A few things really jumped out at me in the reading today. First, Stephen knew the scriptures (the Old Testament at this point) and used them to point his hearers to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah. Stephen outlines how the LORD delivered Israel in the past foreshadowing the coming of a Messiah and that Jesus was exactly that Messiah. His message “cut the the heart” and folks were enraged to have their sins put on display by the scriptures. God’s Word does cut to the heart. Fortunately some people come to Him in repentance, but others reject God’s grace and harden their hearts. I really want to memorize more scripture.
The second thing that jumped out at me in this portion of scripture is that we have the first martyr who is buried by devout men who mourned him (Acts 8:2) and we also have a devout woman raised from the dead (Acts 9:41). The question that comes to my mind is, “Why wasn’t Stephen raised from the dead?” Certainly he was a devout man. Certainly the circumstances of his death were worthy of praise and admiration. Certainly there were apostles close by. He was examined and chosen as a deacon. So why does this woman named Dorcus get to be raised to life and Stephen has to be buried by mourners?
We want everything cut and dry. We want it simple. We want things uniform. We read about miracles of healing and we assume that everyone present got healed. We forget that Jesus only healed one man at a pool filled with sick and dying folks (John 5). We forget that Peter and John healed a man who was lame from birth and sitting at the gate of the temple every day (Acts 3:1-10), that surely they had passed with Jesus before on many occasions (Luke 22:53). We forget that Paul had a thorn in the flesh that was never really removed (2 Corinthians 2:12) and that he had trouble with his eyes (Galatians 4:13-15, 6:11). We forget Paul tells Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach and frequent infirmities ( I Timothy 5:23), why not send him a handkerchief (Acts 19:11-12)?
The LORD is mysterious. There isn’t a simple pattern of behavior that we can accomplish to make God act on our behalf. We can’t blame a lack of faith for a lack of miracle as some do. Stephen had plenty of faith and boldness. Stephen was mourned by godly friends who missed him deeply, but he also saw Jesus that day.
What we do know is that there were times when God healed or raised the dead and there were times that he doesn’t. Today we read about both types of occasions. The conclusion we can draw from the matter-of-fact way that the scripture presents both cases is that God can and does heal, but sometimes he chooses not to. We should recognize that we don’t know the mind of God, but that certainly he has his reasons. Given the way Stephen was martyred and the fact that he was looking into heaven when he died, I suspect Stephen wouldn’t have wanted to come back.
Some things, like healing are worth praying for, but trusting the Lord to decide. Should you be blessed to be miraculously healed, glory to God. Should you not be healed in this life, know that God loves you and his plan may be different than you anticipate and even hope. We all run the race set before us and we shall see His plan unfold before us in due time.
Father, we trust you this day. We pray for those who are sick and infirm. We long for the day when there is no more sickness or disease. We are grateful for when you heal us. We look forward with faith when we struggle through infirmity. We anticipate a day when there is no more striving against a sinful world and we live in your eternal kingdom. Our hope is in you. Our faith is in you. Our love is because you have so loved us. Let us run the race that is set before us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.