“The king mourns, the prince is wrapped in despair, and the hands of the people of the land are paralyzed by terror. According to their way I will do to them, and according to their judgments I will judge them, and they shall know that I am the Lord.”
But [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
I am attending a funeral today. It’s my second one in a month. Death. I really hate death.
We were created to never have to endure death. We were supposed to live in the Garden, in perfect communion with God and each other. Death was unthought of back then, but sin changed all that.
Today we read of the church’s first martyr. Stephen died with the vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God. It’s the only place in the New Testament where Jesus is described as “standing” instead of sitting at God’s right hand.
Death is a strange thing. On one hand, it is odious – something that was never supposed to be. But on the other hand, God turns it upside down and somehow uses it for good. Stephen’s death was a catalyst for church growth. Death impassions people. God has consistently used persecution and death as a means to grow his church.
Recently, I was reading a Romanian pastor’s doctoral thesis on suffering, martyrdom and the rewards of heaven… He argues that suffering on earth advances the Kingdom of Heaven – the prime example being Jesus, Himself. If we are called to suffer and/or die for the Kingdom, it is a great Eternal victory!
And I think there lies the key. Eternal. An Eternal Perspective changes everything.
Sometimes when I read passages of judgment like the ones we find in today’s reading from Ezekiel, I become indignant. “Why did the children have to suffer and die right along with their apostate parents?” And then I might go even further and question God’s goodness that He might bring about suffering AT ALL!!
But when I entertain those types of thoughts, I know I’ve lost my eternal perspective.
Wouldn’t I choose to suffer for a little while on earth and gain eternal bliss – rather than have earthly bliss and suffer an eternity of torment???
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Our dot of an existence on this earth must be invested wisely for the sake of our eternities. If that means we must suffer to bring about repentance and a character that is more like Christ’s – well so be it! I don’t think Stephen, who is alive with Christ in heaven, regrets his choice to suffer for the sake of the Truth. Do you?