"My father, who loves me, thinks this is best for me."
I was sitting in a group of women when this comment was made. It was not said directly to me, but MY ears were listening. Yes, my Father in heaven does know what is best for me. My job is to submit to that. How am I doing? Honestly, some days are better than others. I want to get past the complaining, I want to shine, all the time. I don’t want my light turned off at night, like we do around the house when we go to bed. That is to save energy. This light should never be turned off. Ever.
The reason why this comment was made is that we were talking about Stephen in Acts 6-7. I have been studying him, as well as these other ladies, and we were discussing his life and martyrdom. Since I was to lecture on this very subject (which I did yesterday), I had done a lot of research on him. This was a man filled with many things – the Spirit, wisdom, grace, miraculous signs and wonders, and faith. What a list of character qualities that one should desire. And, in my studying, I realized something. Every one of those qualities were given to him by God. He could not work at them, really. He was given them by his loving heavenly Father. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that it is by grace we have been saved, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift from God. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. James reminds us in James 1:5 that we can ask for wisdom and it will be given to us without fault-finding. And in Acts 2 we read about the filling of the Holy Spirit as well as 1 Corinthians 12:13. This filling is for all who call on the Name Jesus.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. Acts 2:2
This filling means that the Holy Spirit filled every part of that house. Filled to overflowing. Crammed is the word that is used when translating it from the Greek. Crammed with the Spirit. Sign me up for that!!
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…Acts 2:4
This filling means to tincture. To dye. Imagine this. We are dyed with the Holy Spirit. The ultimate tie-dye. And what is one characteristic of this? It is pretty near impossible to remove the dye. That is such a wonderful promise of reassurance. I am dyed by the Spirit, and I am changed. I am no longer the same Kerry. I have been ‘washed’ in His blood. It may be red when we say it, but in God’s laundry room, it is actually white. I am pure. Me – the sinner. Me – the one who has doubted, complained, resisted and even tried to do things my own way.
So back to Stephen. What made him so bold, different and willing? I would say it was the Spirit living in him. I am willing to say that Stephen lived and breathed Jesus every where he went. We are told that his wisdom was unmatchable. We are not told if he had an education, or if he was skilled in anything. He could have been the town garbage man. Really. And yet, we see him as a remarkable man – a man filled with the Spirit doing some pretty amazing things for God. And this same man spoke for over 6 minutes to the Sanhedrin (basically the Jewish court) the history of the Jewish nation. And it was the last 25 seconds that got him, not a verdict, but a stoning that killed him. HOW could this be God’s best? Here we have a man in his prime, doing godly things and really rocking the known world in his time. God was using him in mighty ways and was doing miracles through him. He was filled with the Spirit and it showed. Really, how could his death, his martyrdom be God’s best? Selah (which means ponder this).
How could suffering be God’s best? More to the point – how could my suffering be God’s best? I am staring at 4 years of affliction. THIS is God’s best? Or what about cancer, job loss, broken relationships, wayward children? I had to go there in my studying because a good Bible student takes what they observe, interpret with good interpretive skills and then applies that to his/her life. So…..here I am. I guess the longer I walk with the Lord, the more I am learning to trust Him. I have to. I don’t understand most things. I only can see what I see. I do ask for wisdom, and He does give it. But, there are a lot of things He doesn’t show me. I know to look in the Bible for His past workings in man’s life. God is Faithful and He never changes. So, if He was faithful in the past, I can trust Him with my future. I can analyze these people in the Bible and see how God used every part of their lives to display the glory of God. Why, then, would it be any different for me? The people in the Bible were all sinners like me, but God did some pretty cool stuff. Moses led about 2 million people in the desert. Under his watch the Tabernacle was made. David killed a lion. And a giant. Daniel was not burned in a fire. Ruth was redeemed by a very handsome relative and she was just gleaning in his barley field. Mary had a baby – and what a precious baby! Anna got to behold and hold the baby Jesus. Paul spoke to thousands about Jesus. So, what was the difference in these people? The Spirit. They were filled with the Spirit. Crammed. Tinctured. And they were never the same. And God was glorified through their lives and obedience.
This is my take-away: I am filled with the Spirit, and if this affliction is what is best for me, and if it will bring glory to God by my submission to Him, then I am in. I am crammed in. I have been tie-dyed by the Spirit. It’s time I let it show all the way. I need to embrace His best for me. After all, He loves me most.