God Knows…When I Do Right and Still Have Problems – Part 2
Stephen was a man who did what was right and still had problems. He was one of seven men chosen to help the apostles. These helpers, or deacons, were very busy as more and more people became Believers. Even some of the priests who had hated the followers of Jesus had joined the movement. This enraged the other leaders.
Stephen became a strong preacher for God. He was full of faith. In public discussion he could always persuade people who wanted to argue against Christ’s teachings. The rulers decided to quiet him by putting him to death.
So Stephen was brought before the council. False witnesses were brought in. They twisted words just like what happened at Jesus’ trial. Stephen stood there, his face shining with peace and light from heaven. Onlookers thought his face looked like the face of an angel. When he was questioned, his defense held everyone spellbound. He recounted how Jesus was connected with history way back to the days of Abraham. He told of God’s leading in the days of Jacob and Joseph, Moses and Solomon.
He pointed out that God was not confined within buildings such as the Temple. “The Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands” he quoted from Isaiah 66:1-2. The religious leaders seemed to care more about the Temple building than about the reason for the Temple—Jesus, the Lamb of God. The leaders became agitated, and the priest tore his robe. “He’s ready to kill me,” Stephen thought, “But I’m not afraid.” He didn’t rescind his words of truth. Instead, he spoke clear and profound words inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The priests and rulers became so angry they rushed at Stephen like wild animals, gnashing their teeth. But Stephen was unafraid of death. He looked up toward heaven. With triumph in his voice he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
His enemies couldn’t stand it. They plugged their ears, shouted and threw him out of town. Outside the walls of Jerusalem, they yanked off their coats to have more freedom of movement, asked a man named Saul of Tarsus to watch the coats, and snatched up stones to throw at Stephen. Peace from heaven helped Stephen to be brave as the stones pelted him.
“Lord Jesus,” prayed Stephen, “receive my spirit.” Sinking to his knees he cried out, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” After that, he died.
How was Stephen able to face death like this? A person who follows Christ wholeheartedly finds strength to do what seems humanly impossible. Stephen was full of faith and the Holy Spirit. He knew he was on God’s side and that God’s side will win in the end. “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested…Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life,” God promises. “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:10-11).
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