How Do You Define Victory?
His name was Stephen…a Christian…a man full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. He was chosen, along with six others, to see that all the widows in the church were treated fairly as the daily distribution of food was made (see Acts 6). As Luke continues to recount the days of the early church, he focuses for a time on Stephen (Acts 6:8-7:60). He was not only filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom (v.3), but with faith (v.5) and with God’s grace and power (v.8). He was also able to do great wonders and signs among the people (v.8). Surely such a gifted Christian would have the protection of God, right? Right! Weren’t Jesus’ words in John 10:28-29 applicable to Stephen? You know…the words where Jesus said He would hold His sheep in His hand and no one could snatch them away…and that they would never perish! Of course that promise was applicable to and operational for Stephen and every Christian before and after him down to our day. But what does that promise look like in its unfolding. Does it mean that no Christian will suffer physically or in other ways? Does it mean that they cannot die painfully…that they will instead by carried off to heaven when that sweet chariot swings low to get them? You have only to peruse the New Testament to see that is not the case. The promise means that though a Christian dies, he/she does not perish. It means that even when a Christian dies a painful or violent death, God has not forsaken them (please see Acts 7:54-56). But wouldn’t it have been better for Stephen to keep living on earth to bless the church and help the lost? I would answer yes, but God had a different plan for him. And God kept all His promises to Stephen. As Stephen’s body lay broken and bloodstained among those stones, he didn’t look like a winner. When other Christians took up his body and mourned and buried him, they didn’t appear victorious. But looks can be deceiving! God does right!