Friday, August 11, 2017
Is God Goading ME?
I hope you read the title of this posting personally, for I think I am meant to write this for you.
The Friday morning men’s Bible Study sometimes is blessed with great insights. Today was one of those days. In Acts, Paul was explaining to the Roman king how he (Paul) was a great follower of Jewish law, until Jesus Himself appeared and spoke to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.” Goads?
Someone quickly researched the word and explained that a “goad” was a stick with a sharp point on the end, used to prod oxen. And a further, more important point, was explained: “If the ox kicks back against the goad, he drives the point deeper into himself.” The ox is prodded to change his actions, and if he kicks back, he only hurts himself more.
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It hurts YOU to kick against the goads.”
The guys saw lots of insights in these words. A goad is a prod for you to change (it’s not a random pain), but it’s not words telling you what to do --- you have to figure out how to change, even if by trial and error. A further insight: The ox has a strength; the goad is a prod for him to use that strength in the way it was intended. One of the guys noticed how parents prod their children to do good, and if they push back they are punished --- but it’s for their own good. This is what God was saying to Saul.
One of the guys asked: “How do I know if God is prodding me?” Rather quickly we arrived at the conclusion that goads hurt, so we need to ask the questions: What is hurting me? What gets me irritated? What gets me mad? And, if I get mad, am I mad that I am mad --- am I pushing back against the goad? Since we are not made to live irritated or mad, then what is God goading me to do? We need to ask, in response to our anger: “What would You have me do, Lord?”
One of the guys mentioned that he always gets angry on the golf course when he hits another ball into the trees. He opined that maybe God is telling him to listen to that guy who’s telling him to change his swing. Well, community is a good thing, but perhaps, I opined, God is telling you this is a waste of your time, and He has better things for you to do. That comment was not well-received, but it stirred up conversation about God having to goad us because some things He’d have us do we don’t want to do --- probably because, like the kids, we don’t see how that is good for us in a way we can understand. And that brought the discussions to “trust.”
If something/someone is constantly irritating in your life, it may be God goading you to change. And if we are REALLY to talk to, to understand, to trust God’s will for us, we have to be open to radical change (give up golf?), to stopping that which is hurting us. We often can’t change other people or events of our life, but we can change our reactions to them, and not push back against the goad.
We can change.
We need to ask: “Is God goading me?” We need to answer: “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening. What would You have me do?”
- - - - - - - - - -
I offered the guys my own personal testimony on recent events in my life. I repeat it here because I think this, too, applies to you.
I had told the guys (and written here) about how God prodded me to help a woman in need, finally bluntly saying these words to my face:
“Tom, you need to help her.”
God’s goading then didn’t make me mad, but I was irritated at myself and my poor initial reactions to hearing of the woman’s plight.
Last week a woman appeared at the prayer chapel, I told them, staying for the late-night hour I overslept. I didn’t plan for her to be there in my place, yet she so exuded joy at the time she spent alone with God that I felt this was somehow part of God’s plan for her (and perhaps me), and she stuck in my mind. In the past week, I have seen that woman or her car five or six times around various churches and chapels. She seems everywhere I go, and I noticed it, and so I did pray: “Lord, what would You have me do?” God’s prods to us don’t always have to result in pain or anger. The more we are prayerfully open to His will, the more we can see His hints, without them having to turn into commandments – goads. I felt I was hearing His hints --- I don’t believe in coincidences in faith matters --- but despite the hints I didn’t feel close to an answer to my prayer.
Yesterday, I went to early morning mass. Approaching my car afterwards, I saw the woman’s car parked right next to mine. She must have been in the chapel. And so, I did silently pray again: “Lord, what?” And I got into my car, started it, and glanced to my left, where there, on the backside window of her car was a decal with these words:
“God wants His world back, and we have to help him.”
The guys were immediately struck with the parallel words: “Tom, you have to help her,” and “we have to help Him.” (I didn’t speak to them of my dream on the state of the world or my subsequent thoughts about it. These, I think, are meant for me.) But they got the example I wanted to show them, and so they closed the Bible Study as I close this post, with the question I ask you to ask: Is God goading ME?