And Saul was there, giving approval to his (Stephen’s) death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:1
Saul first appears on the scene in this passage, giving his approval to Stephen’s stoning and initiating a wholesale persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem. As a result, “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” (8:1) I am always amazed and encouraged when God turns something negative into something positive in support of His will. In this situation, the persecution of the church scattered the disciples of Christ, effectively launching a worldwide ministry of the Word as Jesus said in Acts 1:8 “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
As the Sanhedrin questioned Peter and John in chapter 5 and contemplated putting them to death, one of the high priests admonished his brethren to leave them alone; if their work is of man it will fail, but if it is of God the Sanhedrin cannot defeat it. Here that admonishment plays itself out: Saul launches his persecution of the church, those sharing the Word scatter and the church grows as a result. How cool is that!! God will later convert Saul, who will become one of His most powerful witnesses.
Looking at our world today I sometimes get discouraged. I see many churches embracing worldly ideas that are inconsistent with God’s Word. I see morals and values inconsistent with God’s Word presented as normal and good on so-called family TV. I see a country in which civil discourse is often abandoned in exchange for non-productive personal attacks. I see all these things and my human nature begins to worry. Then I think about Saul – the great persecutor turned great preacher of the Gospel – and I remember that God can use all circumstances, good and bad, for the furtherance of His kingdom.
Ponder this: With God, nothing is impossible no matter how dark or dreary circumstances may appear. What worries me? Why not turn that over to God today?
My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, no matter what I may face today, help me to never lose sight of You; of Your good and perfect will. Use me, Lord, to be a beacon in the darkness in service to You. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.