God, give me a glimpse of Your glory today.
Read ACTS 7:54—8:8
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
8 And Saul approved of their killing him.
The Church Persecuted and Scattered
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Philip in Samaria
4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectHave you ever experienced any form of persecution for your Christian beliefs? How did that affect your faith?
The response to Stephen’s speech is swift and terrible. His listeners seethe with anger from his accusations although Stephen remains calm, strengthened by a vision through the Spirit (55). His testimony that he sees the Son of Man simply adds fuel to his opponents’ fire, for he is claiming that Jesus, whom the Jewish council rejected, is very much alive and is watching Stephen’s trial.
Stephen continues to witness through his death. His two prayers echo the words of Jesus on the cross: “receive my spirit” and “do not hold this sin against them” (59,60; cf. Luke 23:34,46). His words keep Jesus before the crowd and show Stephen’s solidarity with him. The result of Stephen’s martyrdom is a persecution that scatters the believers and causes the church to expand (4). The whole story shows that God is with his people in the midst of persecution. In a similar way, God does not always prevent us from experiencing suffering. But he is always there in the midst of it with us. When things are difficult, you can be sure that God is close by and that he knows what you are going through.
Take a few minutes to pray for the persecuted church around the world.
Lord, give me courage to stand for You in the big and the small things.
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