Archive for October 17th, 2007

Valley of Shadow

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Today’s scripture: Acts 7:51-60; Acts 8:1-3 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Tom Chittenden):

What contrast can be heard in these words?

Stephen’s words to the Sanhedrin council brought about the predictable reaction — they got angry! The storm of their fury began to break on Stephen’s head. In their madness they were speechless with rage, unable to even find words to give vent to their burning hatred.
“But he, being full of the Holy Spirit…” (vs. 55). How amazing is this contrast? They were completely ripped apart with anger, and Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t respond in the flesh; he responded in the Spirit. That was his strength, and it can be ours as well.

During my years as a youth pastor I found myself at the bedside of several believers, young and old, during their last days and at the last moments of their life. I’ve often sensed the indescribable awe and serenity that accompanied them in those days and moments of final transformation. Indeed, there seems to be a special work of the Holy Spirit that accompanies the child of God during those days leading up to the moment when our true essence, our eternal soul, is separated from the form known as human.

Have you ever heard anybody talk about dying grace? In all of the accounts I have read regarding the death of Christians who have been martyred for Jesus from the earliest of church days through the present, and in all of my own personal experiences, I have never read or witnessed Christians who died a raving, screaming maniac. There seems to be something that God does in the willing death of a believer in the face of persecution, or even natural causes, which grants to him or her grace to die while giving God the glory.

I think that is what God bestowed upon Stephen. And because God will bestow that miracle upon you and me as well, we can bring a godly confidence and boldness to any life situation where others may shrink away when presented with hostility or danger.

We can have every resource that Jesus, Stephen, Paul, the other apostles and godly men and women were given to face crisis situations, and even bodily death. God intervenes through the Spirit to keep the promise to always be with us, even through to the end of our time on earth. With joy and peace we too can approach our final moments with grace as we pray with Stephen, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Yes, we too can find perfect rest as we rest in God’s promise, and fall asleep!

Thought for the day: “Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear. . . for you are with me.” This is a promise! So be it.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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