“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” - Philippians 4:7 (NIV).
It is one of the most dramatic moment. Acts 7 reveals Stephen, an enthusiastic believer in Christ, who is hauled before the law, for proclaiming salvation in Christ. The crowds are overwhelming and quite intimidating. In spite of all the jeers around, and the risks to his life, he delivers an impassioned appeal, urging them to accept Christ. “When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him” (Acts 7:55).
Stephen was then sentenced to death, becoming the first Christian martyr. What is particularly striking about his death was that he was at peace, even as a mob dragged him down to be stoned. “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep” (vv 59-60).
Stephen had that peace which surpasses understanding, in spite of all the turmoil around him. A famous poem by Rudyard Kipling says, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you” captures the essence of Stephen’s last moments. The peace which Stephen had was but from God, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).
Peace has been variously described as that state of tranquility even in the midst of turmoil. There are indeed many of us where if things do not go to plan, and storms surge, we are so troubled that we lose peace. This is exactly what happened when the disciples were at sea with Jesus and the storm came and tossed the boat, while Jesus was asleep (Mathew 4:35-41).
After Jesus rose and rebuked the storms, “He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (vv 40). Today if you are troubled, may you not lose it, but have faith and be at peace, for He is in control.
Prayer for today: Lord Father God of Abraham, maker of heaven and earth, I thank you for the blessing of peace which surpasses all understanding, and today I pray not to look at the storm but you and have peace, this I pray in Jesus’s name.
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“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” – ( 2 Timothy 4:7).
Fighting may be looked at as a non-desirable way of life, especially by those who are pacifists. In fact, throughout Christian history there are many who have literally taken Jesus’s admonition of “turn the other cheek” in Mathew 5:39, to mean nonresistance in the face of attack. The fact that Jesus rebuked the Apostle Peter for drawing a sword against his captors ( Mathew 26:52), means giving in to those who attack them, as a sign of humility.
Yes, of course there are moments where Christians must practice that humility and give in to those who attack them well remembering His word, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord” ( Romans 12:19). However, that said, Believers in Christ would be mistaken to imagine that they must not fight for their faith, whenever under attack. For in reality, the faith of believers is under constant attack from Satan, who comes to “kill and destroy” ( John 10:1).
Faced with this, Paul went at great length to advise Christians to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” ( Ephesians 6:11). To ward of constant attacks by the enemy Paul challenged us to “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” ( vv 14-17).
Paul is telling us that if you think that ours is a walk over faith where you are not going to fight back against the attacks of the enemy you are very mistaken. Fight we must, and hold our ground. The devil respects that! And when all is done, we can then gladly say, “we have fought the good fight, finished the race” and thank God Almighty we are free at last!
Prayer today: Lord Father God of Abraham, maker of heaven and earth, today I rise ready to resist the attacks of the enemy, by wearing the full of armor of God, and with the sword of the Spirit, fight back to victory, this I pray in Jesus’ name!