“It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14 NIV)
I woke up Friday morning to find my 7-year- old little girl curled up next to me. I looked at the clock and thought, “I really need to start the day,” but I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but lay beside this sweet little girl.
She looked so peaceful with her head on my arm holding my hand. I laid there, next to her, and enjoyed the sensation of absolute peace for another hour before I was rudely disturbed by the alarm clock. Let the chaos begin!
Everyone, regardless of race, religion, or anything else, understands the chaos of life. If we were honest, we would probably find that the majority of our time and resources is spent on trying to bring order to the chaos—to bring some kind of peace into our lives. We want to have more of those moments where we are at rest and can see peace in the lives of those we love. The tragic irony is that so many of our attempts to bring peace result in more chaos. We often find ourselves, “kicking against the goads”.
In this passage, the apostle Paul was sharing, while in chains and facing trial, that he once tried to find peace in his life by all of the methods that religion and the world said would work. He saw Christianity as an enemy that threatened the peace in his world. So Paul did what anyone would do, he worked very hard to end the threat. He, like many of us, applied every known method at his disposal to create and protect the peace. Like many of us, he did not realize that he was actually causing the chaos in his life.
Paul shared that God appeared to him and asked him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
The lifestyle that Jesus calls us to seems counterproductive to what we desire and what we see in the world. Jesus calls us to love our enemies, and yet we only know peace through war. Jesus tells us to live simple lives and yet our alarms go off so that we can jump into the rat race. Jesus tells us to invest in others and yet we are taught to invest in our 401k before anything else. Jesus tells us that He is the only source of true peace and yet we still find ourselves trying to create peace by our own means. We often find ourselves, “kicking against the goads.”
Paul explained that he had to respond to this truth through action. He could no longer be the person who claimed to serve God, yet still expected results from religion or worldly means. Once he had relinquished everything to Jesus, God used him to go out into the world that was struggling to find peace and “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 26:18 NIV).
Paul stood there in chains and yet he still knew a peace beyond what King Agrippa or Festus could possibly imagine. He had chosen to stop spinning his wheels and to trust in God—to obey and to serve Jesus in all things. If a person truly wants peace in their life, then they must first stop persecuting Jesus and kicking against the goads. Peace is found in faith and obedience to God.
I don’t want my babies to grow up in the same rat race that I grew up in. The truth is that the world is not getting simpler, it is becoming more complex. With that comes more temptation to use Jesus as a symbol of religion or simply as a supplement to our choices. This has never worked, nor will it ever work.
For the sake of peace in my own life, I must have faith and obey Jesus. For the sake of my children I must set an example that teaches them to be courageous in a world that may chain them for engaging in the truth.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let it remind us that Jesus Himself became flesh and obedient so that He might be the source of true peace to anyone who would receive it.