Prompted to Provoke

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When I first began to follow Jesus Christ, I had a hyper-sensitive conscience. Every time I saw a hitchhiker by the side of the road I wondered if perhaps it was an angel unawares to whom I should offer a lift (Hebrews 13:2). I rarely did, but I would often be troubled in my spirit if I didn’t. When I was alongside a stranger, I wondered if it was a “divine appointment” to which I should respond with a gospel witness, or at the least, with a gospel tract. If I did neither, I wondered if the Lord was disappointed with me. There were many times when I wondered if some “prompting” to do something was from God or merely from my own desires. And a lot of what I both read and heard from respected teachers increased my nervousness about discerning, “Is this God’s ‘prompting’?”

Over the past four decades, as my mind has been increasingly transformed by God’s word, I have learned that not every one of my thoughts has been prompted by God. But I have also learned that I don’t need to sense God “leading” me in order to simply “take a chance” and do something that is right—such as encouraging someone. Therefore, when I feel “prompted” to make a phone call, or to send an email or a text message to express concern, love, and/or encouragement, I usually just do it. The thought may not have come directly from God. Regardless, depending on my motive, it can be a godly and therefore constructive action.

Rather than being mystical about divine “guidance,” we should heed the admonition, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6). In other words, maintain a heart of devotion, do your revealed duty, and leave the results with God. We are to obey what we know from God’s word and leave to him what we don’t know. And one thing that we doknow is that we are to “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24 KJV). Therefore, whenever you are “prompted to provoke” along these lines, then, like Nike, just do it.

The power of words to encourage others is enormous. I think it was Vladimir Lenin who said that the 33 three letters in the Russian alphabet were the mightiest soldiers in his army. His point was that words can be powerful to influence. We all know this from experience. The author Mark Twain once quipped “I can live three months on one compliment.” And we can probably all relate to the flip side, that is, silence often screams.

Brothers and sisters, whether experiencing lockdown or not, we should lovingly labour to encourage one another to stay in the race, to fight the good fight of faith, and to persevere to the end. When you think of someone who has blessed you, or when you think of someone you want to bless, assume that you are being prompted to provoke to love and good works. Consider such a prompting to be of God. After all, he has commanded it.

You don’t need to write an article to provoke others to love and good works. A few words can usually suffice. Simply send a message or make a phone call and let your brother and/or sister know you are thinking of them. And who knows, perhaps as you provoke others, they will be prompted to provoke as well.

Prompted and provoking with you,

Doug