Faith on Fire – Week 9
Good Evening Mummy Meditators – I hope that this post finds you surviving, or maybe even thriving, in your current phase of lockdown. There’s no doubting that this week’s verse has been a toughy. After weeks of this empowering, exciting faith that we’ve seen in the disciples and mulling over the same excitement in this new life we find ourselves in, it’s hard to see things start to go wrong. This is the first martyr and it’s painful to think about. What have you taken from this weeks verse? Would you react in the same way? Lets see what our Mummy Meditations Contributors have to say….
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “LORD Jesus, receive my spirit.” 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. And Saul approved of their killing him.” Acts 7:59-60
Stephen and the Sanhedrin
Stephen has spent most of Acts 7 being really honest with the Sanhedrin about missing the obvious pattern: of faith in God followed by going their own way, stepping away from God through sin and then being forgiven for that sin by God. I can only imagine the mixture of emotions he must have felt: no one likes to point out other people’s faults, no one wants to be seen as a ‘know it all’ . But Stephen swallows his fear and tells it as it is. He knows these people don’t want to hear their failings yet he is confident enough in the truth of his faith to speak out. I’m not sure if he ever expected to be stoned to death but at this point, in the tragic moment of it’s happening, I am confident that he knew he would give up his life for his words to be taken seriously. His faith is unyielding and his compassion echoes that of Jesus: begging forgiveness of the sins of the people who are to kill him.
So what does this verse ask of us, of me and you? In our churches do we point out the obvious errors of our theological practices? Do we question what we are told by our ministers when we hear things we think may not be Biblically sound? Do we ask God for help to direct a change in people’s sinfulness or do we just ignore it and hope that they figure it out for themselves? Stephen spoke out to help people see their shortcomings, not to point the finger but to direct them back to God. His words were words of compassion, of faith and of love. Words to lead people back to a life with God. Are your words to others compassionate, loving and leading in faith? If not then maybe it’s time to address your shortcomings and be more like Stephen.
This has been a hard week for me. Two members of our church have died, one sadly expected from
end-stage cancer, but one totally shocking and sudden, while she and her family were moving to live
in a new country. A third dear friend, who on Tuesday underwent major lung cancer surgery, came
out of the anaesthetic fog on Wednesday to be told that her elderly mother in the UK had suffered a
catastrophic stroke and brain bleed. She died yesterday morning. My friend wasn’t able to be at her
bedside, and doesn’t know when she will be well enough to travel for the funeral. The pandemic
uncertainties for travel and funeral arrangements make a difficult situation even harder to bear.
So despite it being “my” week as a contributor, I unfortunately haven’t felt able to be active in the
Mummy Meditations group this time around. In any case, here are my belated musings on our verse
of the week.
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed …” Stephen shows no fear in the face of death, only
extraordinary faith and presence of mind.
As Western Christians, we are unlikely to face martyrdom for our faith. It’s a different story for some
of our brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries. This verse reminds me to pray for them. I
recommend an organisation called Christian Solidarity Worldwide, whose regular online newsletter
details how we can pray for, and write letters of support to, Christian prisoners around the world.
Whatever we are experiencing, we can pray and cry out to God, even if it’s just a quick prayer of
“God, help!” under our breath. The Psalms are full of such cries, and every time God comes to their
rescue. I pray that it will be our first instinct to call to Him in our distress. I haven’t been doing very
well at that this week, but His grace is new every morning. Lord, I believe: help my unbelief.
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”. Stephen was confident that Jesus would be waiting for Him with open
arms and the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. Only a few verses earlier, in Acts 6:8, we
read that “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among
the people.” He was chosen to oversee the distribution of food to the needy. As we see in his speech
to the Sanhedrin, he possessed great wisdom and learning, and the gift of public preaching . We
might be forgiven for wondering why Stephen’s earthly life had to come to such a sudden and brutal
end before he had the chance in worldly terms to ‘reach his full potential’. It is hard to understand
these things. What we can know is this: whatever hardships and heartaches come into our lives, our
Saviour Jesus will be with us. He will receive our spirit at the end of our lives, and we will be with Him
Thank you both for those poignant and challenge thoughts to end our week on this verse. Next week we will be looking at what happened next after Stephen’s death, meditating on this verse:
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” Acts 8:1-3