As believers, we are not preserved from persecution for the sake of the Truth. Rather, like Jesus, we are guaranteed to experience it. Stephen, a man appointed to ministry by the apostles, is so filled with God’s grace and power that the Holy Spirit enables him not only to perform signs and wonders, but also to speak God’s Truth with great wisdom. Because Jewish religious leaders cannot dispute the Truth that Stephen speaks, they seek to silence it. Stephen’s words cannot be refuted, so instead they are twisted. One day, Stephen is dragged to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish assembly of religious leaders, and suffers greatly for proclaiming the Truth of Christ.
If we as disciples are following Jesus, we must not be surprised when imitating Him brings us to the places of suffering where He has first been. Stephen will be accused for speaking the same truths about Jesus that Jesus first spoke about Himself. In standing for the Gospel Truth of God, Stephen will become a martyr, the first of Christ’s Church to die a wrongful death as Jesus did. But just as Jesus’ death is not in vain, neither is Stephen’s. As Jesus’ death continues to bring a multitude back to God the Father, Stephen’s death, in a much smaller way, will also lead to an expansion of the Church. His death will result in a scattering of the believers from Jerusalem who flee persecution. As they settle in far off places, they will spread the Gospel Message to wider parts of the region as they go. Just as Jesus did the work that only He could do, He will continue His work of salvation through His faithful servant Stephen.
As believers in Christ, not only are our direction and destination affected by how closely we follow Jesus, but so too is our availability for His purposes. Remember that whatever happens to us as we follow His has happened to Him first. In your work for Him, Jesus not only understands what you are enduring, but also anticipates what your obedience to His leading will bring forth in your life for His glory. Where is Jesus leading you? As you follow Him, go radiating the image of His glory, with the boldness to live and speak in His Truth.