Friday, December 26, 2014

Dec. 26, 2014 Friday: St. Stephen, the First Martyr

It will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:20)

Trying to follow God can be scary. We don’t know what the future holds, and God can seem very unpredictable. What might he ask us to do? Make a huge sacrifice like Jesus did? Endure an unbearable grief? Suffer a prolonged illness? We wonder if we’ll be able to handle what life brings.

At times, the Bible seems unhelpful as well. As in today’s Gospel reading, we are promised persecution, painful divisions, and even martyrdom. And while today we honor St. Stephen as the first martyr, our hearts can misgive us at the prospect of going through such suffering.

The problem with this is that we tend to read these passages selectively. That is, we hear the dire predictions loud and clear, but we don’t hear the comfort and grace that always accompany them. Again and again, God promises to be with us. Stephen is a brilliant illustration of this truth. He receives a dramatic vision of Jesus at the right hand of God, a moment of such grace that he was able to remain faithful to the Lord right through to his death.

Where did Stephen learn such faithfulness? And where can we learn it? From God, who names himself as “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). Stephen’s work for the young Church—serving the poor, preaching the gospel, caring for his brothers and sisters—convinced him that God would always come through, no matter what.

Sometimes, our fears are stirred up by seeing a friend or family member suffering. Anxious at the sight, we think, “I hope God never asks that of me!” But if we take the time to talk to these people, we often hear stories of grace and hope. We discover that God is working powerfully in their lives in the midst of their challenges.

Think about the one or two biggest fears you face. Take the time to talk to God about them. Ask him to show you how committed to you he is. Rest in his presence, and let the truth of his faithfulness calm your heart. Your God is always with you, and his love has the power to cast out all fear (1 John 4:18)!

“Father, may your faithfulness overcome all of my fear.”

Word Among Us
Daily Meditation