Wow! So much happens in these next chapters of our Acts Bible Study! It’s hard to find just one thing to write about!
So quickly does this new church face persecution and death, but also so quickly do we see examples of God’s power and might.
And we are left to realize that it is very rare that God does things in ways we understand.
Because even as Stephen speaks before those who will soon order his stoning and death, another person is listening who will soon be a force for our Lord. And even as this message of salvation is being preached in Israel, God is drawing on the hearts of an Ethiopian, desiring to understand the scriptures, and an Italian Centurion, who longed to know God.
God still isn’t telling His people anymore than what they need to know for their next step, and often their next step makes no sense to them.
And that is ok, because God really can be trusted.
He can be trusted when His people are facing death, because He does not abandon them in that moment but is standing ready to receive them.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” Acts 7:55-56 NLT
He can be trusted when He asks us to go speak to someone who we’ve known as an enemy, because He’s already drawing their hearts to become a friend.
“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”
But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Acts 9:13-16 NLT
How much could each of these men have said, “This makes no sense! How can this be of God?” How much do we owe to there obedience?
One of the oldest known churches is the Ethiopian Church, marking their beginnings in that Ethiopian Eunuch whom Philip was led to teach on that road. (Acts 8:26-39)
Most of the New Testament is born out of the ministry of Paul, who was known as Saul, a man we are introduced to as he stands in approval over the death of Stephen, (Acts 8:1) a man who becomes so feared by the church that when God asks Ananias to go pray for him Ananias double takes, “God, don’t you know who this man is? What he has done?
And how many of us were opened up to this glorious salvation message when God spoke to Peter and made it clear that this message wasn’t just for the Jewish people, but for all mankind?
But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” Acts 10:15 NLT
Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.” Acts 10:28-29 NLT
We started in prayer, we continue in obedience, understanding we can trust even in the darkest times. Because as we read and understand the pain that this young church went through we can also see that through such pain God brings about something beautiful.
Can we trust Him? Can we obey even when what is asked of us makes no sense? Can we obey even when what is asked of us hurts?
Today I pray that each of us grows in our trust of God. That we each grow in daily obedience in our lives, understanding that we don’t always need to know, but we can always have faith.
Joy Aletheia Stevens
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