This is the seventh in a series of eight posts based on Acts 6-7 and the martyrdom of Stephen exploring if it is a foreshadow of end-time persecution for the Church.
To go to the beginning of this series, to the first post, please click here.
Please either listen to the short audio clip above or read the notes below or both at the same time!
Stephen had the purest of hearts, right up until the last moment. He considered the needs of others rather than his own.
Acts 7:59 ‘Whilst they were stoning him Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 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.’
Stephen was following the example of his Lord.
1 Peter 2:23 ‘When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.’
There is an important point to be made here. Stephen recognized that behind the scenes it was the enemy who was causing the persecution, rather than the people themselves. This is made clear in Revelation 2:10 where it is the devil who is responsible for the imprisonment of the Christians of Smyrna.
Revelation 2:10 ‘Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you…
This is a hard truth to take, that we should love and forgive those who hate and persecute us. Corrie Ten Boom described her struggles when she met a former guard from the concentration camp where so many of her family and friends were incarcerated. But yet God gave her the grace to love and forgive.
As I write these notes, the Taliban have taken Afghanistan and already we are hearing of cruel persecutions being inflicted upon the local people, especially in the rural area.
This is a hard truth to take, that we should love and forgive those who persecute us. But yet God will give us the grace and strength if we remain in His presence.
It is oh so easy for me, living in the relative comfort of Western Europe, to preach a sermon on forgiveness. But yet God would call all of us, no matter where we are, to forgive our enemies and to pray a blessing upon them. And God will give us the supernatural strength to do just that, if we remain firmly in His presence, looking to Him for purity and holiness of thought and attitudes.
Matthew 5:44 ‘But yet I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.’
The Church will be called to walk in perfect love and forgiveness. Even though it may seem that the Church is being brought to nothing, nevertheless our faith, the faith of Jesus upon the cross, will ensure the victory of King Jesus who will return in power and glory and destroy the enemy with just one breath!
And we will explore this wonderful victory tomorrow. To get there now please click HERE.
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