God’s Loving Kindness

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, Amen”

Revelation 7:12

What would provoke angels, elders and the four living creatures standing around the throne of God to worship the Lord with these words? In the previous chapter we read that a quarter of the world’s population had been killed by war and famine. The world will be in unimaginable upheaval. Much worse will follow as four angels stand ready to reap destruction on those still living (7:1). Our Creator is a righteous judge and will judge all sin and unrighteousness but because of what the Lord Jesus accomplished on the cross on our behalf He is able to show mercy and save anyone who will call upon His name.

Another angel seals 144,000 Jews who, in the likeness of the apostle Paul, will preach the Gospel throughout the world. A number beyond counting will put their trust in Jesus and many will be murdered for that faith. John sees them before God’s throne in white robes washed in Christ’s blood (vv 9-14). God Himself will dwell with them (v 15) so it isn’t surprising that there will be no more tears (v 17). At present, we who believe have the privilege and responsibility of sharing the Gospel.

In the midst of God pouring out righteous judgment on a rebellious and unbelieving world He shows His abundant mercy by sending messengers throughout the world with the Good News. In spite of the very real threat and likelihood of being murdered, multitudes choose to believe.

When times of trouble come there are many who will reach out to the Lord provided they are warned and informed of God’s available mercy and forgiveness. In the midst of wrath God remains abundantly merciful and will forgive anyone who comes to Him. Jesus is the Lamb who took away the sin of the world and through whom salvation is offered as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23). “It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). God’s loving kindness toward people is revealed again in this: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There is no sin, and no sinner, so great that Jesus’ death and shed blood cannot forgive and take away. Even in judgment God remembers mercy. Such is the loving kindness of our God.

What a Waste

“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 wisdomfull 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.