Mighty God, today I want to walk in Your power, wisdom, love, and grace. Guide me in Your way.
Read Acts 7:54-8:8
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better people” (E.M. Bounds). Those “better people” are meant to be us.
One of the lessons that people are learning is the importance of thinking through the endgame. Recent conflicts have been unresolved because not enough thinking has been given to the outcome. Here, the Jewish authorities, refusing to hear or, worse, to accept the truth of their history and their present, prefer stones to words. They set off a course of action that seems to favor them heavily, but which will be their undoing. Force can never silence truth, even if it suppresses it for a time.
Stephen becomes the first martyr of the church, and his testimony in death still inspires us across the years. As with Joseph and Moses, who were rejected, but later rose to positions of power, so now the crucified Jesus is seen at the right hand of God. It was all too much, and his accusers close their hearts and with loud voices and raised hands seek to eradicate Stephen from their lives and their memory. The last word, however, lies with Stephen. While dying, he prays both to Jesus and for the mob. Who can say what influence that testimony had on a young man reflecting on these things on his way to Damascus?
The gloves are off, war is declared. However, instead of eradicating the faith, its opponents aid its spread in the very territories Jesus promised it would go to (Acts 1:8). Persecution, taking the form of forced entry, imprisonment and worse, has been repeated many times over the years. As Tertullian wrote, though, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Their witness in adversity challenged their captors and strengthened their fellow believers. The experience in Jerusalem of chapter 5:12-16 was simply relocated to Samaria. I wonder if the citizens of Sychar (John 4) were there!
God’s answers are wiser than our prayers. Are you learning to trust God with whatever you will face in the week ahead? How?
Father, the words of Joseph to his brothers still ring true today, “you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good….” (Gen. 50:20). Lord, I rest in Your sovereignty, knowing You are still in control.
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