June 27, 2018
“While 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.” – Acts 7:59-60
The book of Acts is full or incredible stories of rescue and deliverance. The Holy Spirit changes the heart of an official, angels throw open prison doors, and earthquakes free believers from their chains. It is easy to read these stories and come to the conclusion that miraculous rescue is the norm. But then, right in the middle of these incredible stories of miraculous rescue, we are confronted with the story of Stephen. Stephen preaches one of the most beautiful sermons in all the book of Acts, and this sermon infuriates the Jewish leaders. But as they come running to stone Stephen, no angel appears, no earthquake rescues him, and there is now change of heart for his murderers. Stephen dies. Why? How could this possibly be God’s will?
The key to this story lies in the final words of Stephen. First of all, he understands that his very soul is held in the hands of Christ. Therefore, his life and even his death are for the Lord’s purposes. Secondly, we clearly see that he is filled with the heart of Jesus Christ. Stephen’s final words echo perfectly the heart of Jesus Christ as He hung on the cross; “Father, forgive them” (Luke 22:34). The truth is, Stephen was no longer concerned about his life because it was secure in Christ. His biggest concern was for the eternal life of those who hated and killed him. And standing in the crowd that day, approving of Stephen’s death, was a man named Saul. This man would later become the Apostle Paul, the greatest missionary the world has ever seen; the one who took the Gospel message to all the known world. So if our hearts are truly one with the heart of Christ and our souls are truly held in His hands, then our deepest desire should not be for our comfort, but for the salvation of those still lost. Our lives should display the heart of Christ to those who are perishing, with no concern for whether that display comes through miraculous rescue, or through pain and suffering.
Heavenly Father, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done one earth just as it is in Heaven. We are children of the King in Eternity, and merely vessels for Your Kingdom here on earth. Let us live in that perfect confidence and absolute humility through all of life.
In Christ’s Service,
Pastor Shane Cannon <><