“And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” (Act 8:1-3). Growth came at a great cost to these early disciples.
One promising young leader Stephen became a martyr, “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, 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.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:54-60).
People were ANGRY at them. Enemies of Christ were putting family and friends to DEATH. Parents watched as persecutors threw children in PRISON. Children saw the same happening to their parents. The PERSECUTION was severe!
Being a disciple was not easy for these early followers. How did they respond? What would they do to survive?
They Preached But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.” (Acts 4:19-21). And “those who were scattered went about preaching the word,” (Acts 8:4). What they did to get them in their situation is what they kept doing.
Consider Hebrews 10:32-34, “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” WOW! These early disciples “joyfully accepted the plundering of their property!”
Discipleship requires COURAGE!
Today many Christians (disciples) hush when called names. The world tells us that to talk about their lifestyle negatively is a hate crime; to say what they are doing is a sin is judgmental. In our politically correct society we become CAUTIOUS instead of COURAGEOUS.
I close reminding you what God told Joshua: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” Joshua 1:6.