Lord, Make Me a Cattle Prod
Lately these words keep turning in my mind like a merry-go-round pushed by the latest Christian controversy. Today they are forced to the forefront by the news of James MacDonald’s firing and the wreckage of lives hurt from his seedy underbelly. Tomorrow it might be something else. Since submitting my pen (or maybe my fingers?) to write in small ways for the broader church I have found myself plagued by this thought.
Watching the rise and fall of celebrities within the Christian writing and preaching world, I’ve become more convinced we need a lot more nobodies than a lot of big somebodies. The small and the unseen seems better than the platforms for the masses. Surely a written note of encouragement to a sister nearby is more lasting than the fleeting swipes of the finger. Do my own words contribute to the problem?
Yet I’ve also known sweet amidst the bitter. Somewhere between the thousands of words I’ve scanned on my phone, my computer, or crisp white pages I’ve been pushed to the God who redeemed me. In the smallest words. In the tiniest phrases. Brothers and sisters I’ll never meet have shown me the kindness of God in words that reminded me of his truth.
How do we reconcile the two?
Perhaps I don’t have to throw in the towel. Maybe the answer I need is found from a man who did make it to the very top. A celebrity who tasted the sweet gift of blessing and riches long enough to find he was never above falling face down into its grisly temptations.
We find the tales of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, tasting the fullness of life, but finding it coming up empty. The man whose wisdom was a blessing to the people of Israel soon became a tool for his own selfish gain. In his final reflections on the world and its ways, he concludes with a charge we writers, speakers, mentors, disciple-makers, or saints should give heed-
The sayings of the wise are like cattle prods, and those from masters of collections are like firmly embedded nails. The sayings are given by one Shepherd Ecc. 12:11 CSB
Our goal is to be cattle prods. The vision of a dingy piece of wood used for livestock seems the antithesis of what the glory of platform and power desires. And it’s exactly what we need to remember.
A cattle prod was used by shepherds to push and guide their cattle in the direction that they should go. So too, we need to realize that we are just a tool, slowly prodding those beside us to the places they need to go. Maybe today it’s towards refreshment in Christ’s faithfulness, towards correction in his holiness, or towards the comfort of his kind love. But each day, each sermon, each article, each discussion is a chance to prod our brothers and sisters in Christ forward. This opportunity to goad each other on is a precious gift.
And what makes us able to accomplish this great gift? How do we hold the tension of power and influence well? Wisdom. Wisdom that is found, as Solomon himself said, not in our own studies, our own devices, or our own personalities- but wisdom that is rooted in the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10). Wisdom that understands it is the Shepherd’s hand who uses us. Wisdom that knows as much as we prod along our brothers and sisters, we will never be above needing the very same pushes. And wisdom that humbly knows and rests that God will bring out every hidden thing- whether good or evil (Ecc. 12:14). This opportunity is a responsibility that true wisdom acknowledges.
Whether our ministry might include thousands, hundreds, or our reach spans just across a table- this is now the cry of my heart. It will be the answer I will give to the question that so often nags.
Lord, make me a cattle prod.
I want to prod my brothers and sisters. I want to push them just a little bit closer to the Lord- knowing the entire time that every word I write, and every push I give is not because of my own strength, but because of the one holding me. Friends, let’s be broken, small, splintered cattle prods in our ministries. Let’s humbly keep on pushing.