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Worth Dying For
Scripture Text: Acts 6:8-8:3
Today we're going to be talking about persecution of the church. Opposition to what we believe has been around since the beginning. For us it comes in the form of pressure to conform to the culture that we live in, but in many places around the world things are much worse. Here's a map that illustrates what I mean.
In these places it's dangerous to be a Christian. People lose their jobs, homes, family, and even lives. They live under the threat of violence on a daily basis, and we need to remember their suffering.
We need to pray for our brothers and sisters as they walk through persecution in a Christ-honoring way. We also need to realize that their experience is a reminder to us of the great freedom that we have here. We've all been called to live for Christ no matter the cost.
Service is a result of focusing on God's word - We saw last time that the Apostles prioritized God's word. Also, in Acts 2 we saw that the people devoted themselves to God's word. Stephens's ministry was a product of that.
Service and maturity go together. Eph 4:11-13
Service is the work of "normal" Christians - Service is the calling of every Christian. We are all gifted with the tools we need in order to serve others.
Service is an act of love and Jesus commanded us to love each other as a sign of our love for Him.
Things to look for: Need/ opportunity, passion, giftedness
A part of God's plan for some of us - Throughout the Bible we see people suffer. Job, Joseph, David. We saw a few weeks ago that Peter and John were arrested and set free, but now Stephen is killed. God never gives us a specific reason why some suffer and some don't, but what we do know is that sometimes it's His plan for some to suffer.
An opportunity to show God's love - We also see over and over again that suffering is an opportunity to show God's love. Here Stephen imitates Jesus by praying for those who are killing Him. Joseph faithfully served those who held him captive in Egypt, and David showed mercy to Saul in spite of Saul trying to kill him.
During a dark time in church history men were drowned or burned at the stake for being baptized as adults and translating the Bible into English. Many of them went to their deaths praying for, or trying to share Christ with those who were killing them.
Stephen's courageous and graceful death was seen by many, and is thought to have had a profound effect on one in particular. (Acts 22:20)
Are we willing to die for Him?
Are we willing to live for Him?
Steve Saint - father Nate was killed on the mission field. Daughter died of brain aneurysm. Had an accident that made him an incomplete quadriplegic. His family lived with the people who killed his father until they could share the Gospel with them. "Adopted" by the man who killed his father. Still working to train indigenous people to share the Gospel and reach their own people.
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