“Look,” he said, “I see heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” – Stephen, Acts 7:56
Stephen had given a history lesson for the books! Enraged from the truth of their deeds being exposed, the Sanhedrin, covering their ears and raising their voices to keep from hearing any more truth, rushed at Stephen, dragging him out of the city to be stoned.
Their response proved Stephen’s point: they were just like their fathers, killing those sent by God.
Yet through their hatred, Stephen looked up and saw Jesus. He didn’t just see Jesus, he saw Jesus STANDING in his honor! Oh, how that brings tears to my eyes! Though those around him hated him, Jesus was standing to honor Stephen and let him know He was with Stephen even when everyone else was against him.
Jesus didn’t miraculously step in that day to stop the stones from flying and hitting their mark. Instead, He stood to honor a life well-lived.
I’m reminded, through Stephen, that the length of a life isn’t what matters. It’s what we do with the days we are given that truly matters.
Stephen died a young man, but God used that young man’s life to change the course of history and set the world on fire for His glory.
We must be careful about what we label tragedies and successes. From a worldly view, Stephen’s life could be viewed as a tragedy, a life cut too short. From God’s view, Stephen’s life was a match that lit the world on fire, starting with his spark.
Yet what was Stephen’s response to his haters? He prayed for them.
They continued to stone Stephen while he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell to his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” When he had said this, he died. – Acts 7:59-60
Through it all, Jesus continued to stand in honor of Stephen’s life. Despite how it appeared, Stephen’s life was not wasted.
In the crowd that day, holding the robes of those stoning Stephen, was another young man named Saul. Saul not only witnessed Stephen’s murder, but he also approved of it. – Acts 7:56; 8:1
Persecution broke out that day against the Christians in Jerusalem. Hoping to destroy the church, Saul began sending men and women to prison for their faith. What Saul didn’t realize was that he was actually helping to further the gospel as Christians fled to Judea and Samaria and other parts of the world. Proving what Satan intends for evil, God can change for good. Never forget that truth. It was true back then as it is today.
Just one chapter later, Saul has a run-in with Jesus and it changes his life forever (Acts 9). His story reminds us that no one is too far from God. From the point of his conversion, Saul was referred to as Paul. This simple change by the author of Acts showed the dramatic shift in his life and his conversion to faith in Christ.
God is still in the business of changing lives. What He has done in the past, He can do in the present and future. No life is too far from God’s reach. Jesus is still making roadside visits.
So many times I’ve thought about this story of these two young men, Stephen and Paul, and I wonder if Paul ever thought about his involvement in Stephen’s death. I wonder how many times he thought back to Stephen’s last words and the forgiveness he extended to the angry mob. Did those memories bring him comfort or sadness? Or, maybe a mixture of both?
God did not waste Stephen’s pain and suffering; He won’t waste yours either.
There is a higher plan for our lives, one we don’t have the privilege of seeing this side of heaven. Maybe, like Stephen, God is using our pain and suffering to witness to a watching world. Maybe He is using our lives, too, to continue the flame.
Love God Greatly!