This summer, I've slowly been reading through the book of Acts. One story that I came across was about a guy named Stephen. Stephen was chosen by the disciples to help with some of the material parts of ministry - dispersing charitable gifts, feeding people in the church, etc. Acts 6:8 calls Stephen a man full of God's grace and power and he did miraculous signs among the people. He loved God and he spent his days glorifying his name.
One day, Stephen was cornered by some of the members of the Synagogue. They claimed that he was spreading blasphemous words against Moses' law. When asked about this, Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and shared with the people stories from the Old Testament. When I say shared; I mean he shared. He was a thorough guy and talked about Abraham, God's people, Moses, Joshua, David, and Soloman and how all of these people/events correlate with what Jesus spoke about on Earth. The guy knew his stuff. Then, at the end of his speech Stephen - innocent Stephen - is stoned to death.
When I read this passage, my heart said "that's not fair." How could people be so mean and hateful to kill someone for sharing the word of God? I think these days it doesn't seem as severe because we know people throughout the decades and even today are persecuted in the name of Christ. I know Jesus himself was persecuted even though he was perfect in every way. But...still. My mind was shocked and my soul was sad to read that on the pages.
It made me think about being a Christian blogger. How sometimes I wonder what other people think while reading the words that I write. What those people whisper to their friends or even spread rumors through misinterpretation of my words. Or, I think about how all I want is to share God's word through a book one day but the reality is that might never happen. Rejection occurs more often in the publishing world than approval and it so easily feels like someone is throwing stones at you.
The old saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is just a lie. Words hurt just as much if not more than physical abuse. Words linger on the heart, y'all. Sometimes it can take a long time to mend.
Jesus never said that it was going to be easy being a follower of his. In fact, he pretty much promised the disciples a tough road ahead of them. In Luke 9:23 Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it."
Reading those words spoken by Jesus made me feel a little bit better about poor Stephen (and myself...I throw the best pity parties). As Stephen was being stoned he said that he could see the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Jesus had prepared a place for Stephen in heaven in honor of the work Stephen did in his name.
And, Jesus was using Stephen as part of his master plan. Saul was there, giving approval for Stephen's death. Saul, a man that agreed to so many horrible things would soon become Paul, a man that spent the rest of his days in chains for Christ. Stephen's death was part of God's movement to changing Saul's heart. It was a horrible death, yes, but it was not a death in vain. There was a purpose.
Sometimes when I write, I lose sight of that purpose. I think about the Saul's of my life and I don't do a very good job guarding my flesh from all of the stones thrown my way. I forget that Jesus has already saved me from heartache, disappointment, and failures. Stephen's story showed me that no matter what is thrown my way to keep sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. There just might be a Paul in the making out there who needs to have their own eyes open to the light of this world.
What about you? Do you ever feel like stones are being thrown your way for unnecessary reasons? How do you handle your own heartaches, disappointments, and failures?
Till next time, let your light shine!
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