Acts 7:58-60 “And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
For the child of God, Heaven is a much-longed place of beauty, anticipation, and comfort. We all want to go, but fear the pain it may take to get there.
Many of the saints who have gone before us took a stand for their faith. Some had their lives cut short in martyrdom. Such is the case with Stephen in our passage.
He so sharply rebuked the Pharisees that he incurred such violent hatred that they drew him out of the city and stoned him.
Yet, it is not the violence of Stephen’s death that caught my attention. It was the presence of the young Saul, who later became the apostle Paul.
Saul heard the recitation of history that he knew all too well. But, the practical application of that history to the most recent events of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection caused him to think.
Couple that with the conviction of the Holy Spirit later when struck down off his horse on the Damascus road.
Acts 9:4-5 “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”
The pricking of Saul’s heart pricked that day as he saw Stephen die in such a manner.
To say that he saw the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father was to those present, blasphemous. Yet, I believe it drove the conviction deep into the heart of Saul.
Those saints of God who have died for the cause of Christ have left a legacy for us to follow. There are modern-day martyrs whose lives are cut short, standing for the cause of Christ.
Some we hear of through missionaries serving in those countries. Others we will never hear of until we reach Heaven. With the rise of events worldwide, we cannot be ignorant of the fact that it may very come to our doorstep shortly.
If we were taken into custody for our faith and persecuted, could we withstand the pain inflicted with Stephen’s grace? What of those chronicled in the Foxes Book of Martyrs? Their stories are for us to learn that we can stand just as they did.
There is not one of us who could stand some of the torture devices they employed in those days. The cruelty and pain inflicted are demonic. No other human being could right think up these things without the influence of the one who hates us so.
God gives grace to all who ask when faced with trials, tribulations, and afflictions. It is the very grace we need every day to meet even the smallest of tasks.
My thoughts today are this.
As we go about our day, what is it about our life that speaks Jesus to others?
What is our conversation, our mannerisms, and the communication that prove us any different from the world today?
We are to become more and more like Jesus every day.
Romans 8:29-30 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
Grace is a gift from God. It is not something we can work up in the flesh. We bring our will and our character to the table, but we’ll all fail. Without God’s grace, this world cannot see the divine image stamped upon us.
How we respond to one another, how we love one another, how we treat the lowliest to the highest among us will speak volumes to those watching, and they are watching.
Doing what we do with God’s grace can draw others to seek what allows us to have peace in times of trouble. It reveals the calm presence of God when we can face an impossible situation with the confidence that God will provide, though we have no idea how.
The majority of those reading may never have to face a beheading, torture, incarceration, or death for Christ’s cause. But, can live our lives with grace enough for others to take notice?
When the violence erupts over the hot topics of the day, do we chime in with our political views or see all involved gripped in an evil ploy to divide and destroy?
Are we aware enough to pray for the wisdom, understanding, and grace to be more like our Savior and less like the world?
The need of the day is Holy Spirit-filled children of God, living grace-filled lives willing to reveal Christ to all watching. There can be no greater need.
Will you take up the call?