READ: Acts 7:54–8:8
THINK: Tough times tend to bring out the best in some people. This has typically been true of Jesus’ most faithful followers. Combine this with the fact that many people in the world are looking for a cause and purpose to stake their lives on. When Christians stand true in the face of persecution, they reveal the reality of their faith and prove that the relationship they have with God is worth dying for.
RESPOND: What distinction does Stephen have among all followers of Jesus? (See 7:55 note.) In what way did Jesus assure and honor Stephen (vv. 55-56)? Who was Saul (8:1), what was he at the time (v. 3) and why is he significant to the New Testament? (See 8:1 note.) In what ways were Jesus first followers persecuted following Stephen’s death? What effect did this have on those in the early church? (See 8:1 note.) How did this actually promote the message of Jesus and turn out for the good of the church (v. 4)? What did Philip’s ministry to the Samaritans reveal about the connection between receiving God’s message, accepting Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit? (See 8:5-24 note.) Why did people pay attention to Philip’s message? (See 8:6 note.) What role did miracles have in the spread of Jesus’ message? What do you think would inspire people today to pay attention to the message of Jesus? What part do Christians’ lives and examples play in influencing others for Jesus?
PRAY: Ask God to help you grow in boldness and devotion to Jesus so that you would be willing to give your life for Him if necessary. Then ask Him for strength to actually live for Him, which can require even greater devotion at times.
ACT: Think of any resistance, opposition or rejection you’ve faced for your faith in Christ. Consider how these situations present opportunities to honor Jesus. For example, if a teacher has challenged your spiritual views, let this inspire you to do some Bible study and research that could be used for a paper or project on a Christian theme. If a friend or co-worker has questioned your faith, invite him of her to church to check things out for themselves. Show exceptional kindness to those who have given you trouble. This can be the best witness of the life-changing power of Christ.