Stephen, Acts 7:54-60
Stephen was one of the very first Christians. He loved Jesus, and wanted everyone to know who Christ the savior was. Unfortunately, many people didn’t believe him. Many people were still waiting for a messiah, and they thought all of this talk about Jesus saving the people was just crazy lies. Hearing about Jesus made the people mad. So mad, in fact, that they wanted to kill the one who was preaching in His name!
Even in the middle of a huge crowd gnashing their teeth and yelling at him, Stephen still proclaimed the gospel. He even had a vision of Jesus being at the right hand of God. This enraged the crowd even more, so they chased him out of the city. (Back then, being thrown out of the city often meant that the person would be killed. After all, they didn’t want blood stains all over the nice town buildings!) They threw rocks at Stephen until he finally died. With his last breath, he asked God to forgive his murderers.
Stephen is known as the first Christian martyr. A martyr is someone who is killed for his or her beliefs. While Stephen may have been the first Christian martyr, sadly, he wasn’t the last. All but one of the apostles were martyred, and martyrdom continues even today.
While persecution of Christians happens in every country of the world, there are several nations and regions that are particularly prone to martyrdom. The country’s law may prohibit Christianity, or there may be radical groups that are against the Christian faith. Voice of the Martyrs is a worldwide organization that helps the Christians in these restricted and hostile nations. They build churches and Christian schools, they train pastors, they hand out Bibles, and they provide basic necessities to those who lost everything due to hostile attacks. You can become informed about these countries and find out what you can do to help by visiting persecution.com. Subscribe to their very informative newsletter, shop at their online store, or make a donation.
It’s great to help people in other parts of the world, but you also have the responsibility to take a stand in your own hometown. If you see someone being bullied or made fun of for witnessing Christ, stand up against the persecutors and comfort the one who was persecuted. If you find yourself being persecuted, ask God for help, and continue witnessing like never before.
Stephen continued preaching and praying, even as he died. While you may not be murdered for being a Christian, we can all learn a lesson from Stephen. Are you willing to join God’s side and take a stand against persecution?
This devotional originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Girlz 4 Christ, as part of a weeklong series of devotionals about taking a stand. If you would like to order the issue with this devotional, e-mail Girlz4Christ@yahoo.com. If you would like to order a yearlong subscription for just $5, click on the “Buy Now” button in the right-hand sidebar!