And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
Acts 8:1-4 NLT
Stephen is stoned, the church is persecuted, and all of the apostles are forced to leave Jerusalem and go into hiding. What a great place to be in as a follower of Christ, right?
Actually…yes, this is. Without God, this scenario would be a complete tragedy, but with God, this was a complete triumph. This was not the end of a sad story; this was the beautiful beginning of the start of the church. Why? Because God would use this pitiful persecution to propel the church from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
It was here, after Stephen’s stoning, that the church expanded to Judea, then to Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth. It was here that God used persecution to cause Christ's first followers to flee from their homes, and move to neighboring cities, taking the Gospel and spreading it wherever they went. God used persecution to propel the early Church to spread across the region and propagate the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.
And even more miraculously, it would be this tyrant named Saul––the very man that approved the killing of Stephen and the persecution of parishioners––whom God would transform into an apostle, church planter, and author re-named Paul. God uses untimely situations for His glory, unlikely people for His purposes, and unwanted problems for the propagation of His transformative love.
Do you like uncomfortable situations? I don’t.
I don’t like situations where I am forced outside of my comfort zone. I don’t like circumstances where I am exposed to pain. I don’t like being wrongfully accused, mistreated, or punished. However, God used these very scenarios as the vehicle through which He would build His church and spread the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. God is a transformational God. He transforms tragedy into triumph. He uses persecution to propagate His purposes. He takes bad, unwanted, uncomfortable situations and turns them into good.
God promises to you in Romans 8:28 “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” THAT MEANS YOU! If you are a follower of Christ, then you can live with complete certainty that He will work all things together for your good.
What uncomfortable situation do you find yourself in right now? What situation has God allowed to occur in your life that you want nothing more than to trade it for something else? Regardless of what it is, take heart. For if God can transform the persecution of early believers to propagate the Gospel, and if He can transform the heart of one of the greatest oppressors of the early church into one of the greatest apostles of all time who would end up writing one-third of the whole New Testament that he himself tried to terminate, then surely, God can––and will––transform your situation for His glory.
In the middle of your struggle, there is hope. In the middle of your uncertainty, there is peace. In the middle of your weariness, there is joy, for God is with you. Right now, stand in confidence knowing that God is for you, He sees you, and He is already working all things for your good.
You are a transformative God. Thank You that you love me. I know that You are for me, and You are already working things out for my good. I yield to You, and I look forward to seeing Your perfect plan unfold in my life. You are my Savior, and I trust in You.
In Jesus’ name,