The misdirected football bounced right in front of me. As I picked it up to hand it back, I noticed a glistening fresh brown deposit sitting on the grass right beside it. I took full advantage of the rare opportunity and rubbed the underside of the ball all over it before placing it into the hands of the closest player.
As dog poo began to spread all over their hands and uniforms, the year ten’s soon became aware of the smell and realised what I had done! Provoked to anger, they tracked me down for retribution. Even as I dangled in the air suspended by nothing but my jocks, I smiled with great inward satisfaction and regretted nothing!
These year ten’s were provoked to action by something that upset and offended them. In a similar way, Paul was also provoked to action as the Spirit within him began to stir at the sight of a city sold out for the pursuit of idol worship:
‘Now while Paul was [in] Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols’ – Acts 17:16 (ESV)
This greek word translated into ‘provoke’ literally means, ‘a sharp edge… to incite (‘jab’) someone and stimulate their emotions’ (WHS), or, “to provoke feelings, spurring someone to action” (Souter). Paul could not stay silent. He couldn’t remain idle. He was spurred into action.
Paul recognised that there was a purpose behind the provocation. It was the Spirit of God within that provoked, or ‘jabbed’ him into action and to become the agent of change that was so desperately needed in Corinth.
Often the very thing that provokes us is the thing that promotes us. We are literally ‘jabbed’ into being God’s agent of change the world so desperately needs. Instead of retaliating in anger and frustration or withdrawing in inadequacy and fear, allow the Spirit of God to stir your heart in a way that propels you off your knees and into the streets to “be the change you
want to see”!