1st Reading: Acts 8:1-8: They went from place to place, preaching the Good News.
Resp Psalm : Ps.65(66):1-7: Cry out to joy to God, all the earth.
Gospel: John 6:35-40: It is my Father will that whoever sees the Son should have eternal life.
The death of Stephen opened the floodgates of persecution. It is a day that would go down in history as infamy in one hand, but a day that would signify the beginning of the spread of the good news to the Gentiles. Tertullian speaking of Christian persecution wrote “Kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is proof that we are innocent…The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”
Indeed, the tragic end to one man’s life has become the seed that fell into the ground and bore “much fruit” (John 12:24). The “seed” of Stephen’s body planted in the ground on that day, would result in an unstoppable sowing of the Gospel seed that has impacted even you and me, some 2000 years later.
Here is the point. From a human perspective, one might look at the death of Stephen, a truly mighty man of God, as “premature” and as a horrible tragedy. But his death was not premature, for he fully accomplished the work the Father had planned for him to accomplish (John 4:34 and John 17:4)God’s perspective of the value of one life is not the same as our perspective, for we seen only in time, while God sees in eternity.
The disciples were scattered as a result of the persecution. But all the leaders did by scattering the disciples was to plant them in the places to which they had been scattered, for there they “preached the word” (Acts 8:4) Is that true of you? Wherever you find yourself—whether scattered by work or family or education or some other means—have you considered yourself planted in that place? Have you put down roots and born fruit for Jesus Christ? Do you blossom where you are planted?
That is what these early Christians did. It is because of this activity that even the bad things that had happened to them served to advance the cause of Christ. Later Paul would write, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans8:28)
Although, we may never experience such persecution like our brothers and sisters did in first century Jerusalem, but if we are serious about the practicing our faith in a sin-darkened, devil controlled world, we can be sure that we will experience persecution in some form.
However, we will always trust in Jesus’ words who tells us in today’s gospel, whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day(John 6:40). As Christ was raise to life is so shall we. A courageous and steadfast faith is something we must continue to pray for in a world filled with opposition like ours.
The novelist Joseph Conrad says that, when he was a young sailor learning to steer a sailing-ship, a gale blew up. The older man who was teaching him gave him just one piece of advice: ‘Keep her facing it. Always keep her facing it.’ The apostles were determined to face whatever dangers threatened. As they stayed back in Jerusalem , the beauty and the power of their lives was so impressive that, even at a time of persecution, the authorities hesitated to lay their hands upon them because they have won the admiration of the people.
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It is told that a slanderous accusation was once levelled against Plato. His answer was: ‘I will live in such a way that all men will know that it is a lie.’ Sometimes God can use pressing circumstances to guide us into His will. Sometimes we have to be shaken out of our comfortable state before we do what God wants us to do. Our faith then becomes like a bag of tea that brews better depend on the degree of the hot water resulting to a good taste. Stephen was killed and that did not stop Philip, who started preaching about Christ in the Samaritan town.
Therefore, God can use pressing circumstances to guide us into His will. Sometimes we have to be shaken out of our comfortable state before we do what God wants us to do remember the story of prophet Jonah.
Here are some few lessons ;
* Persecution is inevitable for the godly; don’t be surprised by it; Prepare! Always prepare!
* Persecution accomplishes God’s overall goals for the health and growth of His church – We can fortify ourselves by studying the grace that God provided to His servants who gave the ultimate sacrifice down through church history
* We should have solidarity and prayer support for our brothers and sisters who are under direct attack
* We should be confident in our ultimate victory as we focus on the vision of heavenly glory and the Advocacy on our behalf by Christ-the Righteous One who has sent the Holy Spirit to assist us.
In all, God uses people to evangelize people like you and me, ordinary folk, mere mortals. And the rule of our duty here is not that we are able to pry into the secret will of God and discern who we want to work with or carry out personal agenda. The rule of duty here is: God has commanded us to do this: ‘Go into all the world. You are to be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria and in the uttermost parts of the world.’ And that’s out to you and me.
Have a nice day