This is the testimony of Saul, persecutor of
Christians: "About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from
heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 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.'" Acts 26:13-14
(NIV) Notice verse 14b: "It is hard for you to kick against the goads." I never
understood what that meant until now. Those who handle horses know what it
means, however. Jesus refers here to a reluctant bullock or a horse-trainer
breaking a boisterous young colt. Jesus was trying to break the boisterous Saul,
but Saul was resisting with all his might. Stubborn to the core, he kept kicking
back against the Holy One, The One who created him.
Saul was a fanatic with a false cause, a cause that led only to death. He might have known all the theology of his time, but his knowledge led him nowhere. A personal relationship with our Heavenly Father is the only way to have real purpose.
Saul was so stuck in his theology that he persecuted those who were experiencing God: "But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison." Acts 8:3 (NIV) I am certain that when Saul saw Stephen, in perfect peace despite the fact that he was being stoned (See Acts 7:54-60), it left a deep impression upon him. How could this be possible? But Saul was still kicking like a wild colt. His conscience must have been working overtime, but he ignored it.
Saul was aware of the reality of God, and yet he was separated from the very God he believed in. He was alienated from Him. Until, that is, he met Jesus face to face. The appearance of Jesus changed his theology completely. From being a persecutor, he became a witness to the Most High. No more persecution, only love. That's what happens when we experience our Heavenly Father!
I, too, was pursued by my Father. I loved my God when I was young. Often I would say out loud, "I love you God!"
At that time, however, I, too, didn't have a personal relationship with God. Then my brother brought some religious individuals home, and they introduced us to the Bible. Even though they were only proclaiming their own church doctrines and the Bible still wasn't speaking to me, I embraced them with open arms. Just like Saul, I jumped on the band wagon and proclaimed this denomination with all my might.
Luckily, I didn't persecute anyone. At times, however, I wondered why I couldn't understand the Bible clearly. If I was really a child of God, shouldn't I be able to understand His love letters from the Bible?
Even though my Heavenly Father was still pursuing me, I was now focused on this denomination, and as a result, I felt empty. Then a Spirit-filled pastor from Nigeria, Reverend Debo, told me he was praying for me. His prayers impacted my life, but when he continually urged me to trust in the Holy Spirit, I truly didn't know what he meant.
A few weeks later, out of nowhere, I was invited to visit a Messianic Synagogue. "Why not?" I said to myself. Once there, I felt a presence I had never felt before. It was the presence of the Holy Spirit. The pastor's wife began prophesying that someone was standing at the door and didn't know what to do about it. She urged that individual to go through that door. She didn't know she was preaching to me, but that day I decided to go through the door to my Heavenly Father.
Interestingly enough, from that day on, instead of not understanding the Bible, I began to understand it clearly. I realized that the presence of the Holy Spirit, the One who inspired the Bible, was interpreting it for me. I began to experience Him more and more, and the more I experienced Him, the more I love Him.
I eventually left that denomination and joined a Spirit-filled church. I am now totally dedicated to my Heavenly Father. He is my best friend.
You, too, even though it may be said of you that you "kick against the goads", our Heavenly Father is pursuing you. He loves you. Discover Him! It will lead you to real freedom.
The next few devotionals in this series, appearing the first Friday of every month, will be written by former atheists who will share with you their experience with our loving Father. Enjoy!
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