Today’s Reading: Acts 26
In today’s reading, the apostle Paul is about to make his defense before king Agrippa before leaving for Rome. It is so powerful that at the end of his speech, the king says to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”
What was so powerful about this speech Paul made? He told his conversion experience (this is the third time he tells it in Acts). Always remember that something may be old to you, but it may be new for someone else. D. L. Moody, the great American evangelist in the nineteenth century, was never afraid to tell people about Jesus wherever he was. He had a reputation for it. One day Moody intercepted a man who was hurrying toward a train and asked the stranger, “Are you saved?” The man told him, “That is none of your business.” Moody replied, “That is just my business,” to which the stranger said, “Then you must be Moody.” He was an amazing storyteller who could make the gospel more understandable to his listeners. After one meeting in which he preached, a woman approached him and said, “Moody, I’ve heard those stories you told, they were repeats.” To which Moody replied, “The people need to hear those stories, and I must tell them.” And that is what Paul did before the king. He retold his story.
But this time we get something we have never heard before. It is as if Paul’s memory was jarred the more he told his conversion story:
While so engaged as I was journeying 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, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:12-14)
Did you hear it? Every time he told his story, it always had Saul. “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” But this time he added the second part, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
These are red-letter words, which means Jesus was talking. That is why we have to take note of the addition to Paul’s story. The risen Christ told Paul that it was hard for him to kick against the spikes or goads. When a young ox was first yoked, it tried to kick its way out of the yoke. If it was yoked to a onehanded plough, the ploughman held in his hand a long stick with a sharpened end, which he held close to the ox’s heels so that every time it kicked, it was caught by the spike. The sharp end would urge the ox in the right direction, but if it wanted to do its own thing, the small pain of being guided was traded for the big pain of being stabbed in the heel for not listening. It was the pain of disobedience.
It seems that Paul was making an important point. He was saying that God was pricking his conscience, and every time he refused and fought against it, it just got harder for him. Many believe that when Paul witnessed Stephen’s stoning in Acts 8, that act started the pricking of his conscience. He saw Stephen’s face look like an angel. He saw Stephen forgive the men who were stoning him. He saw Stephen commit himself into the arms of Jesus. To see all this and not turn to Jesus was nothing but kicking against the goads.
When God is trying to get our attention and we keep on going our own way, we join the goad-kicking club. The pain of disobedience is way more costly than the pain of obeying. Every time God asks us to draw closer to Him in obedience, it is our chance either to say yes and all Him to guide us to our destination or to say no and have Jesus discipline us to our intended destination.
This is really important. With God, He is going to get you to your intended destination. So you can do it the easy way or the hard way.
What was Paul’s destination? “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17-18, NIV).
God said you chose the sharp goads but we still got there.
It’s nice to get where God wants us to be. It’s better to do it without getting the sharp end of a goad. It’s so much easier to listen to the voice of God than to be stubborn.