“And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God.” Acts 7:59
Stephen was most certainly a man of God called out for a unique mission. He was a godly man and is described as of “good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom … full of faith and power, [who] did great wonders and signs among the people.” His ministry, along with the other six chosen was to “serve tables.”
However, Stephen did not just serve tables. He preached the Gospel of Christ to Jews. Only one sermon of his is recorded but it was clearly a Divine Appointment that was guaranteed to get a reaction.
The hearers chose to reject the message with such ardour that they also chose to kill the messenger.
What a waste! Throughout the history of the church there have been many men and women of God whose mission was cut short and humanly speaking we say, “What a waste.”
In 2008 I heard of a man with a mission he believed from the Lord who was struck and killed by lightning and we might say, “What a waste.” But who are we to scrutinise the Potter. We are the clay and we cannot see the plan or the finished product.
The five missionaries who perished in Ecuador and many others in such places as China, India, Indonesia and other parts of the world of like mind and mission have died in what may appear to us as wasteful. Many other faithful men and women of God have had shorter lives than we would otherwise expect through accident, illness or other violence from the “natural” world.
We cannot know God’s purpose for any of our lives and it isn’t for us to say how, where or when we will exit this world into His presence. If we are indeed surrendered to Him we will leave it with Him and joyfully accept whatever He brings.
Stephen did not die because of his own sin and, yes, God could have intervened – actually He did. The way He chose to intervene was to allow Stephen to see all the glory of God, and Jesus, as he passed from this world into the presence of the Lord.
Was Stephen upset at having his ministry cut short? I very much doubt it. First, it wasn’t his ministry it was the Lord’s. Secondly, he had wholly surrendered to the Lord and was glad to be brought into His presence. No child of God will be unhappy about the time or manner in which he comes into the Lord’s presence because he eagerly waits for that glorious day.