I’ve mentioned this before but I’ve thought about death a lot. As a child and as a teen and certainly as an adult, I have thought about the life to come often. People die every day so it shouldn’t be strange to think about our passing but for some reason people think it is morbid. Others don’t want to think about death at all. I guess they think if they ignore it death will just go away. Certainly, it’s not healthy to be preoccupied with death because death is not a lasting condition. We are eternal beings so death is merely a word that describes our passage from this existence to the next. We’re going to be alive forever so we better keep that in mind. The best way to die well is to live well. I have been thinking about Stephen’s “death” for over a month now as our ongoing study of Acts 7 continues. Stephen’s vision, his prayers and his peace seem wonderful to me beyond words. People were killing him with rocks and he was praying for their salvation! What kind of a person does that?! Answer; a person who has become like Jesus. Stephen had spent his short life concentrated upon and walking in the ways of Christ and when the time came for him to die, he faced his death as Christ faced His. Saul/Paul stood by Stephen’s death, very likely as the supervisor. When he wrote Philippians 3:10, I wonder if he had Stephen’s death in mind, “being conformed to His death.” In other words, he noted that Stephen died as Christ died…with dignity and grace. They lived well and died well. I suspect that the vision of Stephen’s gracious life under the brutal conditions of his death never left Paul’s mind. My particular role in the Body of Christ affords me opportunities to be with people in their closing days. I’ve observed those who die well and those who…don’t. I’d like to die well but Stephen’s life—as others before and after him—remind me to live well and trust God for the rest. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”
To be cynical is “the belief that people are motivated in all their actions and motives only by selfishness and to therefore deny the sincerity of their motives and actions.” (Webster) I suppose it comes with age but I fight this temptation regularly. Over the years I have heard people say many things that their actions simply didn’t support. People say they love God but then refuse to obey Him. People say they love the church but then quit attending. People say they are earnest in prayer but are also eager manipulators. Talk is easy. Action is proof. This is not a new problem. Stephen pointed this out in his speech to the Sanhedrin recorded in Acts 7. These elders, scholars and experts in the law gave lip service to their appreciation of Moses and their worship of God but their hearts were far from both. They were no better than their forefathers who rebelled against God and disregarded Moses from the day they left Egypt. They made their history a lot better in their minds than it was in reality. Stephen was not so duplicitous. Stephen reminded them that their history was shot through with rebellion and unbelief and that they often rejected the very ones that God sent to deliver them. Of course that had most recently been the case with Jesus Christ—the Ultimate Redeemer and Deliverer. Their previous heroes had been sign posts pointing to the Real One. As their fathers before them, they missed Him too. Let’s join Stephen in looking at our past with honesty and then run to Jesus for forgiveness of sins and obedience to life. Jesus Christ really is the Way, the Truth and the Life…choose LIFE!