What Gets Your Goat?

Frustration! Do you ever get frustrated? I do! I hate to admit it, but I get frustrated—a lot! Among my myriad of faults, I must confess that I am too easily frustrated; no ifs, ands or buts about it. It doesn’t take much to ‘get my goat’. What an uncomfortable state of mind that proves to be! Then, adding insult to injury, I get frustrated by the fact that I am so easily frustrated. Hmm, in thinking back, my dear dad, my hero, my mentor, evidently also occasionally got frustrated. He would nearly always announce his frustrations by telling us that someone and/or something really ‘got his goat’. We always knew what he meant and what was coming next. That was his prelude for describing how someone and/or something had led to his frustrations. For a number of years I never knew the origin of that old saying, but I always knew what was implied. I have also used that little ‘catch phrase’ to indicate my frustrations on more occasions than I could count.

Fast forward several years. One of God’s finest evangelists, Dr. Sam Cathey, was conducting a revival meeting in our church. One of his messages has stuck in mind to this day. It was during his powerful message concerning the wiles of the devil that he introduced an addendum to the little phrase, “If you don’t want the devil to get your goat, don’t tell him where you’ve got it tied”. We all chuckled in approval but I have found that to be one of the most profound adages ever uttered. The truth of that little phrase has played out in my life over and over and over again through the years since then.. Even though I am aware of the consequences, I have continually declared where my goat was tied and, sure enough, he got it. I am obviously a slow learner. We can rest assured that anytime we announce where our goat is tied, the devil is listening and he can make it happen. For instance, if we lash out. “SO HELP ME, IF ANOTHER #@%#*# CAR RUNS THAT RED LIGHT, I’M GONNA SCREAM!!!” And, you guessed it, another #@%#*# car will run that red light just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. The devil can and will make it happen. He wins.

I have often looked back several years to an incident that happened while I was employed near downtown. As such I was engaged in rush hour traffic both in going to and coming from my work place. Not good! The first major intersection I encounter is located at an expressway where each direction has its own separate interval with green lights. If you can picture it, that means that every direction has to wait while each of the other three directions cycle through their green lights. That makes it seem forever between our own green lights. As you can well imagine, patience often runs thin. On one such occasion, when my turn finally came, a bus ran their red light, then a truck followed the bus through the red light, and then a van loaded with day laborers followed the truck. “How dare those jerks! By the time they get through running their red light, mine will turn red again!” By that time, I was steaming! ”They ought to be shot!” In my frustration, I deemed it necessary to lay down on my horn to show my displeasure. In response, I think every laborer in that van must have stuck their arms out the windows. With so many of them flipping the bird at me, the offending van looked like a porcupine. Satan had gotten my goat and had stolen my victory and my joy. And he did it at the very beginning of my day. Don’t you just know he was standing in the shadows and laughing out loud! GOTCHA!

WOW! Did he ever! With that memorable incident, I got an up close and personal look at Satan himself. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I saw exactly how he works. He heard me vent my frustration and lash out at that annoying traffic. He heard me tell any and all around me exactly where my goat was tied, and he got it! After all was said and done, I had learned a valuable lesson I shall never forget. As result, I have often prayed that He would take away my weakness in that area. And you shouldn’t be surprised that among other things, He is answering that prayer; He is in the process of giving me victory over that particular weakness. Thank you Lord for that.

Fast forward several more years. We have long since gained a seemingly endless source of information (both good and bad) via the internet. One day as I gathering my thoughts relating to this little devotional, the phrase ‘Got my goat’ popped into my mind. So, I looked to the internet, and found a number of sites indicating that the phrase originated in the barns adjacent to racetracks where horses are stabled prior to races. It should be noted here that horses in their natural state are wild and high strung. And among all the various breeds, thoroughbred racehorses tend to be the most nervous and high-strung. This tendency is often magnified greatly when they are confined within the environs of strange stables. Some are so high-strung that they become virtually unmanageable.

As we continue reading about the temperament of racehorses, we are told that in the early days of the sport, it was found that when such high-strung horses were coupled with goats, they seemed to have a very calming effect on affected horses. As a result, horsemen and their trainers would often pair such horses with goats, making them more manageable. Thus, when taking their horses to the track, they would then bring along their goats and stable them in the same stalls with the offending horses in hopes of keeping them calm, cool and collected, ready for the race.

As you might well expect, the presence of a goat in the stall with a racehorse would announce to his opponents that that particular horse was vulnerable. The secret was out. He was unbelievably high-strung; his readiness for the race was dependent upon his goat. Thus, if the opponent could manage to sneak in and ‘get his goat’ he would put the prized, odds on favorite horse at a disadvantage, thus giving the opponent the opportunity to seize the victory.

In thinking of that expression, how easily that fact translates to us. Our enemy, the devil, is always looking for any chinks in our armor—any areas of vulnerability in our lives. If and when he locates any such areas—people, situations and/or tendencies, which so easily cause frustrations and robs us of our joy, he has happily discovered where our goat is tied. And rest assured he will ‘get it’, and he will use it against us. If he finds that our goat is tied to a weakness toward sexual impurity, or to strong drink, or to an errant child, or to job security, or rude traffic, or jealousy, …or…or…, he has the power to get our goat, and he surely will! That’s his ‘modus operandi’; we’re his obsession; we’re his favorite targets. And adding insult to injury, he loves to point out all the chinks in our armor to any and all unsaved souls who might be looking to us as witnesses. They seem to thoroughly enjoy watching the devil get out goats and then pointing fingers.

Even so, our Almighty God has assured us that we can gain the victory over our weaknesses. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13 NASB).” He reinforced that promise by reassuring us of our power over the wiles of Satan in Romans 6:14 where we read, “Sin is no longer your master… (NLT).” Could I offer a little advise based on my personal experiences: Hang in there! Take heart! He is able to deliver us. Check out again what the three young Hebrew lads told wicked King Nebuchadnezzar when he threatened to burn them alive, “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king (Daniel 3:17 ESV).”.

He told us about that miraculous incident to illustrate His power to do the same for us. Have faith in God. He can replace our ‘goats’, repair the chinks in our armor, and give us victory over the enemy!

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