faithful to death

   Tuesday Reflection


20th April 2021

...fell on his knees...

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.

.....Acts 7:59,60

The Bible readings for today included
Stephen's martyrdom
He is widely accepted to be the
first martyr of the Christian faith.

It started me wondering,
just what sort of man was this who was prepared
to lead the way for many others
who followed him into dying for Christ.

Stephen was chosen by the 12 apostles of Jesus
who were preaching the good news of Jesus
after His death.
He was chosen along with 6 others to help
administer resources among the local community
and assist with their social needs.

Although this was a very practical role,
it required that the chosen 7 would be
'full of the Spirit and wisdom' (Acts 6:3).
We are told that Stephen was
'a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit'
(Acts 6:5).
He would be suited to helping distribute food
evenly among the community and
could be entrusted in his godly conduct
and spiritual maturity.

In Acts 6:8, we are told that Stephen was
'a man full of God's grace and power,
who performed great wonders
and signs among the people'.
Can our lives become so full of God's grace
and power so that we can testify to
God's love for each of us
and His desire for all people to
come to know Him?

Stephen walked closely with the Lord
and this was reflected by how the men
could not stand against the wisdom that
the Spirit of God gave Stephen
as he spoke (Acts 6:10)
and how they all looked intently at him
and Stephen's face was like
the face of an angel (Acts 6:15).

As we grow in Christ-likeness on the earth,
we can remember that it is the Spirit of God
that gives us the words to speak against those
that accuse us and oppose us.
We are warned that we will suffer
on account of the name of Jesus,
which is quite difficult to imagine
as I type from my office looking out
at the garden and the glorious sunshine.

Nonetheless, I am comforted by the following verses
of how we will be given the right words
to say at the right time, and not to worry.

Stephen could stand up against his adversaries
knowing that the wisdom of God was in Him.
He was bold as he spoke for Jesus
in front of the Sanhedrin.
Stephen's defence was truth-filled;
it was saturated with scripture and
God's wisdom spoke through him as he
addressed the Sanhedrin.

There is power in the name of Jesus
and this same power is in believers today.

Will we boldly stand up for His truth
when we face opposition,
no matter what the outcome?

Yet the Jewish leaders were not prepared
to accept Stephen's teachings.
Yelling and covering their ears,
they rushed at him,
dragging him out of the city
and they began to stone him.

The thought of someone being stoned to death
is awful.
I have read recently about people being stoned
by terrorist groups for their faith or
their sexuality for example
and it grieves my heart.
The thoughts of heavy rocks and jagged stones
being forcefully thrown as it knocks them down,
tearing their skin,
bruising them to their core, killing -
it is not an act of love.
It is the very depth of evil come to light.

Yet every stone thrown into his body
put him in a place of forgiveness
as he fell on his knees in prayer.

Even when he was being stoned,
he prayed to God to receive his spirit,
but to also forgive those who were
persecuting him.
In this moment of what appears to be absolute evil,
Stephen is holding onto the hope that He had in Christ.
He was enabled to see Jesus at the right hand
of the Father in heaven when he stood trial.
Stephen had become like Christ
in his life and in his death.
He stayed faithful until the very end,
knowing that his reward in heaven
with the Lord would be great.

Stephen as the first martyr
of the Christian faith is someone
who I am encouraged and challenged by.

May we be refined in such a way
that we are on our knees,
praying to God and asking for forgiveness
and for the forgiveness of those that sin
against us; and may our faith be so rooted in Christ,
that we can face all manner of opposition
and still declare 'Jesus Christ is Lord.'

It may be interesting to watch,
or just listen to a song
'Jesus is Lord'
sung by Divine Hymns
(with lyrics)'
via the link shown below.