“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.” (Acts 8:1)
That day. The day that Stephen was stoned to death. The day that changed everything. The day they were sure they would look back on as the worst day of their lives; of the Christian movement. Stephen’s stoning opened the floodgates of brutal persecution against Christians. No longer the close-knit community huddled together over laughter, love, hope, security in knowing their brothers had their back, and of course good bread. They were scattered, separated, scared.
But yet, they shared the Gospel. They weren’t trained pastors or missionaries. They were regular people in love with Jesus. And where each one landed – Samaria, Gaza, Azotus, Caesarea, and everywhere in between; quiet desert roads and bustling towns – they shared the Good News. They created new community.
“We must not judge too quickly the apparent setbacks and tactical ‘defeats’ of the church. If you see things with the eyes of God, the Master strategist (who cannot lose because he is omnipotent), what you see in every setback is the positioning for a greater advance and a greater display of his wisdom and power and love.” (John Piper)
Rewind to Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8, “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The Christian church was commanded to teach where they were (check!), but also to go (uh oh). They were comfortable in the staying, but reluctant in the going. Their ministry remained isolated in Jerusalem. Often when things are feeling easy, successful, comfortable, safe, we can get content in the staying even when we are called to go.
David Guzik says, “Sometimes we have to be shaken out of our comfortable state before we do what God wants us to do.”
The persecution – though horrific – became a catalyst for going. Saul and his fellow persecutors attempt to nip this Jesus movement in the bud only served as a tidal wave of the Good News spreading even more quickly to even more places.
God has a way of making the beautiful out of our “that day”; the worst days of our lives. His blueprint looks vastly different than ours.
If you are in the midst of a “that day,” draw near to God. Open your Bible and start reading. Get on your knees and pray. Talk to God. He is in the business of making beauty out of ashes. I’m praying you look back SOON on your worst day and are able, if even in a small way in this lifetime, to see God transforming it into something glorious. Oh, how I hate the loss, pain, and suffering in this life. But I choose God. I believe He will make something beautiful out of the brokenness for those who put their trust in Him.
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