“When they heard these things they were [h]cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Acts: 7: 54 – 56.
In acts Stephen teaches the Jewish people and leaders the meaning of the Old Testament, and then tells them they are ‘stiff-necked, and that they ‘resist the Holy spirit’, that their ‘fathers killed all the prophets’, and that they themselves are ‘betrayers and murderers’. He told them the truth as God led him to do. Paul abandons Stephen and allows him to be unjustly stoned by the angry mob for preaching love of Christ and His Divinity.
How painful and gruesome it must be to be stoned to death, but within this travesty Jesus is with Stephen, as close and loving as his very soul. As Stephen was stoned to death, he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). The greatness of the Lord’s presence made the stoning as nothing. Even with the great pain he must feel in his body, Stephen was un-phased – for his eyes filled with light, and his soul with gladness, and his mind wonder at the presence of the Lord and heaven.
The Lord is closest to all of us in he deepest moments of our trials, suffering and temptation. And the Lord is closest to us when we are standing with Him in the face of evil. Many times people have asked me as a chaplain (something along the lines): ‘How could God allow my wife, a good person, to suffer and die?’; or, ‘How can God allow babies to burn in war?’; or, ‘Why does God allow evil and corruption to win in my country?’. These questions are emotional reactions when people are in great pain and overwhelmed. The question isolates on their pain, and causes them to question their faith.
There is a big picture. Only God knows the whole picture. We as humans may be able to discern some of it, the medical, social, or spiritual reason, but not the whole. Sometimes in hindsight we see much more when relief comes. But we are capable of knowing in our soul that God has a purpose, and that God can always be trusted. The is the acid test of faith. God wants us to take all of our pain, anger and questions to him. In time, God wants us to learn to stand-up for Him.
The truth is, the Lord is closest to us during these trials. These times of temptation and trial are critical, we are in the balance of good and evil. God uses evil to remove evil. By taking our anger, pain, grief and hate to Him – we dig deep in the dark holes of our soul. Jesus is with us at every step. If we persevere through, our soul is cracked open, and we are transformed. This is the true miracle God seeks – the transformation of our soul. When we do this we become good servants of the Lord.
Stephen was his dear and faithful servant.