St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church

When the World Is Screaming—Pray

Podcast Version

Acts 7:54-60—When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him…While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Christians around the world are persecuted every day, including you. Much of your persecution is reserved to words and attitudes from individuals and whole groups or industries. But there are many around the world who face severe persecution. Persecution that results in the loss of jobs, security, homes, dignity and even life. Sometimes I wonder when that persecution will happen here. Maybe you do too. I see some of it happening already and the anti-Christian voice growing louder. Maybe you do too.

About 2,000 years ago, Stephen was one of those who lost his life because he held to Jesus. This happened because of jealously and hatred of the truth on the side of the enemies of the truth, and because Stephen refused to keep silent about God’s truth. Because the enemies of the Church could not disprove or discredit Stephen, they began a smear campaign and bribed people to tell lies about Stephen.

Under false accusations, Stephen was dragged before the ruling religious council of the Jews. And there he continued to proclaim God’s truth. When they heard these things, they were furious, gnashed their teeth at Stephen, screamed at the top of their lungs, covered their ears, rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and threw stones at him until he was dead.

How did Stephen react while all this was happening? Did he shout back? Did he scream? Did he say wicked things or wish them harm? Not at all. He simply prayed:
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…Lord, do not hold this sin against them.

How do you handle criticism or ridicule, let alone persecution? Is it like Stephen, or more like the world screaming at you? The natural reaction to any kind of attack is to be louder and stronger right back, but this never works. Whether it’s an argument in the home, politics or religion, screaming back never wins someone over, but only drives them deeper into their corner. If you give in to your sinful nature and scream right back at the world screaming at you, then you’ve lost them and have been an unfaithful witness to the truth. And on top of that, you need to see that with this behavior, you’ve proven that you still don’t understand and grasp the depth of God’s love that is for all—especially his love for you!

When the world is screaming at you, it isn’t because Jesus has orphaned you. It’s quite the opposite. It reminds you that you do belong to him. It reminds you that you are still an adopted child in his holy family through faith in the precious blood poured out for you on the cross.

Friends, as you remember this and put all your trust in your ever-faithful Savior Jesus, you can live and die just like Stephen.
When The World Is Screaming—Pray. Pray, because you know God will hear you even in the darkest moments of life, just like Stephen. Pray, that you may still proclaim the truth, just like Stephen, because who knows what beautiful things God will do through that Word. Pray, holding God to his promises, just like Stephen who knew and even saw just before the end that heaven was waiting for him. Pray, that your heart may be filled with love and forgiveness for all.