St Stephen’s Day is observed in remembrance of Stephen, the first Christian Martyr. He was a person full of the Holy Spirit and powerfully used by God but he died a very painful death while he was doing the work of God. St. Stephen’s day reminds us of truth about Christianity that Christians go through intense suffering because of their faith.
Like Stephen, we must be prepared to dedicate our whole life to the service of our Lord and savior and seek to remain his forever. Again we must be ready to suffer and die for God’s glory. In explaining what Christianity is, Jesus in Luke 9:23 pointed out that anyone who wants to be his follower must deny him/her self, take up his/her cross daily and follow him.
That sums up our theme today. Dying for the Lord is a life of carrying or bearing one’s cross. It is a life of self-denial, preparedness to always do whatever Jesus wants all the time. It is also about being committed to Christ and denying your own desires and doing God’s will His way. In other words, it is a call for us to forsake all selfish personal ambition and live for the Lord. This is a life of self-denial.
It also calls for crucifying the flesh as stated in Galatians 5:24 as well as living a life in total obedience to God’s commandments, even if it results in being hated or killed because of your faith just like Stephen.
The Prophet Isaiah, in the book of Isaiah 53 indicates that God’s promised Messiah would be a suffering servant. This was fulfilled when Jesus eventually died painfully on the cross.
Christ forewarned his disciples to gird their lions and strengthen their hearts since their calling came with suffering, In the book of 1 Peter 2:21, the bible states that our calling was based on the fact that Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps.
Throughout the Bible, we read about other people who suffered for the Lord and in spite of the pain they endured, stood their ground and brought glory to God.
The early missionaries who came to introduce Christianity to us in Africa also suffered many hardships. Many of them died through tropical diseases. Some of the early Christian natives also had their fair share of suffering. The likes of Samuel Out was murdered in the course of his work at Techimantia
In 2 Timothy 3:12, the Bible admonished us that ‘indeed, all who delight in pursuing righteousness and are determined to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be hunted and persecuted because of their faith.
As Christians, how are we to respond to suffering? We need to commit ourselves into the hands of God like Stephen did. We must also trust the Holy Spirit to empower us during times of sufferings and even in the face of death. Those who are prepared to die for the Lord are not bitter or vengeful when they suffer for their faith. Stephen was forgiving towards those who were stoning him.
As Christians, we need to declare publicly that we have abandoned the life of sin and opted to become faithful soldiers and servants of Christ to the end of our life. We must acknowledge the fact that the Christian life is not a bed of roses but a tough assignment. A Christian is expected to live a life of self-denial and through the enablement of the Holy Spirit live in obedience to the word of God.
May the almighty God help us to achieve this.