Wise Words to a Stubborn Ox
by Pastor Gene
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?
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