Devotional: ‘Persecuted for His Name’s Sake’

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Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. 10 But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. NASB

Every Christian should look for ways to serve both inside and outside of the church. Stephen was such a man. Inside the church he served as a deacon. Outside the church he served as an ambassador for Christ.

In order to share his faith with the lost, Stephen made it a regular habit to visit the local synagogue. A synagogue was a place where Jewish men would gather to read and discuss the scriptures. As they sat and discussed the Bible, Stephen guided their conversations to Jesus. Perhaps some were willing to listen, but many others became angry and upset. The Bible says that they were unable to resist what Stephen said and how he said it. It is interesting to note that perhaps one of the Jewish men with whom Stephen debated was a brilliant young Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus. Though Saul had a hand in Stephen’s death, it was Stephen who eventually helped bring Saul to Christ.

I remember a conversation I had one morning with a man about God. Looking for an opportunity to talk about Christ, I began by asking him if he ever attended church. Immediately he was quick to respond in such a way that indicated to me that he wasn’t interested in discussing religion. He began to tell me all the things he had against the church and especially organized religion. In his opinion, everyone should have the freedom to choose what they wanted to believe and how to get to heaven. Rather than arguing back, I simply listened. Then I asked him, “Suppose a football coach wanted to have a winning team. Would he tell his players? –‘Guys, it’s up to each of you to decide what kind of plays each of you wants to run. Some of you can go long while others can spread out for a screen pass. Some of you can prepare to run the ball while the rest of you can get ready for a punt.” “What kind of team do you suppose he would have? Would he be successful?” The answer was obvious. Then I said to him, “The only way a team can be successful is for there to be a coach who calls the plays and gives guidance. Therefore it’s not logical that God would leave it up to each individual to develop what he or she wanted to believe about salvation and heaven.” I could tell that he didn’t want to discuss it any further and so I let it dropped. Yet I prayed that God would somehow use what I had said to make the man think.

Conflict will sometimes happen as we try to tell others about Christ. Many of those living in darkness will not welcome light. Yet Jesus said:

Luke 21:12 … they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. 13 “It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. 14 “So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15 for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. NASB

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