F ool of bitterness or Full of peace?
Today I want us to take another look at Stephen, the church’s first martyr. Last time we looked at how Stephen could have such assurance as to why he was going to Heaven- and please note that this was NOT because he was qualified as a ‘super saint’. Stephen was just a normal bloke like you and me who had placed his faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus has promised that everyone who places their confidence for heaven in Himself alone (and not in their good works) can be assured that He will meet them on the threshold of death and take them straight to heaven.
However, this time I want us to look at Stephen’s last prayer in this world;
And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep (that is the Bible’s term for death as, for the Christian, death is only a sleep before heaven).
Get the picture; Stephen is being cruelly put to death by stoning and as his enemies rain down their rocks Stephen’s last words are words of forgiveness.....
Today two words describe our world- fear and bitterness. Bitterness is everywhere, even in the very air we breathe. Everywhere people are angry at how they have been treated (and perhaps rightly so), but tragically this anger, so often, inflicts itself upon others with the unhappy result that there are even more angry people venting their fury. This is a cycle that can end nowhere good; high blood pressure, heart trouble, estranged relationships, feuding neighbours etc.
Stephen was different. Why? Because he had experienced the forgiveness of God through Jesus and as a result he knew the peace that only God’s mercy could bring. For an out of control world consumed in hatred and obsessed with revenge there is only one place where peace can be found- at the foot of the Cross of Christ. For it is there that we can receive God’s healing as we confess our sins directly to Jesus and receive His peace directly from Him on the basis of what He did on that Cross.
Sadly, for many the price of receiving this mercy is too high. As it means getting down on their knees, confessing that they are a hopeless sinner and, without reservation, committing their life, their sins, their bitternesses to Jesus. Only what is passed on to Him can be dealt with.
For many that is too high a price, but what is the price of holding on to your hatred?