When we read the story of the early church, we see that almost every spirit-filled disciple of Jesus faced tremendous opposition and persecution. Peter, James, and John were imprisoned, beaten, and even killed by those who opposed their witness of Jesus Christ as the risen Lord. Jesus tried to prepare his disciples by telling them that they would be blessed in God’s eyes when others persecuted them on his behalf. Persecution and resistance to God’s leadership among his people was to be expected by those who served on the front line of the Holy Spirit’s movement called the early church.
We who live in America have adopted a view of our lives that favors comfort and having things our way. David Platt in his thought provoking book, Radical, challenges American Christians by stating that we “are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation of taking the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version we are more comfortable with. We want Jesus to be and act like we expect him to be and act. But when we read the New Testament we discover Jesus is not who we always expected him to be nor does he act the way acceptable people would act in our culture.”
We fear the threat of those who would challenge our faith or even attack our positions of belief and lifestyle. We want our lives to work the way that we have designed them. Sometimes Jesus is in the chaos and threats in life rather than our trips to Disney World. Mark Galli, Senior Editor of Christianity Today observed, “The chaos of life may be God’s way of molding us into forgiving and loving people. “Jesus refuses to be put in a box. He is not a nice Savior, whose goal is to make us feel better about ourselves and become well-adjusted, productive members of society. All that is well and good, but it is a part of our lot in life. But this is not the mission of Jesus. He is not interested in well-adjusted people, but mostly people who forgive and love. Sometimes he has to bring a little chaos into our lives to help us become the people that he has called us to be.”
Stephen is one of the seven chosen to serve the needs of the early church and was stoned to death by the religious authorities because of his witness to Jesus Christ. He experienced the chaos of religious hatred and valance of a lynch mob and he became the first martyr of the early church. However, in the turmoil at the end of his life, his character shown through as evidence of the Holy Spirit in his life. The miracles performed through him, his spirit-guided wisdom, and his calm faith in the face of a righteous mob that hurled insults and stones at him demonstrated Christ-like character that spoke loudly of Jesus’ love and forgiveness and made a tremendous impact upon a man by the name of Saul who later became Paul one of the apostles of the early church.
Our prayer needs to be, “Lord, give me your Holy Spirit, pour into me faith, grace, power, wisdom, and courage to believe you can do signs and wonders in and around me. Give me whatever challenges you can use to bless others and expand your church. And may at least one person see in my face the reflection of your love.” Remember there are a lot of people that are watching. May God help each one of us to be obedient and faithful.
See you Sunday in church!