Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch. (Acts 11:19, ESV)
At times, God tests us through trials, sufferings, and persecution to bring about His purposes.
Stephen’s martyrdom ushered in severe persecution for early Christians. As a result, they fled for their lives. And, they didn’t just move to the next town or state. They packed up and scattered to different countries! As they traveled, they witnessed to people about Jesus Christ. See, God’s tests prompt obedience.
Spreading the Gospel
Yes, the persecution they faced was life threatening. However, their actions accomplished what Christ told them to do. He said His followers would be witnesses for Him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). In Acts 8:1, the persecution against the Christians dispersed them from Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria. Subsequently, they were eventually scattered abroad, thus fulfilling the “ends of the earth” of Christ’s commission.
I’m sure the “world evangelism through persecution” concept didn’t feel good or comfortable. The mental anguish and uncertainty of who they could trust, where they were safe, and the constant fear for their lives must have been excruciating. However, their “flight for their lives” did fulfill God’s plan of dispersing the Good News of Jesus into all the world.
Although the possibility of deadly persecution remains small today for Christians in America, God still uses difficult situations, trials, and sufferings to position His people to glorify Him and fulfill His ultimate plan. If you are enduring a difficult situation or specific trial, ask God what purpose He has in mind.
Is He molding you to make you more like Christ? Could He be moving you out of your comfort zone to accomplish some specific mission for Him? Whatever it is, take comfort knowing that He works everything for His good (Romans 8:28). Do not lose heart. This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).
- What difficult situation or trial are you experiencing today?
- How is God using it to transform you or fulfill a specific purpose for your life?
- Have you praised Him for working all things for good?