“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15 NLT).
We all have that “inner voice” speaking to us from time to time. Sometimes it’s loud, and it says, “Put it down! You don’t need that bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms!” Or sometimes, it’s more of a gentle nudging, like when I’m prompted to put down the dishes and play a game with my son instead.
Sometimes the voice can sound sneaky and manipulative, like when I’m driving to work in rush hour and I’m behind the old lady with the gray hair going 5 miles below the speed limit, and it says, “Just pass her. You got a job to get to. You don’t have time for this!”
Either way, we all have a voice that we choose to listen to or choose to ignore. The hard part is in our decision to listen to the one that serves us best.
In my readings of Acts Chapters 5-9 this past week, many of God’s people are faced with a decision or task to honor God; and how they respond to His call determines not only their fate, but the fate of others.
Chapter 5 tells us the story of a husband and wife, Ananias and Sapphira. The couple decides to sell some of their property, offering part of the money to the apostles and keeping some for themselves. However, they tell the apostles that their offering is for the entire amount that the property sold for. It was their choice to give, but they wanted to make themselves look more generous than they actually were; and therefore, they chose to lie. Peter calls them out by saying, “How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” (See Acts 5:4). Their fate is death. Here, we see that God will punish those who aim to please themselves rather than Him.
Chapter 6 introduces us to Stephen, a man chosen by the apostles to help in distributing food to those in need. They appoint Stephen to this task, in order to have more time spent in prayer and teaching God’s word. Stephen is described as very spiritual and an outstanding leader and teacher. He knows the importance of the Holy Spirit and putting God first.
Sadly, by the end of this chapter, Stephen is stoned for his preaching of Jesus to the high council. He has a vision and sees Jesus in heaven just before he dies. He asks for Jesus to receive his spirit and then asks for the people to not be charged for their sin (See Acts 7:54-60).
In Chapter 8, Philip encounters Simon from Samaria. Simon was a sorcerer there and held himself in high regard, claiming himself to be “great.” Philip, preaching the Good News of Christ, was able to baptize many men and women – even Simon was baptized. However, Simon expected to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and offered money to the apostles in order to buy this power. Peter responded, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought!” (See Acts 8:20). Simon learned that he needed to repent and pray to the Lord for his sins.
Philip then meets a man from Ethiopia reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip sees this as an opportunity to ask the man what he’s learned from his reading. The man is quick to respond by asking Philip to help him understand. Philip shares with him the Good News and the man immediately asks to be baptized.
Lastly, in Chapter 9, we meet Saul who has a direct encounter with Jesus who then asks him, “Why are you persecuting me?” (See Acts 9:5). Saul was not a follower. In fact, he was present at the stoning and death of Stephen. He was known for persecuting many of Jesus’ followers and he was feared. Yet, the Lord chose to call upon him to deliver his message to the people. The apostles learned of the Lord’s instructions to Saul and allowed him to preach along with them. They acted in faith, and as a result, the church became stronger and grew in its numbers (See Acts 10:28-31).
What do all of these people have in common? They were called by God to do something. Some of them obeyed and some of them did not. In each event, there was an outcome. For the ones who chose to serve themselves, no good came from it. Yet for those who chose to serve others, many good things came as a result.
I look at Stephen, especially, who gave his life in order to spread the word of God and I am humbled and in awe of his bravery and selflessness. As a result, more believers preached the Good News of Jesus and more became believers. His death was not for nothing. It is a lesson in faith and obedience to all of us.
Dear Lord, help me to recognize the voice of your Spirit when it is calling me to obedience. Forgive me for the times I choose to ignore it or to not hear it. The gift of your Holy Spirit is such a blessing to me in my life and I am so thankful for it. Help me to remember that all I need to do is call upon the Holy Spirit when I need direction. Thank you for the gift of your Word and for the people who have given their lives in your Most Holy Name, Amen.