A day is coming when those who hurt God's people will have to give account for their actions.
54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
56 "Look," he said "I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"
57 At this they rushed at him, and yelling at the top of their voices,
58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him Stephen...fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord do not hold this sin against them."
I know a young Christian man who, as a Marine in Somalia, witnessed a stoning. The one time he ever spoke of it was in a Bible study. His usually cheerful, happy countenance became somber and grim as never before. "It take a long time to kill someone by stoning," he said. "And it is the most horrible death imaginable." It took the participation of everyone in the village to finish the execution and took about 45 minutes to finish it.
As I pondered the remarkable spirit of the martyr Stephen when he prayed for those who tortured and murdered him, I remembered that one of the men who participated in that death was 'Saul' who in the next chapter of Acts, took the lead in persecuting Christians.
As he was dying this agonizing death, Stephen prayed for Saul and the others. The result was that 2 chapters later, we see the same JESUS who appeared to Stephen, now appeared to Saul the executioner. And Saul became Paul the great Apostle to the Gentiles. In Galatians 1:13-14, Paul recalls how he persecuted the church. I know the image of Stephen's horrible death probably never left his memory. "YET, GOD WAS PLEASED TO REVEAL HIS SON IN ME SO THAT I MIGHT PREACH HIM..."
Eventually, Paul also died a martyrs death. No doubt Stephen was at Heaven's gate to embrace him when he came.
What I want to think about today is this question, "WHO IS MY ENEMY?" If it is up to God in our lives, no person...no matter how they hurt or betray us...is our enemy. The Lord's grace and mercy, forgiveness and love, is greater than any sin committed against me. The Lord Jesus said, "PRAY FOR THOSE WHO DESPITEFULLY USE YOU!" I believe the life and ministry of Paul is the great example of why we are to never give up on praying for those who betray and hurt us. The Lord will hear and answer. Though we may not be alive to see the answer to broken relationships and shattered lives, perhaps we will be among those waiting at the finish line to embrace and welcome the ones who threw the stones at us...
God bless all in this house.
MORE TO COME!