Daddy,” she had said one day, “I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ.”
“Tell me,” her father wisely responded, “when you take a train trip from Haarlem to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?”
“No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train.”
“That is right,” he replied, “and so it is with God’s strength. Our wise Father in heaven knows when you are going to need things too. Today you do not need the strength to be a martyr. But as soon as you are called upon for the honor of facing death for Jesus, He will supply the strength you need—just in time.”
(Casper ten Boom to his daughter Corrie ten Boom when she was a little girl)
How do any of us get through daily life on this sphere called earth, much less make it through torture and death if that’s God will for us? There is only one way; intimacy with Christ. Stephen was the first martyr and he was stoned to death for telling people the truth about Jesus. He died praying that God would not hold their sin (of killing him) against them.
He was able to do that because he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
We see in that true story exactly what Casper ten Boom told Corrie. God gave Stephen what he needed in his moment of pain and death. He didn’t seem to care about his life or his death. He cared about what God cares about; people. Because of His relationship with Jesus, He was filled to overflow with the Spirit. How did that manifest? It manifested in love for his enemies. We all feel sorry for the Christians in Afghanistan (and we should; it’s horrific), but if they experienced the powerless American church, they might feel sorry for us.
According to the research organization Operation World, Iran has the fastest-growing evangelical movement in the world. The second-fastest-growing church is in Afghanistan—where Afghans are being reached in large part by Iranians.
~The Gospel Coalition
It is deadly to spread the Gospel in both those countries, yet they do! That’s the kind of power we see in the Bible on the day of Pentecost.
Stephen was filled with God’s Spirit and as he was dying, the heavens split open and he saw what Isaiah saw, what Moses saw, what Ezekiel saw, and what Daniel saw. He got to see what makes everything else pale in comparison; the glory of God. I’m glad the whole thing is recorded in scripture or we might never get a glimpse into what happens when a martyr dies for Jesus.
Just my opinion, but I believe Jesus was standing because He couldn’t stay seated. He wanted his precious son in His arms as soon as he took his last breath.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.
God let Stephen see Reality as he was leaving this earth. Reality is: The kingdom of heaven is more real than the kingdom we can see. The men killing Stephen may have seemed powerful, but Stephen saw the throne of God and Jesus at the right hand of honor exactly when he needed to see it, not a moment before. Stephen saw real power and he felt pity for the spineless men in front of him with their rocks in their hands and their teeth gritted in hate. They were victims, Stephen was a victor.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Stephen knew if those men never came to Christ, they would spend eternity in hell. He gave up his life so they could know that. That’s what’s happening in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. As I have listened to testimonies about what Christians are like in those places, I have found myself wanting to be there. They have a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. It may look like Satan is winning but he is not. I guarantee the Taliban is witnessing what none of them ever have as they behead God’s precious witnesses…true love. I have to believe (since God does not show favoritism) that God’s children today in Afghanistan are experiencing things on the same level Stephen did in his final moments.
Jesus final words were these:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Greek word for witness may surprise you; it is martyr.
martus- a witness (judicially) or figuratively a “martyr.“
No one can explain love in the middle of hate.
Saul (who became the Apostle Paul) saw Stephen’s face look like the face of an angel as he died. No one will convince me that his mind was not seared by that image. Paul seemed righteous because of his great knowledge of the Bible. Stephen was righteous because He was filled with Divine Love. True righteousness is being able to love when every single thing has been stripped away from us.
Most people only have the appearance of righteousness. Let us suffer and our true selves will come to the surface quickly.
According to Plato (in his book Republic), a truly “righteous” or “just” man can only be found after he is stripped of all, made to suffer, and then crucified. Therefore, most men only desire to appear “righteous” rather than become or be “righteous”.
The amazing thing about that statement is that it was written in 375 B.C. (that’s 375 years BEFORE Jesus was born).
What Plato was saying is that there are no righteous people. Only people who pretend to be righteous. If we are mistreated, stripped, beaten, and killed, he said no one would remain righteous.
I agree with him about us. The only exception is those who are filled with the straight up power of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t say Christians. I said people who are filled with the Spirit. Many Christians are filled with everything the rest of the world is full of. No one who loves this world is filled with Holy Spirit power.
The only righteous Man (Jesus) to ever live, was born into the most religious place on the planet. The religious leaders let Him live 33 years. He was a threat to all they held dear…power, position, wealth and status. His presence exposed their hypocrisy and they wanted Him dead. His public ministry was only three years, so we can safely say the religious establishment tolerated Him for a short three years.
A religious nation will never tolerate true righteousness. A religious person will hate a truly righteous person. True righteousness exposes fake righteousness.
If we are the light in a dark world, the book of John tells us how people will feel.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
When people witness true righteousness, they can never be the same. What we have as Christians is true righteousness IF we will let God fill us with His Spirit. True righteousness will equal love and concern for everyone’s life…but our own.
And they have defeated him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.
Satan is not defeated when the Taliban is dismantled or when the election swings our way. He is defeated when people who are washed in the blood of Jesus Christ open their mouths and tell their story…even if it means certain death..
But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.
Luke 21: 12-13
Casper ten Boom said it best to his little girl Corrie, “But as soon as you are called upon for the honor of facing death for Jesus, He will supply the strength you need—just in time.”
What would the world look like if parents talked to their littles like that instead of making sure they had every single thing their hearts desired? I’ve read Casper ten Boom’s life story. He not only talked that way, he lived that way. Every single child he had lived that way also. Our kids become what we are, not what we tell them to be.
The world is getting darker at warp speed.
We all need to have what my pastor has called, “Closed Door Desperation.” We need to get alone with God and let Him help us to get to one place; emptied of ourselves and filled with His Spirit.
If we live a life filled with the Spirit, we will be ready at all times to be His witnesses. It’s really the only reason for a Christian to be alive.