On Trial for God
By Doug Bing, Washington Conference president
What would you say if you were on trial for your life? You have heard the accusations against you and it is now your time to speak in your own defense. What would you say? Would you beg for your life? Would you deny the accusations against you?
In reading Acts 7 today as part of the 28 for 1,000 prayer and Bible study challenge, I read about the life and trial of Stephan. As you may remember Stephan was one of the first deacons in the early church to help make sure that everyone was treated fairly. The Bible describes Stephan in Acts 6 as a man full of faith and power and someone who performed mighty wonders. Soon he had attracted the attention of the Sanhedrin who didn’t like his methods or his message. Acts 7 is the story of his trial and where Stephan has the opportunity to speak in his own defense.
What does he do? He gives a wonderful history lesson of the Jewish people and how God had led all throughout the past. He tells them about the very birth of the Jewish nation when Abraham was told by God to leave his home and go to a land that he was planning to give to his ancestors. Abraham went even though he had no children because he believed. He tells the story of Joseph sold into slavery and how Joseph followed the will of God even in a foreign land. He tells the story of Moses being led to become the leader of Israel. He also tells them about how the Jewish people continually resisted the leading of God and wanted to do things their own way on a continual basis. They rejected Moses, they rejected the prophets, they rejected the true meaning of the sanctuary, and they rejected the Holy Spirit.
As you know, his speech ended with Stephan being stoned to death because the leaders at the time didn’t want to hear that maybe they too were resisting God’s leading. Stephen died that day, but not before he saw a vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56) and not before he prayed that God would not hold their sin against them (Acts 7:60).
Stephan died that day but he left us a powerful reminder of how God has led in the past as well as a glimpse of the future that God has planned for us. He also showed us how to pray and forgive even those who are in the midst of destroying us.
An important thing that we also learn from Stephan is that even when on trial for our lives we can share Jesus. Stephan shared a powerful sermon whose main point was to show how God has led in the past and to appeal to them that God still wants to save His creation. God had brought them out of slavery and God had given them the tools to be a witness to the world. Yet they were caught up in the rituals of religion instead of a true love of God and of His creation.
It is the same challenge today. We can look very religious and seem to be doing all the right things but not be following the Holy Spirit and the will of God in our lives. God wanted all of Israel to be an outreach focused people. Instead they became a ritual and rules focused people and they killed Jesus and they killed Stephan and many others.
Let us continue to focus on Jesus and to focus on His will for our lives and to look for those around us that need to be served like Stephan served and God will do amazing things through all of us as well.