Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
And Saul approved of his execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
When you think of opposition, who comes to mind? Try to imagine how your enemies respond to you. When you speak, they twist your words. When you act, they misinterpret your actions. When you love, they question your motives. When they sin, they refuse to admit it. When the relationship is fractured, they resist reconciliation. When you do good, they repay you with evil. They malign your character. They stir up conflict. They grieve your heart. And in everything, they care only about themselves.
As you read these statements, where does your heart run? As you think of those who oppose you, do you become bitter, angry, and vengeful? Or does a heart of love and compassion begin to grow for those who are so lost and confused?
Let's try this again. Try to imagine how God relates to us as we oppose Him. When He speaks, we twist His words. When He acts, we misinterpret His actions. When He loves, we question His motives. When we sin, we refuse to admit it. When the relationship is fractured, we resist reconciliation. When He does good, we repay Him with evil. We malign His character. We stir up conflict. We grieve His heart. And in everything, we care only about ourselves.
If God responded to opposition the way we do, would we have any hope? If He chose to ignore, confront, or destroy us, where would we be? Thanks be to God! In His sovereign grace, the Lord chooses to move toward His enemies and convert them. We see it in the conversion of Saul in Acts 9. A man who was violently opposed to Jesus Christ and His church. The last man we would imagine being changed. This man is God's chosen instrument to carry His name (Acts 9:15). No one but God would write this story. No one but God could write this story!
When we think of opposition, who comes to mind? Do we think of others, or do we think of ourselves? Can we see the ways that we still resist and replace the Lord in our lives? Whether we are self-indulgent "younger brothers" or self-righteous "older brothers" (Luke 15:11-32), we have set ourselves against our loving Father. Have we owned our opposition to God? Paul never forgot how he had opposed Jesus Christ. He could write, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost" (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul was generous in sharing the Gospel because he knew how much he needed it himself. We should ask ourselves, "Am I the worst sinner I know? Do I embrace Jesus Christ as my Savior? Am I the most unlikely convert?" If we answer "Yes," we should buckle up because the Lord wants to give us His heart for the people around us. He wants to use us as His instruments as He continues converting His opposition.