We Must Obey God
Acts 5:29-32 (NLT) But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”
I love that the apostles were bold enough to take a stand for God before their human authority. We must obey God rather than man - of course we do so in respect but if man's laws are against God's ways then God's ways will trump whatever rules man has set in place. If the church today would grab a hold of this simple reality then it would reverse the mess many nations are in.
Many churches in Asia understand this to the fullest extent. So much so that they must meet for church in private places to avoid being thrown into prison. Having Christian church services is illegal in many countries but they are obeying God above man! They cannot deny their savior and many know they constantly face death by martyrdom because of their faith in Christ. I've heard recent stories from evangelists that when missionaries are facing death because of Jesus that is when they feel closest to God. On account of those who have been rescued, many desire to return to the dangerous places on the earth to share the gospel because of how strong and pure the presence of God was with them in those situations and now as they live in safety once again they cannot feel His presence as strong as it once was no matter what they do (fasting, prayer, etc).
When Stephen was being stoned, he shouted out that he could see Jesus standing at the right hand of God. This means Jesus went from being seated to standing up in thankfulness for the perseverance of Stephen. Stephen took a stand for Jesus and Jesus stood up for Him at the right hand of the Father. I believe he was at complete peace since he was so focused on Christ, the pain of the stoning did not affect him for he knew he would soon be with his Lord.
Acts 7:54-56, 59-60 (NLT) The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
All of us who live in safety of freely preaching the gospel cannot fully fathom what happens to our persecuted brothers and sisters. Today I am not suggesting everyone travel to a dangerous, persecuted nation and face death, rather, I want to shed light on the reality that many Christians around the world face and we will never meet them on this side of Heaven. Would you pray for them and ask God to show you ways you can help? You can even write letters of encouragement and thank those who refuse to deny Christ and are now suffering (check out Voice of the Martyrs). Do something selfless today and spend a few minutes praying for the persecuted churches and families. God is faithful through it all and we all have a role in this wonderful body of Christ.