Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! Acts 7:56
The non-profit organization Open Doors published their findings about the persecuted Church from the past year. In the top fifty oppressive countries, 245 million Christians experienced high levels of persecution, and 4,136 believers were slain for their faith—an average of eleven people per day. More than 1,200 Christian buildings were attacked, and 2,625 Christians were detained without trial.1
In the book of Acts, Stephen became the first believer to be murdered for his stand for Christ; and as he died, he gazed into heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the throne of God. Since Jesus is typically described as sitting on the throne, it makes us wonder if He stands every time the soul of a martyr ascends to glory. If so, it would appear He has stood up eleven times in the past 24 hours.
God gives the grace we need whenever we’re pressured because of our faith—whether we’re living for Him or dying for Him. Christians are God’s ambassadors in a hostile world. Take courage, be faithful, and stand for Jesus!
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. G. K. Chesterton
Stephen’s Victorious Death (Acts 7:54-8:1)
As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Psalm 55:16
In Boston, Massachusetts, a plaque titled “Crossing the Bowl of Tears” remembers those who braved the Atlantic to escape death during the catastrophic Irish potato famine of the late 1840s. More than a million people died in that disaster, while another million or more abandoned home to cross the ocean, which John Boyle O’Reilly poetically called “a bowl of tears.” Driven by hunger and heartache, these travelers sought some measure of hope during desperate times.
In Psalm 55, David shares how he pursued hope. While we’re uncertain about the specifics of the threat he faced, the weight of his experience was enough to break him emotionally (vv. 4–5). His instinctive reaction was to pray, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (v. 6).
Like David, we may want to flee to safety in the midst of painful circumstances. After considering his plight, however, David chose to run to his God instead of running fromhis heartache, singing, “As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me” (v. 16).
When trouble comes, remember that the God of all comfort is able to carry you through your darkest moments and deepest fears. He promises that one day He Himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). Strengthened by this assurance, we can confidently trust Him with our tears now.
Reflect & Pray
What causes you to want to run away? What’s your instinctive reaction when trouble comes?
Father, when life feels overwhelming, give me strength. Give me Your presence and comfort, for without You, I’m lost.
Listen to Discover the Word conversations, “Tearful Expressions,” at discovertheword.org/series/tearful-expressions/.
Have you been seeking the Lord’s guidance on a particular issue yet still can’t discern what He would have you do? We don’t always know why God doesn’t make everything clear when we ask for His help. But doing certain things can prepare us to hear His directions.
Seek Cleansing. We need to ask the Lord if there is anything in our life that is hindering our prayers. Then, if He brings something to mind, we can receive His cleansing through confession (1 John 1:9).
Surrender. If we have not fully yielded ourselves to the Lord, our heart will remain set on our own desires. When that’s the case, we’ll have difficulty perceiving His will (James 4:3).
Ask Wisely. God is committed to answering our prayers if we ask according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). Therefore, we must carefully consider if our requests align with His desires as revealed in Scripture.
Meditate. Since God’s Word is a light to our path, the more we think about the truths of Scripture, the clearer the way will become (Psalm 119:105).
Wait. God promises to act on the behalf of those who wait (Isa. 64:4). Therefore, we must resist the urge to run ahead of Him by trying to fix the situation ourselves or manipulate circumstances to get our desired outcome.
Instead of letting uncertainty cause you to become anxious or fearful, consider these five practices. Then begin to look at your situation as an opportunity to trust your sovereign, omnipotent God who always works everything for your good (Rom. 8:28).
“To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:15)
Jude is referencing the preaching of pre-Flood Enoch, who warned about God’s coming judgment when the Lord returns “with ten thousands of his saints” (v. 14). Jude identifies two ungodly traits that bring about this judgment.
First, there are ungodly deeds that were committed in an ungodly way. Perhaps the best commentary on this deep sin is the Lord Jesus’ description of the unbelief of those who reject the gospel of salvation: “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Their actions were not mere misdeeds; these deeds were committed with full knowledge of the “light”—and their perpetrators consciously ran away from that light to hide in the “darkness.”
Then there are hard speeches that have been spoken by ungodly sinners against the Lord Jesus. Perhaps these fierce words were uttered as diatribes against the authority of Christ to judge. Peter alludes to these kinds of sinners as “scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Paul comments that these kinds of people “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
And that appears to coincide with the nature of the word “ungodly.” All three forms that appear in Jude 1:15 are negative forms of the word for worship. The “un” part of the word stresses the lack of honor and deference that are due the Creator of the universe. These ungodly sinners will be condemned by their own deeds and fierce words. HMM III
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
I have heard that John 3:16 is a favorite preaching text for young preachers, but I confess that as far as I can recall, I have never had the courage to prepare and preach a sermon with John 3:16 as my text. I suppose I have quoted it as many as 15,000 or 20,000 times in prayer and in testimony, in writing and in preaching, but never as a sermon text….
I think my own hesitation to preach from John 6:16 comes down to this: I appreciate it so profoundly that I am frightened by it—I am overwhelmed by John 3:16 to the point of inadequacy, almost of despair. Along with this is my knowledge that if a minister is to try to preach John 3:16 he must be endowed with great sympathy and a genuine love for God and man….
So, I approach it. I approach it as one who is filled with great fear and yet great fascination. I take off my shoes, my heart shoes, at least, as I come to this declaration that God so loved the world. CES085-086
Lord, I take off my “heart shoes” this morning as well as I contemplate this awesome thought. I bow before You in fear and fascination before this text—but also just at the incredible task and privilege of preaching and teaching any portion of Your inspired Word. Amen.
And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.—Luke 24:51.
Lift up our thoughts, lift up our songs, And let Thy grace be given, That while we linger here below, Our hearts may be in heaven.
The parting blessing of our Lord was changed in the moment of its utterance into a pledge of eternal love, of unfailing and ever-watchful care for the well being of His people.
When the living presence of Jesus was taken away from His own, it was not that they were to have Him less, but in a lovelier, in a diviner way. For when He rose up to heaven, He took there with Him, all their hearts, and all their minds, and all their love. So is it with us. He is gone up to heaven, into the bosom of the Father, into the Father’s heart of love, and we ascend up there with Him, with all our hearts, and all our love, and rest where He resteth, in the Father’s heart. There is there no separation, but one life, one existence, as He is one with the Father. And thus it is that being one with Him we can be as clear, bright mirrors that reflect His glory.
“Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” Matt. 20:7
Yes, there is work in Christ’s vineyard for old bodies. It is the eleventh hour, and yet He will let us work. What great grace is this! Surely every old man ought to jump at this invitation! After men are advanced in years nobody wants them as servants; they go from shop to shop, and employers look at their grey hairs, and shake their heads. But Jesus will engage old people, and give them good wages too! This is mercy indeed. Lord, help the aged to enlist in thy service without an hour’s delay.
But will the Lord pay wages to worn-out old men? Do not doubt it. He says He will give you what is right if you will work in His field. He will surely give you grace here and glory hereafter. He will grant present comfort and future rest; strength equal to your day, and a vision of glory when the night of death comes on. All these the Lord Jesus will as freely give to the aged convert as to one who enters His service in his youth.
Let me tell this to some unsaved old man or old woman, and pray the Lord to bless it, for Jesus sake. Where can I find such persons? I will be on the look-out for them, and kindly tell them the news.