One Year Bible
New Testament passage for Wednesday, June 11, 2014: Acts 7:51-8:13
54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Acts 7:54-56 (NKJV)
The first martyr of church history was a man by the name of Stephen. We read about him in Acts chapters 6 and 7. He wasn't an apostle but rather a deacon -- a servant -- caring for practical needs in the early church. The Bible says that he was a good man, full of faith and wisdom and the Holy Spirit. He did awesome things but was a "nobody" -- a man like you and me -- no superstar (Acts 6:3-5).
It is interesting that it was not the pagan Romans who stoned him, but rather the most morally religious people of his day. They said he blasphemed Moses and was changing the old Jewish customs (Acts 6:11, 14). They accused him of killing their "sacred cows."
It is amazing how following Jesus can get you into hot water! All Stephen did was love Jesus, do good works, and share truth. The next thing he knew, he was being shut down, tied up, and standing before a judge.
Two things can get you into trouble these days: doing bad and doing good. It's obvious that if you break the law, lie and steal, do bad stuff -- you will get into trouble. But try serving Jesus with full passion and sell out in His service -- you might find opposition and criticism coming from unexpected places! I have known parents who were more comfortable with their kids as drug-heads than as sold-out Christians!
Paul wrote to Timothy about this saying, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (criticism, accusation, opposition)." (II Tim. 3:12) It is a testament to our day that criminal activity at times seems more acceptable than being a follower of Jesus. Criminals are glamorized while biblical Christians are criticized.
There are several points of truth that can get you into trouble these days. Just declare that Jesus is the Son of God and He is the only way to the Father. Say it loud enough and you might see stones flying in your direction! Just repeat what the Bible says about gender and sexual identity -- about marriage between a man and a woman, and you will soon be called a bigot deserving of extinction! Just say you believe the Bible as see what happens.
Jesus said we should rejoice when anger and opposition comes our way because of our faith convictions (Matt. 5:10-12). That's what Stephen did. But easier said than done! How could Stephen's face shine with joy even while he was so unjustly attacked? William Barclay gives us an insight. "But Stephen did not see the faces distorted with rage. His gaze had gone beyond time and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God ... We see the secret of his courage. Beyond all that men could do to him he saw awaiting him the welcome of his Lord."
The key to courage is whose face you are watching! If we base our convictions on the approval of men, we will be blown about like winter winds. If we fix our gaze on the pleasure of Jesus we will rise above the fray shining like a Spring morning.
Stephen saw Jesus. Who are you watching today?