I walked in on a familiar scene this week. A young Christian was eagerly sharing some verses from the Bible with someone who has not yet come to know the LORD. You could see his eyes light up as he explained the deeper meaning God had show him in the verses that was more than what was simply written on the pages. He shared how God has shown him so many things. You could hear the passion in his voice as he talked about Jesus, the one who had changed his life. But something had seemingly gone wrong. One minute the doubter who listened to him was following his ever word. One minute it seemed the doubter wanted to have for himself the relationship this believer had come to know with God. One minute it seemed he was ready to surrender his skeptical mind to The Faith, and become part of the household of faith. Then…it happened.
Although the subject was Jesus telling His disciples to cast their net in the water on the right side of the boat, suddenly the doubter was asking questions about totally different verses from the far end of the Old Testament! Why did Noah curse his son Ham? Why did God tell the Israelis not to marry any of the people of the land they came to live in? No answer could satisfy him. It was as if an impenetrable suit of armor was suddenly wrapped around his heart by some invisible other standing by, lest the light of the Gospel might set this doubter free. It seemed to harden his heart–too hard for him to see The Truth.
I remember my first experience with that all too well. One moment I was sharing with joy the change Jesus had made in my life as the person seemed to listen intently. The next moment they were ranting about Bible “contradictions” and demanding to know who Adam and Eve’s sons married if there were no other people alive on Earth at that time. Of course, back then I couldn’t answer such a question. And I felt discouraged by the voice that nagged at me in my thoughts, telling me I shouldn’t try to witness to others until I had better knowledge of the Bible. I would later learn, that was the voice of the enemy. They hate having us share our faith. If anyone listens and believes, they lose a slave.
Apostle Paul was such a doubter. But his problem was that he was so fanatically religious that he couldn’t see the true object of true religion was Jesus! God kept using the witnessing of Christians to “goad” him toward The Truth. In early days, the master or farmer would yoke cows and bulls to a harness and make them plow a field to plant a crop. But often the cows simply weren’t motivated to go in the direction the master wanted them to. So the master had to use a “prick” or a “goad” to help motivate them. Not being very smart, a cow won’t usually respond to reasoning. But it does respond to pain, and sooner or later it figures out that the sharp poke of the goad means its master wants it to get going. It learns the more it obeys the voice of the master, the less it feels the sharp pain of the goad. However, occasionally the animal decides to rebel anyway and kicks back. The problem for the animal is, the goad is a long stick with a metal point on the end. The master is well out of kick range behind the plow. So instead of the kick landing against the master as the cow or bull intends, it lands against the sharp point of the goad, causing a deep wound. Thus Jesus told Paul when He finally put a stop to Paul’s kicking:
And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”–Acts 26:14-15
So Jesus wanted Paul to know that the Christians who were getting on Paul’s nerves were actually pricking his heart with conviction to save him from going the wrong way. Unfortunately, not everyone who gets convicted by what we are sharing about The Way of Salvation and lashes out at us to try to stop that pain of conviction will then turn around like Paul did. Many people will never come to know God. The Bible says so. But thankfully, at least some of them will realize their blindness and be saved…eventually. But meanwhile, what are we to do with these folks who want to argue as soon as they feel the prick of conviction on their heart? First, don’t get into an argument about things that ultimately don’t matter. They are just the enemy’s distractions from what is important. Paul explains:
But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.–2 Timothy 2:23
Second, realize that whether the person listens or not, God has you there to “goad” them toward finding The Truth, so you must learn to be patient as they rant, ready to teach when they pause to ask a legitimate question:
in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.–2 Timothy 2:24-25
Third, recognize “in humility” that you could be right where they are if it weren’t for the fact that you came to your senses, and escaped “the snare of the devil.” And finally, pray, pray, pray that “God perhaps will grant them repentance.” because the bottom line is:
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.–John 6:44
Pray that before you meet with them again, your Heavenly Father will draw them, ready to listen to The Truth, come to their senses, and escape the snare of the Devil so they can stop doing Satan’s will, which is to argue against Truth.