Stephen's Final Act
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. ~Acts 7:60
Perhaps one of the hardest things to do for Christians and non-Christians alike is to forgive another person. When we have been hurt by another person, there is a defensive reaction within us that establishes walls around our heart to prevent further hurt. These defensive walls seek to keep the one who offended us from getting close enough to hurt us again. Hence, there is much hurt that many of us have received that goes unforgiven. This morning, we want to consider one of the great examples of Christ-like forgiveness.
We see Stephen and his injury.
Stephen had just preached a powerful and convicting message. The Jews' reaction to this message was to do away with Stephen. As an enraged mob, they rushed on him, dragged him out of the city, and began stoning him. Stephen was pummeled by rocks of all shapes, sizes, and weights. The stoning had one intent: to kill him! What do you do when people throw stones or other things at you? Stephen sustained intolerable injuries. Stephen sustained irreversible injuries. Stephen sustained inhumane injuries. Sometimes those who hurt us seek to destroy our reputation, our resources, and our respect. Sometimes they do what they do with a malicious heart. Forgiveness can be difficult when we have been hurt.
We see Stephen and his intercession.
Stephen kneeled down and began praying for the people who were stoning him. Jesus taught us to pray for those who are our enemies and who despitefully use us. Praying for those who hurt us does more to change us than it might do in changing them. He asked the Lord to not lay this sin to their charge. He was asking God to hold his enemies harmless and without fault. He was asking God to clear their account from all charges of wrong doing. Do you pray for those who do you wrong? Do you ask God to keep their account clean in spite of what harm they have done to you? Do you pray for God to bless them in spite of their nasty attitude?
We see Stephen and his immunity.
As these stones were being pummeled at him, he is immune from hurt! The psalmist said, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Yes, he sustained broken bones and was bloodied, but the immunity was of his spirit and soul. He did not go down a bitter and defeated man! He did not go down as a man who sought revenge and retaliation. He went down as a man who had the joy of Jesus in his heart and a heart of love and compassion for those who opposed him. Most of us live our lives in misery because of people who give us trouble. Like Stephen, commit this situation to the Lord, and keep your heart from being affected.
We see Stephen and his improvement.
The last thing we read about Stephen is that he fell asleep. In Stephen’s case, God took him home at that moment. However, this is a great reminder that those who live with forgiveness in their heart live better, sleep better, and are more blessed than those who live with malice and hatred in their hearts. Can you imagine how in the midst of tragedy, Stephen was calm, unmoved, and peaceful? What a contrast to those who violently opposed him. It could be some of these people got saved later on because of Stephen’s testimony.
Do you have someone in your life who is hurling stones at you? Consider Stephen’s example, and let God give you a spirit of unconditional forgiveness!
Have a forgiving God Morning!
Bible Reading Schedule: Ephesians 4-6