In the Biblical book of Acts, chapter 25, the apostle Paul is standing before King Agrippa in Caesarea, defending his teaching of Christianity. He describes his conversion on the road to Damascus, where Jesus appeared to him and said:
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ V14.
Jesus often used simple pastoral references, easily understood by the people of that age. The goad referred to here was what we would today call a cattle prod- a simple tool used to steer or prod oxen when ploughing, a long stick, sometimes with a sharpened end or nail in the end. It was used to prompt or direct an animal, and a stubborn or feisty beast would kick back when prodded rather than simply obeying the direction. Today we talk about ‘goading” a person, referring to deliberately and continually provoking a person until they respond.
Paul (called Saul prior to his conversion) was an educated and intelligent man, one schooled in Jewish law, yet he persecuted followers of the new and rapidly expanding sect, the Way, or Christianity. He tells us that whenever a vote was held for the death penalty for Christians, Paul voted for this (v9). Yet Jesus says it was hard for him to “kick against the goads”. I believe that the goads for Paul were a continuing troubling of his conscience and a growing awareness of the Christian witness of those he persecuted, including the martyred apostle Stephen.
What was true in the time that Luke penned the book of Acts still holds true today. We often encounter people who are opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will argue long and persuasively against Christianity and oppose it at every opportunity. In some countries they will imprison and put to death followers of Jesus. Yet God is still in the business of prompting knowledge of His presence. We must remember that it’s hard work for those people who deny Christ, and futile work at that. They are kicking against the goads.
Jesus told His followers to
” love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44).
Perhaps members of the early church were faithful in intercessory prayer for Paul’s conversion. Likewise, we have a responsibility to pray for our unsaved friends and relatives and those throughout the world who are suffering persecution for their faith. We have the commission and responsibility to live a life full of witness of the love and power of Jesus.
|The Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia, Nov 2019|
|From the wonders of coastal scenery to the wondrous design of small creatures, God's mighty hand is evident. Butterfly house, Melbourne Zoo, November 2019|