First of all, let me give a plethora of kudos to my dear friend "alight" for writing something I had thought of doing many times over, but never "got around to it". Your many part series on the way to the cross is both inspirational as well as thought provoking. That to me is the mark of an excellent blog (plus being short enough to hold interest and long enough to cover the subject).
Anyway, not to any way steal "alight's" thunder, reading his ongoing saga has engaged my tired brain and provided a much needed "stimulus package" for my spiritual brain cells. Through the course of the day I have found myself thinking about the multitude of times in the Bible when those poor angels were ready to launch an all out offensive or defensive maneuver, only to be told at the last minute, to abort the mission.
Just in the Book of Acts are numerous examples of this. I am quite sure, knowing angels the way I do (lol), that they were hovering directly above Stephen as he was about to be stoned. I am sure they wanted to engage the enemy at that moment in order to save the life of a faithful and bold believer. The million dollar question is, of course, "why didn't they?" The million dollar answer is "we don't know". We know why the angels were not allowed to help Jesus, because there was a plan of redemption that needed to be fulfilled. But why not Stephen?
Later in Acts, after Paul had riled up the folks at the local synagogue, his enemies found him and stoned him just as he had helped stone Stephen earlier in Acts. Unlike Stephen, the Apostle Paul either survived or was raised from the dead. Paul lived through his stoning and Stephen did not. Was this because God is respecter of persons? Impossible, for the Bible says He is not. In honor of the late great Paul Harvey; there must be something else to explain the "rest of the story".
In Acts chapter 12, King Herod killed James, the brother of John with the sword. When he saw how much this pleased the Jews, he apprehended Peter, the recognized leader of the new Christian sect. Not only did Peter escape from prison (with the help of an angel), later in the chapter, Herod ended up being eaten of worms. Why did the angel help Peter and get rid of Herod, but didn't help James?
This whole subject is one that keeps people up at night trying to understand. Why are there apparent cases of partiality in Biblical records, yet we know there cannot be, for "God is no respecter of persons?" I do not claim to know the answers but I know that God looks upon the heart and respects adherence and obedience to principle. I do not know why angels helped Peter but were told to not keep Stephen from being stoned. But, I do know that God's will was done.
Other than John, history teaches us that all the early leaders of the Christian church died as martyrs. From this perspective, perhaps the lesson to be learned is simply one of timing. Some great men and women of God simply sacrificed their lives soon than others. The other explanation is one of profit. I am sure the martyrdom of Stephen galvanized the Jerusalem Church and helped propel it out of immediate area to nearby towns and provinces. Surely Stephen would have smiled knowing the sacrifice of his life helped countless others to hear the Gospel.
Perhaps the martyrdom of James so shocked the body of believers that instead of sitting back and watching their leaders be destroyed, they fought for their safety and strength. In the Acts 12 record, the believers were gathered together praying for Peter even after his release from prison. If this is true, I am sure that James smiled knowing he did not give his life in vain.
The Bible is full of totally committed believers who considered it their highest privilege to give their life on behalf of God's Word or for His people. These great men and women of God in many cases probably looked an angel in the eye and said, "thanks, but no thanks" to an invitation for assistance. Whether Stephen and James did just that, we do not know; but what is for certain is that even if an offer of aid was politely rejected, the angels involved would have cried not tears of grief, but great tears of joy in seeing mere mortals manifesting the depth of Godly faith and commitment learned from their Master Jesus Christ.
[quote]Surely Stephen would have smiled knowing the sacrifice of his life helped countless others to hear the Gospel.
I am sure that James smiled knowing he did not give his life in vain. [/quote]
I believe this to be 100% true and I'll tell you how I know. Please do not even think I am suggesting that this is anything like this men faced when God allowed them to face death. I'm even hesitant to write this but perhaps this will encourage others to reach out in faith even when they don't understand.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were talking about everything which had happened since I got breast cancer a year ago. We talked about the positive changes in our own lives as well as what we perceive to have been changes in others. People who have told us how they have been impacted in some manner. We talked about friendships which have been strengthened or even developed. You get the idea. I thought about what would have happened if God would have said "I need you to walk this path but...since you don't want to do it, you don't have to." or what may have happened if I had chosen to walk this road with anger and bitterness instead of trying to walk it with "acceptance-with-joy". (I didn't do that perfectly by any means but that's what I was attempting to do).
I have to tell you that knowing what little I know now, if God were to turn back the clock and say "Knowing what you know now, which path do you wish to take? Cancer or no cancer? I'll let you choose." I don't know as you believe me but I truly believe I would say...cancer. You see, it's been a rough haul but in my book, I think it has been worth the price. If I feel that way about something like this impacting people in a small way, how much more must James, Stephen and others who counted the cost and actually sacrificed their lives feel about the impact their suffering made on us centuries later! I believe they would say "It was worth it!"
I don't wish this horrible sickness on anyone either nor do I wish for anyone to have to endure pain or death. That is one reason I was hesitant to say it...I don't want anyone to misunderstand me and think I consider these things easy or even trivial. In the physical sense, I wish I never had to deal with it. There are life-long scars and side-effects. On the other hand, I rejoice that I have gotten a glimpse of what God can do with something as ugly and evil as cancer. It has been just one more way to show me that He is bigger and He truly does take our darkness and turn it into light!
When we walk with our hand in His, we can be confident that amazing things will happen, regardless of our circumstances and sometimes we are even fortunate enough to see some of those things come to pass!
[quote]I am sure the martyrdom of Stephen galvanized the Jerusalem Church and helped propel it out of immediate area to nearby towns and provinces. Surely Stephen would have smiled knowing the sacrifice of his life helped countless others to hear the Gospel.[/quote]
Absolutely! This is confirmed for us in Acts 8:1 "... On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went."
The hope we have as Christians is that no matter how awful our suffering, God is not having us suffer for no good reason. Nor is suffering His condemnation for our behavior (though perhaps it may be a natural consequence, it is not a condemnation).
Through my deepest suffering, the only glint of hope I ever had was that God would somehow turn the ashes into beauty. And no one testifies to this more eloquently than Stephen, K, and Alight.
I believe 1 Peter 4 speaks to this whole subject and especially verses 16 and 19:
"Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
"Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing godd, as to a faithful Creator".
The apostle Paul spoke of his sufferings being a stimulus to the faith of those he served. Certainly Jesus Christ's sufferings not only purchased our physical redemption, but gave us an example to follow.
I am quite sure that Paul would have gladly given his life on behalf of the Gospel, but God had a job only he could fulfill. Thus, when he was stoned, he was spared, just as Daniel in the three men in the furnace in the Book of Daniel.
Interesting thoughts and thank you for your input.
Why does bad things happen to good people? Why do some get aid when others apparently don't? I don't have a clue however I do know God's plan is the best plan.
Blessings brother B2Y
Why do some die and others don't - I really don't know. I do know: My thoughts are not Gods' thoughts and my plans are not Gods' plans. I have come to accept - whatever the reason, it is part of Gods' plan. I may not understand but I don't always need to. Sometimes I just need to accept what is/was and trust that God knows/knew exactly why it is/was.
B2Y, I watched my Father suffer many many heart attacks and ask why does a man that preaches God's word 3 times a week have to suffer like this, awaken all times of the night to do God's work for others. A called man of God,and still has this affiction in his body, WHY GOD? and after reading and learning about God's word, do I understand it ,NO. Do I know I serve a God that does ?YES..So I try and always trust that he is doing a work in all of us to his Glory not ours. Thanks again AJ
and so glad you are back , will still keep you in my .
I imagine that our gardian angels dred the the day when they will get the order to stand back and watch the person they have 'baby-sat' for a lifetime die.
My source is extra-biblical, but it sounds good to me; I have heard that one of the first things we will do when we get to heaven is to sit with our gardian
angel and review our life with the curtains drawn back.
That should be quite interesting. I'm sure many of our questions will be answered at that time.