Wise Words to a Stubborn Ox

Wise Words to a Stubborn Ox

Do you know the old hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story”? It’s just great.

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love;
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true,
It satisfies my longings as nothing else would do.

I love to tell the story,
’Twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and His love.

I love to tell the story, more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams;
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me,
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.

I love to tell the story, ’tis pleasant to repeat,
What seems each time I tell it more wonderfully sweet;
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.

I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest;
And when in scenes of glory I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.

Do you love to tell the story of what Jesus has done for you? I know someone who did: The Apostle Paul. He LOVED to tell the story of how Jesus called him into the work of the Gospel.

When testifying before King Agrippa in Acts 26, he said,

“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.”

And then he said, “My manner of life from my youth …” OK, let’s pause for a second. Apparently, this is going to be a long story! Whenever someone starts a story with, ‘It all goes back to when I was a little boy,’ put up a tent because you’re going to be camping out for a while!

But the story Paul had to tell was really amazing and unimaginably important! He told Agrippa how he met Jesus when he least expected Him!

“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you …” (Acts 26:9-16).

Paul loved to tell that story!

There are a few things I’d like for us to consider from Paul’s story above.

First, Jesus made a point to tell Paul that “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

Second, after identifying Himself, Jesus told him, “rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose …”

Jesus had a purpose for Paul, a specific and perfect will for his life. Paul didn’t even know it was Jesus speaking to Him. Yet, He’d already determined precisely how He intended to use this zealous, if misguided, Pharisee.

Paul would later write – perhaps reflecting upon his own calling – “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

As Paul grew into his life as a follower of Jesus, he became very aware of God’s specific purpose for him, as should all believers. And, once we discover it, it’s easier to simply commit ourselves to it than it is to kick against it.

That doesn’t stop us from kicking anyway, of course. But kicking back against God’s plan is always fantastically uncomfortable!

Jesus told the future-apostle, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” A goad is a sharp wooden or metal prod that the owner of an ox would use to poke him. This would ‘motivate’ the dumb animal to go where it’s master wanted it to go. But nobody, even an ox, likes getting poked. So, the animal would instinctively kick back against it to knock it out of the way. But that’s not what would happen at all! Instead, each time the ox would kick against the goad, the goad would press deeper and deeper into its hide!

The Greek word for this is ‘ouch-ikos!’ (OK, I made that up, but goads really DID hurt!)

The Lord’s message to the spiritually blind Paul who was about to receive his sight is the Lord’s message to all of us who already have: ‘I have a specific purpose for you, a perfect will. And it is infinitely easier to embrace it than it is to kick against it.

For some believers their entire saved life has been characterized by kicking. And yet, they might wonder why the peace and joy that should belong to them as children of God has eluded them time and time again.

Nobody would argue that the will of God is always easy or even comfortable, but it is life-giving and joyful, because Jesus walks it with us. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11);


Let’s remember: As difficult as embracing the perfect will of God may be, kicking against it is a far more unattractive choice! Or, as Jesus told Paul in a considerable understatement, “It’s hard!”


To Consider …

  • Do you love to tell the story? Do you look for opportunities to testify of God’s goodness to you?
  • Would you characterize your spiritual life as one of ‘embracing’ or ‘kicking against’ God’s specific plan?
  • What are your thoughts about Ephesians 2:10: “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

What thoughts does this verse evoke in you?

  • When Paul was finished telling his story in Acts 26, Festus accused him of being out of his mind.
  • Are you willing to endure ridicule for the sake of telling your story?
  • Think carefully about Psalm 16:11a: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy.”

Consider each word and each phrase of this verse.

Why did God choose to use the words He did and not use others?

In what way is God’s path a “path of life”? In what way is it life-giving?

What do you think the psalmist means by the “fulness of joy”?

Have you experienced this joy in His presence?



  1. I never saw the connection between Romans 12:1-3 and Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 (Monday’s blog). How unfortunate it is when followers of Jesus spend the best days or even years of their life pursuing the wrong goals.

  2. Kathryn Boisvert : May 2, 2018 at 8:05 am

    So much is going through my mind that I am almost tempted not to share because I’m overwhelmed with it. Let’s start with that psalm 16 verse 11. I remember saying to the Lord what is it mean there is fullness of joy at your right hand. Shortly after that I was diagnosed with cancer. And then in the depths of what could’ve been the darkest time of my life became the brightest time in my life. I did truly experience the fullness of joy as my savior walked with me through that trial. Now speaking to the second point I always look for opportunities to share Christ and they are always there. I don’t take any credit for that because he gives me the boldness! When I sing in the nursing homes it’s a joy to share that with the elderly people that who, sometimes have never encountered Christ very personally such as I have done and do, daily. It’s the craziest thing it’s like I can just feel this infilling of light flow out of me and I can’t stop the smile on my face when I speak of my wonderful Savior ( nor do I want to start smiling !)! 😃😃

  3. I so appreciate the emphasis on Eph. 2:10 and the fact that God had a plan laid out for us even before he created us. Pretty amazing thought. Help me Lord to lay down my plans and submit to yours!

  4. Kicking against the goads is not only painful but frustrating. In fact it is designed to be that way, so we are well motivated to turn and embrace His way, one so very opposite of our flesh. Pain proves to be our helper in this instance but only IF it brings us to complete SUBMISSION to God.

  5. David Medeiros : May 2, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Ah, joy, seems to me that is absent for the most part in the church and in many believers and most likely because they stubbornly kick against the goads. I heard an interesting quote today on Christian radio and unfortunately, I can’t remember who it belongs to. When I consider joy I also think of its close brother peace,” joy is peace resting, peace is joy dancing.” I liked that and as I think of Psalm 16:11, the fullness of joy, draws my attention to John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that MY joy may be in you, and that your joy may BE FULL.” This text is the abiding principle we read in the first 10 verses. Abiding in God’s presence is the key and when there is intentional surrender to the Lordship of Christ, the beautiful fruit of Spirit is the bi product.

  6. Psalm 139 tells me I am fearfully and wonderfully made Ephesians tells me I am his workshop created for good works in Christ Jesus. How beautiful is that! He has prepared my good works. He is in charge. I kick sometimes but have learned to be content where he has placed me with whom He has placed me doing what He has prepared for me to do. My good works may not be glamours and maynot seem significant but they are the works He has prepared for me. So some days I sing a little praise unto the Lord and others I sigh and soldier on,always acknowledging He knows more than I and I can trust HIm

  7. This morning I had the opportunity to look at a mom feeding her daughter a bottle as I was carrying out my BSF responsibilities. Mom’s arms so gently held that baby, The peace on the babies face and the absolute confidence in the moms arms was a picture of sheer joy to me. It was in my peripheral vision as I spoke, and it’s that same picture of complete rest and confidence-joy-that we are to have in Jesus. He offers it, I just don’t avail myself of it as I should moment by moment…

  8. Anne Brassard : May 3, 2018 at 2:34 pm

    As I have been thinking about this during the week I came across this quote by Oswald Chambers. “If you’re going to be used by God, He will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all, but they are meant to make you useful in His hands.” We often walk through unimaginable pain and suffering, through the deepest of valleys. And every time, God uses our journey for His glory. When yielded, faithful hearts allow themselves to be used by the Him, wonders take place and blessings come. I think of my sweet Sarah’s hard journey through a life filled with uncertainty even unto death and I struggle with the idea that God would make this part of what we had to endure so that I could come to him fully surrendered. But one of my comforting life verses has been Jeremiah 29:11… “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” And I am dearly aware that I might not be where I am today had I not walked that road, and in surrender to His sovereign will also walked that path which God has made known to me that I might have life and fullness of joy! He has redeemed my life in so many beautiful ways!! And the blessings I have received from my hospice patients are too numerable to count! I praise him for the opportunity to serve his people this way.

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