The pain I felt along the way was caused by my own doing, not by Him. I kicked. And I kicked some more. He did not poke me and prod me with His goad. But I was painfully aware that it was there every time I kicked against it.

This is not to say that I no longer “kick against the goads”. I do it often; more often than I care to admit. I kick against His providence; thinking there’s never enough. I kick against His mercies, wanting a picture-perfect Christian life, if there is such a thing. I kick against His call to witness; fear and inconvenience often slip in and convince me not to approach others. There is a multitude of things we kick against if we would only stop and consider them. We may not be a Saul, a persecutor of Christians, but all of us can claim the title persecutors of Christ. If you are offended, think of this: each time we ignore Him, each time we fail to stand up for Him and help bear the cross, we persecute Him - and this to our eternal shame.

But I am learning, as I hope you are. My Teacher is the best one could have. And like the ox, I am beginning to resist less, to submit to Him more, and yield to His gentle prodding. It is not the goad I fear and the pain it produces. If I kick it is my own fault, not His. It is the fear of letting Him down, of not demonstrating my love for Him as well as I could and should. So, I will pull the plow that prepares the ground for the seeds He plants. I will strain against the weight the world stacks onto the cart behind me. And with His help, I will move forward in obedience and devotion as Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, did on the dusty road to Damascus.


Mama Mimi (Dana) said...

Somehow I'm thinking that our conversation today about stubborn cattle prompted this post. LOL. Same thing though. They can be knocked in the head, slapped around, drug around, and still kick and buck. But once they find out how easy it is to obey, they continue, going back once in awhile to their obstinant selves. Ouch!! My feet hurt. :0)

Karen L. Brahs said...

Lol! He definitely knew what he was doing by comparing us to livestock! I'll be glad when the stubbornness is once and for all "goaded" out of me!