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Faithlife
Faithlife

Simplify Your Life

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The apostle Paul was able to describe his life using very few words. As a servant of God, he did not look for validation from other people, nor did he read theories of self-fulfillment or seek after philosophers for earthly wisdom.
He met Jesus and with his encounter with Jesus his life came into focus.
Before he met Jesus, three passions occupied his mind. First, he wanted to know Old Testament Scripture. Second, he wanted to follow the laws of Moses. Third, he wanted to defend his faith from anyone who would violate the law and the scriptures.
Passion can lead a man to leave his wife for another woman. Life becomes more complicated at that very moment. Passion can lead a person towards wealth or worldly honor. The accumulation of wealth and responsibility creates its own set of stress and confusion.
When a person truly confesses Jesus’ as Lord and believes in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, they are not only saved, but Jesus simplifies their lives.
Paul stands before Agrippa, a prisoner based on his religious beliefs, made to give his Roman inquisitor answers to why he is such a troublesome person to his accusers.
Within his answer we find an amazing focus and simplification of who he is and what he is all about.
In verses 1-11 he highlights his strong opposition to Christians and Christianity. From his youth he had been a zealous follower of the law, a strict Pharisee, and a willing leader that sought to imprison and stamp out this new and dangerous sect.
Acts 26:12–14 ESV
12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
(ESV) —12 “In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.
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What was Paul’s focal point about his past? How would he look at all that he had done before? The answer to this is a divine answer.
What was Paul’s focal point about his past? How would he look at all that he had done before? The answer to this is a divine answer.
Acts 26:14 ESV
14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
Paul’s past, his violent opposition to Christianity, his whole life could be described as “kicking against the goads.
Paul’s past, his violent opposition to Christianity, his whole life could be described as “kicking against the goads.
Paul wanted Agrippa to know that he did not support the life he lived in the past. His life was a “kicking against the goads.” Agrippa would have known that goads were used on animals pulling a yoke to stop them from kicking backward instead of walking forward. As a Roman he would have known that the phrase, “kicking against the goads” was a common expression for “fighting God.”
As Paul talks to Agrippa he knew how many times God had tried to reach him, but he had rejected those attempts.
Paul does not tell us what these goading times were specifically, but we can make some educated guesses.
When Paul became a Christian he connected dots that had not been connected before. He realized that Abraham, the great father of their faith, had not been justified by his works, but by faith. I am sure he had read it several times before. He might even have questioned how this could be. But he did not pursue further thoughts on this.
Paul held the coats of the men who killed an early Christian hero.
He heard him speak clearly in a sermon.
Acts 1 ESV
1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. 15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “ ‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “ ‘Let another take his office.’ 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Acts 7:51 ESV
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
Acts 7:51–60 ESV
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” 54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
(ESV) —51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
Acts 7::51
He also heard his last prayer.
Acts 26:51
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
He also heard his last prayer.
Acts 7:59 ESV
59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Acts 7:59–60 ESV
59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Acts 7:59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Acts 7And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Third, one wonders what impact the imprisonment of good people had on him. He put mothers and fathers in prison. He took children away from their parents. Though the text doesn’t say so, I would guess that many of them reacted with tears and sorrow, yet in some way showed the same grace that Stephen did to his killers.
It’s hard to kick against the goads.
I would plead to God for you to understand that some of the struggles you are facing in your life and in your relationships are the result of you kicking against the goads. God has a plan for you. You resist God; you resist his plan. Life gets complicated real quick.
You may not be a Christian. You have heard the Bible, seen how some Christians live, and have felt the pull of God. Yet you have pulled away.
I would plead to God for you to understand that some of the struggles you are facing in your life and in your relationships are the result of you kicking against the goads. God has a plan for you. You resist God; you resist his plan. Life gets complicated real quick.
For those of you who call you self Christians. You are missing out on the abundant life because you are kicking against the goads. You know what the Bible says, you know what God wants you to do, but you are complicating your life by trying to live for God and live for yourself at the same time. You minimize your disobedience to the heavenly light and are suffering consequence that are painful.
I pray to God that you can connect the dots. Paul did.
Paul stopped fighting against Jesus. He received him into his life.
When Jesus came into his life, it became simplified even more. He had a clear purpose.
Jesus said to him,
Acts 26:16 ESV
16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,
(ESV) —16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,
Paul’s purpose was to serve Jesus and to witness what he had seen and what he would see.
Paul’s purpose was to serve Jesus and to witness what he had seen and what he would see.
In the providence of God, he is doing that very thing with King Agrippa! He is telling him what he had seen.
What have you seen and learned about Jesus? Do you have a testimony? Why did you put your faith in Jesus? What has he done for you? What have you learned about Jesus that helps you deal with the everyday problems you face?
God wants us to share what we know, not what we don’t’ know!
This seems so simple, but many people are afraid to share Jesus with others because of what they don’t know. God doesn’t want you to share what you don’t know.
We have seen people try to do that. They think that they have to have an answer to everything. When they speak, those who know the subject know they are clueless as to what they are saying.
God doesn’t want us to try to share what we don’t know. He wants us to share what we do know.
Life is simplified when we realize that is what God wants us to do. He wants us to be witnesses of what we see and know. He doesn’t want us to be the prosecutor, the defense attorney or the judge. He wants us to be the witness.
Life is also simplified when our focus is on other people.
The gospel has great power to help your mother or father. The gospel has an ability to change the dynamics of the breaking relationship your friends are facing. The gospel has the power to set people free from the fear of death. You may know people who are facing this very thing.
When our focus is on others, our life simplifies. We no longer kick against the goads. We share what we know. God uses this in two very distinct ways.
Acts 26:17 ESV
17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you
(ESV) —17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you
We are not promised protection. God had a special purpose for Paul. Eventually he died as a martyr for his faith, but not before God had given him the opportunity to share what he saw and knew about Jesus across the Roman Empire.
We are not promised protection. God had a special purpose for Paul. Eventually he died as a martyr for his faith, but not before God had given him the opportunity to share what he saw and knew about Jesus across the Roman Empire.
Look at what Jesus told Paul would happen.
Some people’s eyes would be opened.
These people would turn from darkness to light.
These same people would move from the power of Satan and experience the power of God.
These same people would receive forgiveness of sins.
These same people would be welcomed into the group of those whom God set apart because of their faith in Jesus.
What is your passion? Is your passion to succeed in things that will not last? Is your passion to build up treasures on earth that will be left behind when you die?
Or is your passion to change from the old life and live a new life with God? Are you determined not to kick against the goads? Will you have a passion to share what you know? Will you have a passion to help people face eternity?
How will you do this?
First, identify what you are doing that you know God doesn’t want you to do.
Write it down on a piece of paper. Pray for change. Put the list in a visible place.
Second, tell your story.
When you are traveling to Augusta or Waterville in your car and no one else is around, answer the question, “How did I become a Christian” or, “What is a Christian” out loud in the car.
I also like to tell other people’s story. People will talk about someone over their heads with financial problems and I will tell the story of someone who decided to do their finances God’s way and the end result. There is actually a story that goes with that. It is the story I share.
Third, Ask yourself this question, “If Jesus was at the center of the person’s life that has a problem, what difference would it make?”
We often can see that if Jesus was there, certain decisions would not have been made, hope would enter the picture, or the support of the body of Christ would really encourage them.
If you want to start, while you are driving your car or taking a shower, ask, “What difference would it have made if Adolf Hitler really trusted Jesus?”
This perspective will help you understand that Jesus is the answer to the world today.
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