Today’s Bible readings are 1 Kings 8:1-66, Acts 7:51-8:13, Psalm 129:1-8, & Proverbs 17:1
Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. 2 (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) 3 But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.
This is such a sad place in the scripture. We see here that the very first martyr was killed in the church age. Stephen was a man full of faith & the Holy Ghost. God was using this man I great ways. Satan used a mob of people to kill Stephen. It was a sad day, yet the gospel was preached all the more boldly. As a result, the church grew.
This is still true in many parts of the world today. People are being tortured & killed for their faith in Christ. We don’t hear much about it but that doesn’t mean that it is not happening. If you are connected with the right sources you will find that people die regularly for the message of Christ.
We can begin to have real negative feelings toward people through whom the violent acts come. Yet, we see in our reading today that the man who was behind the violence was a man named Saul. He was the chief instigator in many of these instances. He provoked the mob & used them to try to destroy the church.
The most exciting thing about this is that it all changed one day when he met Jesus. Here was a man with the hardest of hearts toward Christ, but once he experienced Jesus for himself, he surrendered to Him & became one of the greatest men in the early church age. The same level of drive that was used to destroy the church was now used to build the church.
This is encouraging to me. There are many that are seeking to destroy the church today. We can develop bitter feeling toward them if we don’t stay in the Spirit about things.
1. We can blame them for things happening.
2. We can develop feelings of hatred toward them.
3. We can assume that they are all evil & worthy of death.
4. We can even start to think that they will never accept Christ.
This is surely what some must have thought about Saul, who later became the great Apostle Paul. Those who thought this had many reasons to have those feelings, but how wrong they were in the end.
Paul became the greatest single man in the early church development. He planted more churches & covered more ground than any other apostle that I am aware of in the New Testament. What a tragedy it would have been for people to right him off & give up on him.
I find it interesting that even though people may have wrote Paul off, GOD DID NOT. God had a plan for his life. God was going to use him to reach the world of the day. The awesome thing is that Paul had the drive to do it. He was just using that drive in the wrong direction. Once that drive was redeemed he became a HUGE asset to the building of the church.
I want to invite you on a journey with me to begin praying for the worst of the worst. Let’s start praying for “Damascus Road” experiences to occur in the lives of people who oppose the church. Let’s start asking for 1,000,000 Muslim conversions that will be as radical as that of the Apostle Paul’s. We can fight a war with natural means & only get natural results or we can walk by faith in the Spirit & wage a spiritual war & get great spiritual results.
I know that God can do it. Remember, the greatest disappointment in the life of a Christian is the prayers that never get answered BECAUSE THEY NEVER GET PRAYED!!! Let’s begin to pray God’s will be done in the earth. Let’s use the Spirit, the force of faith, hope, & love; coupled with the POWER of the gospel to win this battle once & for all.