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Brittany Taylor

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How do you feel today? Don’t tell me what I want to hear. Tell me the truth.

If someone knew what you were thinking and you could not lie, how would you respond? Tired? Fearful? Confused? Hopeless? Lifeless? Today, I would answer “vigilant”. I guess I am nervous. Nervous and watchful. Who really cares how we feel right now or 10 minutes from now, right? Who in my life really needs to know that I feel “vigilant”. You know, I think God really cares. I think he really cares enough to be with us in these moments. Moments of weakness. We usually hide in these moments where we feel most vulnerable. We think people need to see our strength, our joy, our resolve and our courage. They can’t see us brittle. Yet, it is in these moments where God is most needed and majestic. The Holy Spirit cares about my feelings. He cares about those things that have me afraid or worn. He interrupts my emotion and establishes himself as the Peace I need. I am allowed to question and bring my worries of danger to his presence. There, together, we discuss the worry. The Holy Spirit reveals to me his answer of how to turn my vigilance and fear of struggle into a place of confident trust. Trust that tomorrow brings joy not suffering.

I brought my fears to Him this morning and he told me a story about a guy named Stephen.

8-10 Stephen, brimming with God’s grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them. But then some men from the meeting place whose membership was made up of freed slaves, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and some others from Cilicia and Asia, went up against him trying to argue him down. But they were no match for his wisdom and spirit when he spoke.

11 So in secret they bribed men to lie: “We heard him cursing Moses and God.”

12-14 That stirred up the people, the religious leaders, and religion scholars. They grabbed Stephen and took him before the High Council. They put forward their bribed witnesses to testify: “This man talks nonstop against this Holy Place and God’s Law. We even heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth would tear this place down and throw out all the customs Moses gave us.”

15 As all those who sat on the High Council looked at Stephen, they found they couldn’t take their eyes off him—his face was like the face of an angel!

7 Then the Chief Priest said, “What do you have to say for yourself?”

So Stephen had a lot to say for himself (about 48 scriptures worth). He basically astounded them with his knowledge of God’s ultimate plan of salvation beginning with Abraham and completed by Jesus. He basically paraphrased Genesis to John.

Then, he says this, “And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors. Was there ever a prophet who didn’t get the same treatment? Your ancestors killed anyone who dared talk about the coming of the Just One. And you’ve kept up the family tradition—traitors and murderers, all of you. You had God’s Law handed to you by angels—gift-wrapped!—and you squandered it!”

Well that ticked them off pretty bad.

54-56 At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. 

As God is telling me this story in His word, I am startled. It was going so well from verse 2-48. He proved he has not slandered the law or God’s Holy Place. Why did he feel the need to call them murderers? Didn’t he know that would tick them off? It’s the truth but why would you say it if you know imminent imprisonment or even death could result from you confronting. Were they really going to change or rethink their position on the message of Christ if he confronted them? What was Stephen thinking?

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!”

Had Stephen felt vigilant that day. Maybe that morning, he awoke and felt stirred to go to a place of prayer and quiet. What did Stephen leave God’s presence knowing with unfailing assurance? He only had eyes for God. In the midst of a yelling and hissing mob stampeding towards him and dragging him to the outskirts of town. In the midst of the priests and government officials pelting him with rocks, Stephen prayed, “Master Jesus, take my life.” Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, “Master, don’t blame them for this sin”

—his last words.

Then he died.

Why would God tell me a story about a guy named Stephen dying for his cause when I am in a place of “vigilance”?

A phrase that has been running through my mind for weeks now is the Amplified version of Hebrews 12:2:

Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

That is what Stephen saw as he was being stoned to death. He saw the “author and finisher” at the right hand of the Father. The message version says, ““Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!” Stephen saw death conquered. He “hardly noticed” the shame and destruction or even the mob that was terrorizing him. He “only had eyes for God.” He did not fear death. He did not remain circumspect and falter with fear. He for the joy set before him ignored the safest route and spoke truth.

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!”

Today my vigilance is replaced with eyes that “only see God.” I hardly notice the struggle or the danger. Jesus stands by my side. I see Heaven open wide to me and death’s conqueror seated above all with the enemy His footstool. Jesus has dominion over all…including my struggle. Including your struggle.

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