Provoke Somebody Daily, But at Least Do it the Right Way!

When we say, “Don’t provoke me”, it is usually another way of saying, “Don’t make me mad!” The dictionary says provoke means “stimulate or give rise to (a reaction or emotion, typically a strong or unwelcome one) in someone.” In this verse from Hebrews, the author offers us a different take on how to provoke one another. Instead of the word meaning antagonizing or harassing someone, he says we should think about this:

A New Way to Provoke

“And let us consider one another to provoke [each other] unto love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.“ (Hebrews 10:24-25, NKJV)

provoke for good

Why don’t we break this verse down and see if it provokes a reaction: “Let US consider one another…” The Christian walk is not supposed to be done in a vacuum. Almost everything about following Christ is designed to happen in community: when we start following Jesus we become children of God with new brothers and sisters; we are part of God’s family, and are the Body of Christ.

When Jesus described us as the light of the world, he didn’t say we are a candle set upon the hill; he said we are a CITY (a group of lights) set upon the hill—and he said we were set there for a purpose. “Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your GOOD WORKS, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Provoke How, Exactly?

Are we Christians known as a group for doing good works? Or for other, lesser things? What good are YOU doing out there in the world? Paul’s letters resound with the significance of being prepared for “every good work”. He mentions it at least 10 times, and sees it as the natural result of praying, of fellowship, and of being in the Word. And here the writer of Hebrews says that believers are supposed to provoke one another to love and to good works. (He evidently uses “provoke” in a different way than it has been applied in many of our churches, unfortunately…)

So it probably means that we should ask ourselves two questions: 1) Who in my life motivates me to do good works? Do my friends and associates inspire me to do good? Are you surrounded with people who encourage you to be intentional about demonstrating the love of God?

And 2) Who am I provoking to do good works? Are you encouraging and exhorting your friends and family to do good? If you’re not, then the writer of Hebrews says that you are missing out. I exhort you, therefore, brothers and sisters, to go out there and do good today! You really have no excuse and you ought to sit down and think of something good you can go do. There! Consider yourself provoked.

Inverse Provocation

People can provoke you by the things they do and say;
In fact I bet someone provokes you every single day!
Well, here’s a thing you never thought for provocation:
It’s also very useful to provoke our inspiration!
Do some good; encourage others to do some good as well,
And if we do, good works will spread. How far? Why, who can tell?
So, go and push someone: If we provoke them like we should,
Instead of spreading evil, we may end up spreading good.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Work Only Works If It is Built on the Proper Foundation

Generally speaking, the foundation of a building dictates its size and strength. It is certainly possible to create a structure that looks great from the outside, but is actually worthless because it is built on the wrong type of foundation. If the foundation is faulty, then the structure of the house won’t work either. Jesus spoke of the difference of the house built upon sand versus the house that was built upon rock. Ancient builders were no strangers to using huge stones as the foundation for large structures. As a carpenter, Jesus understood this principle well.

work works

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of another type of construction: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, NIV).

What are You Building? And What are You Building it ON?

What are you trying to build in this world? And what are you building it upon? Paul tells the Corinthians that there is only one foundation for good work, and it is spiritual rather than emotional or physical. He makes the somewhat cryptic statement that the only foundation for good work is Jesus Christ. That seems like a rather narrow and pretentious claim, but take a closer look at it.

As humans, we do good works for all manner of other reasons. We do good things to look good, to impress somebody else, feel better about ourselves, or to keep from feeling guilty. We work to perform acts of kindness to pay it forward or to earn Brownie points. But all those temporary motivations to work in our own power do NOT provide the right foundation for true goodness. Technically speaking, all good works that we do to feel or look good are still acts of selfishness. Good works we perform to get to heaven? Still, selfishness…

The Only Foundation that Works

Paul teaches that true goodness resides in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and that he is the only foundation laid for doing good. Unpack that a bit to see why: Grace is free because Christ’s death on the cross was an utterly selfless act. He didn’t die for HIMSELF; he died for US. Therefore our true reward doesn’t come from our own good works but from His. Paul explains that not all good works carry eternal value, and that come Judgment Day, our selfish portfolio of good works may not survive. Many things which we assume will carry a reward will disintegrate when tested by fire; but the foundation will remain.

Paul’s statement echoes what Jesus said in Matthew 6:5-6. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” There’s an old saying that it’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit. Let’s give God all the credit– and build more good stuff in secret.

Why Work?

Why do people do nice things?
Is there some blessing that it brings?
Perhaps a place in heaven is had
By doing good instead of bad…
Do we do good works because we should,
Or just because we feel so good?
Should we get credit for what we do,
And hope our deeds will pull us through?
Instead of doing works to please,
Do works for Christ that no one sees:
Paul says there’ll be a celebration
Because we built on the right foundation!
“Only one Life, ’twill soon be past;
Only what’s built for Christ will last.”*

*last two lines from “Only One Life” by C.T. Studd


To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread