Against the Goads
He hated the church, and he hated Christ. He persecuted the Church of God, breathing out threats and murder against both men and women. This young man named Saul, aka Paul, consented to the death of Stephen. Later, he wrote that "I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my contingent, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions." (Galatians 1:13-14)
Yet in spite of his hatred and madness toward the Church of God, this man Saul was to be an instrument in God's hands for the furtherance of the Gospel. And the scripture tells us it was God's plan all along. "God ... set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through his grace." (v15)
Here is a man, called from the womb, yet persecuting the church.
I have a theory, and it's only a theory, about Saul. A young man his age at the death of Stephen would have still been old enough to see and hear the man Jesus during his earthly ministry. Saul would have been aware of him, probably saw him, and possibly even heard him teach a time or two. The things Jesus said would have been disturbing to this Pharisee of Pharisees, yet deep down a man of Saul's intellectual talents would have recognized the core of truth in the Gospel. And maybe, just maybe, Saul was fighting the call of God and converting his reaction into a fight instead of surrender.
If this theory is correct, then Jesus' words to Saul on the road to Damascus ("It is hard for you to kick against the goads" - Acts 26:14) speaks to God's determination that Saul was to be a vessel in his hands, and that God would do whatever he needed to do to break this bronco.
We all have our road to Damascus experiences. God wants to do a great work through all of us. But like Saul, aka Paul, we might not recognize what he is trying to do. We might be resisting the calling of the Holy Spirit. That's why we need to be in tune to God's will in our lives. We need to listen for the voice of God and follow him.
Excerpted from The Sabbath Morning Companion, February 25, 2005, by Lenny Cacchio. All rights reserved.