11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
It seems the majority of believers feel God will protect us from things like this. So why, when Stephen was doing all the right things, did God let such an evil thing happen to him? These people came and falsely accused him. In 7:1 the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?” What was his response? Well… let’s first remember a few days ago when we went over how the Spirit provides when we defend the Gospel not our pride. Stephen’s response wasn’t even that these men were wrong. Instead he began to unpack Scripture as to why Jesus was God. The outcome? Well… after Stephen unpacks Scripture from Abraham to Christ this is recorded, take a look:
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.
Wow… way to come through right? Stephen faithfully stood and did what Christ called him to do and he was murdered. How in the WORLD is this God coming through you might ask… well, what if I told you that if Stephen hadn’t been murdered that day YOU wouldn’t have heard the Gospel? See Christ had told the Disciples (Acts 1:8) that after the Spirit came (4 chapters ago now) that they were to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. HOWEVER, they had been staying in Jerusalem up until this point. This entire time they were STILL stuck in this “Israel is the center of the world” mindset. Stephen is martyred here and the next verse (Acts 8:1) states: “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” Through Stephen’s sacrifice many would hear the Gospel, including YOU. These men were not moving on in the mission and there needed to be a major disrupt just like Christ had to bring. These men were not pushing forward, breaking through enemy lines. Too much was still controlled by Satan. Stephen’s defense of the Gospel prompted HIM to be used as a miraculous tool to spread the Kingdom of God.
Often we think provision comes by the way of circumstances being changed, favor shifted, or danger eliminated. Perhaps God’s provision is not always in line with our human thinking. Sometimes God’s provision looks like utilizing us as clean, available vessel to Glorify HIM at the expense of our own expectations and comfort. However we can count it as a blessing because souls are being ripped from the white knuckled grip of Lucifer as God pours out His grace on us even amidst suffering.
I wonder though, would you respond as Stephen did? In the middle of this torment which won’t be shaken can you lock your eyes on Jesus Christ and cry out “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”
God I am obsessed with my own comfort. I pray for circumstances to be changed instead of Your name being raised. I pray for blessings from a human perspective instead of opportunities for showing the Spirit’s perspective. I struggle with desiring Your perspective in suffering because it isn’t fun! Help me to have a heart and mind like Yours. Change me from within, and show me my wicked heart. Amen.
Love on some people that are suffering today! Contact someone who is struggling, they may not be encouraged and God may want to use you to do that! 🙂