An ox and his will

A goad is a stick with a pointed (or electrically charged) end used to drive cattle and oxen. By extension, it is a stimulus that pricks like the pointed stick in order to encourage, urge, or drive.

I’m interested in the ox goad because Jesus used it as an analogy to Saul, who would be renamed Paul when given the mission of inviting non-Jews (or Gentiles) into God’s family through faith in Jesus. In Acts 26, Paul is on trial because his missionary work in Jesus’ name  has offended the Jewish leadership (Pharisees). He tells the story of his first encounter with Jesus when he was on the road to Damascus with the expressed intent of locating and persecuting those in the new “Christian” sect. You see, Paul was previously a Pharisee by training and choice until called by Jesus. [Think God can’t use you because of your past? Think again!]

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

The New Living Translation says it this way: ‘It is useless for you to fight against my will.’ (Verse 14b)

This version makes it personal for me. Now I get it. If I had to identify one critical struggle I’ve faced in my growing relationship with God, it is the consistent surrendering of my will. Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you are as stubborn as me and have a difficult time releasing what you are “certain” is the right decision (or path or response or desire) to embrace a better alternative provided by someone other than yourself.

Oh, the burden of pride.

Jesus’ goad that he uses to encourage me to greater (see Galatians 5:22-23) is prodding me in the direction I was created to follow. The ox kicks against the goad because he resists completing the task that he was made to perform. When I insist on my own will and stiffen my neck against God, I am refusing the direction of the One who loves me most and knows what is best for me. This is truly useless and self-defeating.

Here is a practical indicator that I’m submitting, rather than kicking. I have peace. I am not stressed and anxious. I have God’s peace that transcends my circumstances (Philippians 4:7).

The title of this post is “An ox and his will”. I’m the stubborn ox, but I choose to lay down my will. Keep prodding me Jesus. I’m listening.

God’s blessings, hope, and peace to you friend!



About Tony Schmitz

Tony Schmitz received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University in 1993, his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1999. He is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
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