Ever heard of Stephen?! A mighty man of courage, in my opinion, and someone who needs a lot more 'air time' in the world. See he is a guy we can read about in Acts, a super hero for Jesus.
He was not afraid to speak openly and boldly for Jesus, he walked around sharing the message and healing people, carried with him an incredible presence.
It says that each time he was threatened or put in situations where he should be afraid, he exuded peace. All this led to his death giving him the name of the FIRST Christian martyr after Jesus' death.
Did you know that?! I didn't or if I did I certainly forgot.
That's not the end, get this, as he was being stoned to death, stones hurling through the air with the main purpose to kill him, he cried out to God saying "Lord do not hold this evil against them.".....Those were his last words before he died.
Reminded me of exactly what Jesus said on the cross "Forgive them father for they know not what they do."
All I can say is....WOW!!
Two incredibly crucial moments and they were thinking of the people that were KILLING THEM and praying God would forgive them.
I think I personally would be wailing for help and quite possibly asking God where the heck he was in that moment, definitely not asking for the forgiveness of those putting me to death.
Therein lies the mess of my heart, the lean towards bitterness and resentment instead of forgiveness and love, quickly developing the stone thrower's heart!
There have been moments in my life that I have been incredibly hurt, devastating moments, I thought I offered forgiveness only to have bitterness and resentment rear their ugly heads.
Can you imagine if in the moment of Stephen's death he cursed them all to hell(his death may have been faster if he'd said that). Yet instead he cried for mercy for the people, I can't help but think that as Stephen cried out for the forgiveness of the exact people that were killing him that a few of the stones dropped beside the people who had wanted to throw them recognizing that even in this moment this man had complete love for his enemies. How many walked away that day questioning what they had just done because he showed love and not anger and malice?!
When I read this story I recognize my need to forgive immediately, to not hang on to my hurts because when I hang onto the hurt I realize I have become the stone thrower not the victim.
See it was anger, bitterness and resentment towards Stephen and the message that he was sharing that led these people to pick up the stones in the first place and if I hold onto my hurt I run the risk of throwing stones and causing hurt to all those around me.
I definitely recognize my need for a saviour someone who can save me from myself and that someone is Jesus!!
Lord help me to put down the stones of anger, resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness and pick up the peace, strength and joy that only you can offer. As my heart heals from hurt help me to pray for those that hurt me. I know this is only possible with your help! As I grow in your tenderness and mercy help my heart to become more and more like that of Stephen so when I am faced with adversity I too can be known for peace in my countenance and able to show love till the end!! Help me to have a lover's heart and not a stone thrower's heart!
In Jesus name....Amen.
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