(see Acts 7:54-60) - Now when they heard these things they were enraged ... But he, (Stephen) full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and ... he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they ... cast him out of the city and stoned him. ... 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.
Saint Samuel is a beloved man, an individual who is highly respected by members of the Egyptian Coptic Church. An ascetic monk who lived in the 600s, Samuel was known for doing without food and drink for a week at a time. More importantly, he was tortured for his faith but refused to deny his beliefs. According to tradition, Samuel built the monastery which bears his name in Qalamun, Egypt.
Now all that information might be incredibly boring to you. I hope it becomes less so when I share.
In May of this year a busload of Christian Copts were headed to that monastery when a group of jihadists attacked their bus. About ten masked terrorists opened fire on the vehicle with machine guns. The unarmed riders had no choice but to get off the bus and meet their attackers face to face.
For the Christian men the visit was a short one as they were mercilessly gunned down and martyred.
With 26 dead, and 25 wounded, the remaining women were forced to stand alone before the murderers who had just killed their sons, fathers, husbands, and friends. According to Mariam Adel, a survivor of that day, the terrorists had only one message for the ladies. The women were told they could either "renounce Christ and convert to Islam or they could be killed."
Now I would like to stop the narrative and ask you, what would you have said in reply?
• Would you have done what was demanded and then repent, saying, "I really didn't mean it."
• Would you have said, "It doesn't make any difference; one god is as good as another god?
Knowing your life hung in the balance, what would you have said?
Adel shares the reply of the ladies. Looking down the barrel of a gun, surrounded by their dead friends and family, the women echoed the confession of St. Samuel from many centuries earlier. Boldly they confessed: "Renounce our faith? Of course not! We only want Jesus and we are confident He will not leave us."
Surprisingly, this confession seemed to shock the terrorists who refrained from causing more death. Instead, they decided to steal everything of value from the courageous Christian women.
My friends, by God's grace, we may never have to endure such physical threats. Far more likely are pressures that will come as we follow our risen Redeemer and live a lifestyle different than that of the world. No matter what type of persecution we encounter, may we remain faithful to the Lord whose grace sent His Son into the world to offer His life as the ransom which saves us.
May each of us boldly say, "I want Jesus and I am confident He will not leave me."
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, grant that those who encounter the representatives of this sinful world and Satan might be strong in their resistance. Keep us all in the fellowship so we might be faithful unto death and., in the end, receive the crown of life. In Jesus' Name. Amen
The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by Veronica Neffinger for Christian Headlines on July 12, 2017. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written. Please click here
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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