Gazing at death may be terrifying, but gazing past death to the presence of Jesus waiting for the believer is the hope that dissolves the fear. We have the opportunity to glorify God in the face of death, boldly declaring our confidence in the fact that we will spend eternity in the presence of God. ~ NKJV footnotes
“When they [the Jewish council members] heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him [Stephen] with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!'” Acts 7:54-56
I don’t face death in the same way Stephen did; I won’t be stoned for my faith. But I do face a lot of sin here on campus and sin is, in a sense, death. Oftentimes, I find it very difficult to deal with this sin that surrounds me. Try as I might, I can’t ignore it, but I don’t want it to taint or depress me either.
Here, in Stephen’s example, I have found the answer I’ve been looking for.
I want to be like Stephen — pleasing God and being Spirit-led. The problem is that too often I get so fretful and distraught over life that I try to deal with issues in my own way. However, when I truly take the time to consider the outcomes and alternatives, I find that it would be far better to yield everything to God and to pray, “Lord, guide me in this situation. Let me know what to say and do.” I do not have to brave life on my own, no matter if I am the only “Christian” in class; God is with me, and that makes “us” a majority.
Stephen’s words in verse 56 have given me such hope because they have reminded me that I can look beyond the crudity, profanity, and obscenity that I face. If I focus on those evil things, then, yes, they’re definitely going to tear me down. But…why should I think about them? Why should I worry or fret over them? They are so petty compared to Christ! He has already conquered all of those things and He has promised me an eternity free from sin. An eternity. Can you imagine it? That makes the short period of our suffering here on earth seem so…little. Someday, I won’t have to worry about all this junk and worldliness. Even here and now, I shouldn’t let it overwhelm me because, through His death and resurrection, Christ has already conquered the sin and wickedness of the world. That means He will conquer them in my life as well…if I only allow Him to.
I think this has been one of my challenges for this block of the school year — to look beyond the sin to the glory of God, to yield my responses to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to focus on Christ’s victory over sin. The phrase that has kept coming into my mind is “Look up.” My hope is in Christ. My future is in heaven. And my victory is in my Lord.
Look up. Look up. Always look up.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. ~ Colossians 3:1-4