Yesterday I wrote about the courage, strength, and humility of Stephen. I might have left you thinking, “Why would God allow a good man to struggle like that – especially one that is doing God’s Will?”
This morning I will continue on with Stephen’s martyrdom. Stephen’s martyrdom was an instance that God could have stepped in and saved Stephen from a horrible death, yet He didn’t. In Acts 7:54-60 we hear the details of Stephen’s death.
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.
After the stoning, people spread throughout the countryside to hide from the severe persecution of the church. Saul (also known as Paul) was working to uncover all those who had fled and send them to jail for following Christ. This is where God’s will is revealed. God allowed Stephen to be stoned to death under the watch of Saul. Later, Saul would have a change of heart on his journey to Damascus, and during this trip, Paul is blinded by a very bright light. In Acts 9:4-19 we read:
As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
Wow! Not only did God use Saul/Paul, but several witnessed the event and Ananias proved his great faith of God during this. Do you think Stephen ever would have realized the great things God did with his death? Paul was one of Jesus’ most faithful supporters after this incident. He would go on to lead the church just after Peter. Amazing. Ananias was used by God to lead this new disciple into the life of faith. Two beautiful stories that unfolded only because of Stephen’s great courage and ultimate death.
Stephen’s courage to speak the truth brought us one of the greatest Christian leaders of all time. This is how God uses a bad situation and turns it into something good.
Back to our initial question… Why would God allow a good man to struggle like that – especially one that is doing God’s Will?
Because the struggle will cause a domino effect and lead to great things for Christians. The struggle will touch the heart of someone who God knows will be a game changer. The struggle will turn someone who is facing away from God toward God.
God isn’t placing a struggle in your life for punishment. It’s not all about you. He is placing a struggle in your life for the good of another. This is why we should praise God for struggles in our lives. We should life up the struggle for someone who may be searching for God, but doesn’t know where to look. We can pray that God will allow someone to witness our struggle and turn their face back to God.