I find that the older I get the more easily provoked I can become.
Not too long ago I was at the airport leaving for a conference. It was very early and I along with many others were ready for a cup of coffee. The restaurants weren’t quite open but I could tell that they were getting ready to raise the steel screen indicating that they would soon be open for business. I waited patiently as others began to form a line. Clearly I was first in line, but when the screen went up, I went to the wrong cash register. The moment I realized I had done this, I stepped over to the next line much to the irritation of the several people who were waiting behind and failed to consider that I had been there before they even thought about getting a cup of coffee.
Needless to say, people were irritated by my “cutting in line” (from their perspective) and didn’t hesitate to let me know it. One younger man, probably in his late thirties to early forties made it clear that it was not my turn. Normally I would have just gone to the back of the line. After all, there was plenty of time, but his attitude “provoked me” and I reacted in a way that was not becoming of a Christian man.
“Would it make you feel better if I went to the back of the line?”, I said as I looked directly at him. My words and body language clearly indicated I thought his reaction was ridiculous. “Are we going to have a problem here?”, he responded. At that moment, I knew that if I pressed him any further, “we” weren’t going to have a problem, but clearly “I” most likely would. He was definitely stronger than I was.
Funny, the things that can provoke us…things that don’t even matter. This was not the case with the apostle Paul.
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.
There are a lot of things to get provoked about today. I think it is prudent to wisely choose what provokes us. Rather than get worked up over who was first in line for a cup of coffee…it seems far better to get worked up over a world that has rejected God and given itself over to idols. We must seek to allow the Holy Spirit to provoke us over the things that provoke God.