Sticking to God’s Plan | James Stevenson
The stoning of Stephen
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60 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.
1 And Saul approved of their killing him.
The church persecuted and scattered
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Sticking to God’s plan
Jesus made clear the essence of God’s plan for his kingdom when he told the apostles: ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
And that has been the experience of countless Christians through the centuries and still today – that we would be part of God’s plan to make all things new, when everything would be restored to its factory settings. As it says in the book of Revelation ‘There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’
God involves us in his plan when we say ‘yes’ to Jesus. We then become his messengers: once we have received the message, we are to pass it on to others. And the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to do so.
But there is no guarantee that we will get a good reception. The response to Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was one of murderous fury. Throughout history and across the world today, Christians have been and are being persecuted for expressing their faith in Jesus. So we shouldn’t be surprised, when people respond negatively to the gospel message. If we feel put off and discouraged, we can ask God to give us boldness.
‘You will be my witnesses’ – we are here today as Christians, only because of generations of people doing what Jesus commanded and passing on the message. Will we do the same?