“The Joy of Stephen”
Julie and Phillip were always a little nervous when their Daddy took them with him to share Jesus door to door in town. But daddy always loved to do it so they went to learn how. Usually the Assistant Pastor from their church went along. Mostly people were nice and sometimes invited them in and sometimes the Pastor or Daddy would pray with the people to accept Jesus and that was really exciting.
One time though a man answered the door who wasn’t from our country. His skin was darker and he wore one of those turban things on his head. And when daddy shared about Jesus, the man got really mad and started yelling and seemed like he was going to come out and hurt daddy so the Pastor excused them from the man and they went to a bench nearby in the apartment complex.
“What was wrong with that man Daddy? Why did he have that hat on his head?” Phillip asked frightened.
“That is a man God loves just like he loves you and me Phillip. Now let’s pray for him.” And they did right there on the bench and they all felt better.
That night Daddy explained that the man was from another religion so he just didn’t understand that they were there to give him eternal life. “But Daddy,” Phillip interrupted. “It seemed like he wanted to hurt us. Does that mean what we were doing was wrong?”
“Kids do remember the story of Stephen in the Bible?” Daddy said and before they knew it, Daddy was telling them the story. Daddy was an amazing storyteller because he was able to make Julie and Phillip feel like they were right there in the story.
“Where are we Daddy?” Phillip shook his head looking around at the huge crowd of what seemed to be really angry people. Phillip and Julie felt their Daddy holding onto their hands as he took them right into the bible story he was telling.
“We are in the story, Phillip. These people are all angry with Stephen. See over there?”
The children worked their way between the legs of the shouting people and then they saw him. Standing apart from the crowd, dressed all in white. “Phillip!” Julie whispered. “That’s Stephen, just like Daddy said.”
“Kids over here.” They heard their Daddy whisper and they ran to him knelt between some people watching.
“Why are they all so mad Daddy?” Asked Julie a little scared and nervous for Stephen.
“They don’t want him to share about Jesus, sweetie.” Her Daddy answered.
“Daddy, he doesn’t even look scared. I would be SO scared if everybody was mad at me.” Phillip said watching Stephen with amazement.
”Can you hear what he is saying kids?” Daddy whispered and they listened close.
“He is praising Jesus Daddy.” Julie finally said. “He is thanking Jesus that he is going to be able to suffer and die for God. Daddy I don’t understand.” She said sobbing a little bit.
“Well honey, Jesus died for us so it’s a privilege to go through those things for him. Stephen is full of the Holy Ghost so he isn’t suffering at all. See his face, it’s full of joy. That’s what the Holy Spirit does when we go through hard things for Jesus. He replaces the fear and pain with joy and praise. Come on, we better get back, Mommy will have supper ready soon.”
As they moved to the back of the crowd, Julie saw a wrap that looked like it belonged to Stephen. She reached to pick it up but an older boy picked it up first. She looked him in the eyes.
“Why are you crying?” She asked the boy.
“I have always hated Christians, little girl” the boy said. “But Stephen has so much joy. The joy of Stephen makes me somehow want that in my heart.”
Back home at the supper table they told Mommy all about their adventure. “Well, Julie, who was that boy you talked to before you came home.”
“I don’t know Mommy. He said his name was Saul of Tarsus.” They didn’t talk about it any more but Mommy and Daddy exchanged knowing smiles and both knew that Daddy would be taking the children on another journey to find out more about how this Saul boy turned out.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [Matthew 5:10-12]