One morning a couple of weeks ago I was reading that day’s suggested passages from the One Year Bible, which is a plan that takes you from Genesis to Revelation, from cover to cover, in a twelve month period (hence the name). My wife Jackie and I began following the One Year Bible just over three years ago for several reasons:
· We begin each day with God’s Word, as husband and wife, as best friends, as partners in life, and above all else, as Christians. For many years our day began with coffee and conversation, which was good, but we’ve found that sharing Scripture together is even better!
· We “grow” in God’s Word. With all the negative sights, sounds, and news in the world today, the Bible has been in the past, is today, and will be in the future a source of truth and hope.
· I conclude our readings each morning by “covering us” in God’s Armor, as found in Ephesians 6:10-20. I’ve done a bit of reflecting on this morning ritual, and I think that it’s not so much the reciting of the passage as it is the willful, conscious, asking to be protected from the attacks of the enemy and to be Spirit-filled every day.
· This marks the fourth time that we’ve done the One Year Bible, and each time I’ve “seen” something that I’ve never seen before. I believe that this insight is a result of being at a different spiritual level each time, and from asking God to reveal more of His Word to me…
On this particular day the passage was from Acts 7 and 8, and we read about two men so completely different that the only thing they seemingly had in common was that their names begin with an “S.” Oh yeah, there also just happened to be two more S’s mentioned in the passage…
The first of these men, Stephen, was a Disciple of Christ. Perhaps even more important was the fact that Stephen was filled by the Spirit, and as a result, walked with a boldness that matched his passion for and love of the Lord.
We get a glimpse of that boldness as Stephen “calls out” the Jewish leaders for their offenses against God and His people, and especially for murdering Jesus, the Messiah.
Infuriated, the Jewish leaders raised their fists at Stephen, expecting him to recant his words. Undaunted, unafraid, and Spirit-filled, Stephen continued with his accusations. Pushed to the breaking point by Stephen’s words, the leaders dragged Stephen out of the city and began to stone him. Even as he was being stoned to death, Stephen offered a prayer to God asking that his murderers not be held accountable for their sin.
Among the gathering of people witnessing the unfolding of events was the second “S”, a young man named Saul. Saul’s hatred for the followers of Christ was as intense as Stephen’s love for them, so much so that his sole purpose in life was to seek out and persecute the believers, and to destroy the church.
It was the final “S” that fueled Saul’s hatred and passion, and his name was Satan, whose purpose is to “steal, kill, and destroy.” John 10:10
By nature, Saul was a good man with a heart as good as Stephen’s. This became evident when God called on Saul to serve Him. Saul’s name was changed to Paul, and he went on to write a good portion of the New Testament and can probably be credited with spreading the Gospel as much if not more than the chosen Twelve.
I cannot pass up this opportunity to say for probably the umpteenth time, that Paul is my favorite person in the Bible. Paul was called by Jesus, was radically saved, and devoted his life to sharing the Word and growing God’s Kingdom; all things that I can associate with. Perhaps even more important is that fact the God will use the least likely and seemingly least worthy of us to serve Him.
We’re all born with a good heart, you know? We all have God’s heart in us at birth, because He loves us all the same. He doesn’t play favorites. What happened to Saul is exactly what happens to many of us: we fall victim to Satan’s vast array of weapons and tricks, and in the process we fall farther and farther away from God.
What can we do to avoid this? Ask God for help. Pray, not only for yourself, but also for others, as did Stephen. Ask for the Mind of Christ. Seek to be filled by the Holy Spirit. Draw a line in the sand…take a stand…make a commitment to you and to God to walk with Him and not with Satan.
Walk in freedom. Walk with boldness. Walk, as we are all created to walk, being filled with the Holy Spirit.
In and through Jesus we are victors. We don’t have to be victims.