Daily Devotion, June 24, 2020 - The Ultimate Sacrifice

Pastor: Connie Belmore

Devotion: June 24, 2020
Reading: Acts 7:54-60
The Ultimate Sacrifice

Over the past couple of weeks, daily Bible readings have led me to many passages that deal with discipleship and the need to rely on God’s strength amidst our weakness. This week’s readings deal specifically with the cost of discipleship. Discipleship at times may require sacrifice of time spent with family and lead us to recognize that we have a new family of brothers and sisters in Christ. Today’s reading is about the ultimate sacrifice of giving one’s life for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I type these words, I would like to believe that I would be willing to profess my faith in a very public way as Stephen did, even if I know that it might cost me my life.  Up to this point in my life, I have never felt my life was in danger as I share my faith.

In Acts 7, Stephen has just preached a sermon which outlines the continuous story of God’s promises and faithfulness in delivering God’s people. This was mostly a historical account until verse 50 in which Stephen refers to the people he is speaking to as “stiff necked people” telling them that while they have received the new law they have not obeyed it, meaning that Jesus was sent to replace the old law and they have even rejected him. With that, the members of the Sanhedrin became very angry and stoned Stephen.

So what good news could we possibly hear from such a sad story about Stephen’s martyrdom? Most important is that Stephen loved the Lord so much that he was willing to proclaim the story of how Jesus was betrayed and became the substitute for the penalty of our sin. Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Despite his terrible death by stoning and the great loss of his life on earth, Stephen went straight into the presence of the Lord. The crowd who stoned him laid their coats at the foot of Saul, who later became the apostle, Paul who is credited with writing a good number of the books of the New Testament that still guide us as the church today. Could it be that God used Stephen’s message and martyrdom to plant the seeds of conviction in Saul which eventually led to his conversion on the road to Damascus?  We also witness the Spirit of Jesus in Stephen as he asked Jesus to receive his Spirit and to forgive those who stoned him. Within this tragic story of Stephen’s ultimate sacrifice, we see the great things that came from this tragedy. Despite how awful this story seems to us, Stephen received the great reward of being with Jesus, Saul was eventually converted and became the apostle Paul whose witness has been and continues to be instrumental in churches today in both discipleship and evangelism ministries. In a day, when Christianity is on the decline in the United States, the likelihood of being persecuted in this country seems more likely than it did just a few years ago. How far would you and I be willing to go for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Prayer: Dear God, we thank you for the example set forth by your servant, Stephen, in the early church which no doubt impacted the spread of Christianity then and now. Help us to be willing to be bold and to make sacrifices for the sake of sharing the gospel of your Son, Jesus. We pray for all Christians who have been and continue to be persecuted and ask that your shield of protection be upon them. And we give all this to you and ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

 
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