After the cross, and especially the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the lives of the disciples were radically changed. One aspect of the change the Holy Spirit of God brought in their lives was the perspective of Hope. Who could have walked away from the crucifixion of Jesus without shaking their heads and asking, “What possible good could come of this?” But after Jesus rose again they saw their lives and in fact all of history from a different point of view. They rejoiced in the most dire circumstances, because they had seen the resurrection.
The Perspective of History
Their perspective was radically changed because of how they saw all of history.
In the short time before He was to be stoned to death Stephen, the first martyr to the faith, certainly with some inkling about what he was stepping into, reminded the people of what God had done down through the ages with the Children of Israel. He was able to see and show them all these things clearly because now he saw Jesus standing above all history and eternity.
The Perspective of Jesus
When we see Jesus clearly we come to a great assurance of hope. He did not simply conquer the world in spite of the evil around Him. He conquered through evil itself. James Stewart the powerful Scottish writer and preacher of the 20th century wrote these words.
“They nailed Him to a tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to His feet. They gave Him a cross, not guessing that He would make it a throne.
They flung Him outside the city gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up the gates of the universe, to let the King come in. They thought to root out His doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy.
They thought they had God with His back to the wall, pinned helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God Himself who had tracked them down. He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it."
The Perspective of Eternity
Understanding that Jesus really rose from the dead has transformed the lives of people who followed Him all through the ages. They could minister in the midst of plagues at the risk of their lives. They gladly died to help their neighbors, and loved ones, and people that didn't even know. They were willing to stand for the Bible and the truth of the gospel even in the face of martyrdom.
We see this the death of Stephen. He could even pray for the men stoning him, “Don't hold this sin against them.” And he could pray, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit,” because he knew the Lord was there to receive him. And in fact itas not a unique testimony as he was dying, “Look, I see the throne in heaven and the son of man standing at the right hand of God.” I cannot help but wonder what they might have seen if they had looked. Stephen was certainly convinced they would see Jesus as he saw Him.
The Perspective of Prayer
My heart throbs at the simple prayer of Stephen, and so many others who have died from whatever cause, with prayer in their hearts and on their lips. When you come to know a risen Savior it radically changes the way you pray. And such prayer gives you hope in the face of life or death.