Verse: Acts 7:54-60
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.
As I sit here in my air conditioned house about to drink some delicious coffee, and petting my two amazing dogs, it is hard for me to grasp the reality of people who all around the world are persecuted for doing what I’m doing right now: writing/talking about Jesus.
Stephen was the first recorded martyr of the New Testament Church. After being told many times to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, the disciples continued. And Stephen found himself in a situation where if he stopped he would live, and if he didn’t he would die. And he just kept going.
When you read this story it may feel like something that doesn’t happen anymore. Here are some statistics from last year:
- Over 360 million Christians are living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination
- 5,898 Christians were killed for their faith
- 5,110 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked
- 4,765 believers were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned (source)
Can you believe that? Our brothers and sisters in dangerous places around the world are paying the ultimate price for following Jesus.
I think we can take two lessons from this. First – we can pray. There are plenty of websites that give you information and prayer guidelines. In fact June 29 is “Day of the Christian Martyr.” You could even do something with your youth group!
Second – we can live our faith boldly. When I read about these brave disciples, I am inspired to live a life worthy of their sacrifice. Paul writes this in Ephesians 4:1. “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
Notice how he connects it to his persecution? And his call is to live a life worthy of the calling.
Let’s make that our aim today and every day. To live a life worthy of the calling we have received and worthy of the sacrifices they have made.
Inspire me and give me boldness to live my faith out for you Jesus!
Author: Christian Dunn