The death of Stephen marks the beginning of decades of brutal persecution of the church at the hands of Jewish religious leaders and then the Roman government. In fact, for the next three hundred years - longer than America has been a country! - Christians will be hung on crosses, fed to lions, have their heads cut off and be tortured in countless horrible ways.
You would expect that this persecution would have kept the church from growing. After all, who wants to join a group whose followers hang dying along the roads going into and out of every major city! But we know from history that it had the opposite effect. Persecution grew the church faster and faster with each passing year.
I think we can get a glimpse of why in Stephen’s story. Despite being surrounded by an angry mob, he boldly tells the truth knowing the consequences. Faced with death, he stood up for his faith. While some will respond to that with hatred, many others who saw him responded with something else - respect, admiration and ultimately belief.
Are you willing to do the same? Are you ready to stand up for Christ regardless of the consequences? Or will you shrink away, unwilling to face persecution?
Here’s a hint to the answer: if you won’t stand up for Christ when it is easy - when there are few consequences, or when it costs you nothing - you won’t stand up for Him when that stakes are high. Now is the time to practice being faithful, so when the time comes, you’ll be ready.
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