by Stacy Bender
When we first moved to Minneapolis when Faith Baptist Church called my man to be their pastor, a young lady attended our church who wanted to go on the mission field. Once she graduated from college, she went on to a country where declaring Christian faith is dangerous.
As I read today’s reading in Acts 8, I stumbled upon the story of Stephen who was stoned for his faith.
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.
I have to admit that I struggle with these stories for many reasons.
I feel guilty that I am not persecuted.
I wonder what I would do if someone threatened to stone me for professing faith in Christ.
I feel helpless to do anything to alleviate the suffering of those in other countries who suffer for their faith.
I feel guilty about my ignorance in terms of which countries are dangerous and which are not.
As I write these words, I realize that my struggles and feelings are a tad prideful because I am not looking at the situation correctly.
I may not be called to act on their behalf, but I am called to pray. So – I did a handy-dandy Google search and found some links to share. The one that has them all already in place is called The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
When we are not in the midst of obvious and physically dangerous persecution, how should we act?
Learn: get some knowledge about historical martyrs as well as the current persecuted church
Share: talk with others about this information
Pray: give the persecuted church over to God and be on our knees on their behalf
Stephen’s story is tragic as is the story of other Biblical and post-Biblical martyrs. Their stories should encourage us and give us perspective on our present situation. Stephen remained faithful.