BEAUTY FOR ASHES
To all who mourn in Israel, He will give beauty for ashes,
joy instead of mourning,praise instead of despair.
Stephen preached his heart out in Acts 7. His sermon was packed with power and anointing by the Holy Spirit. He said exactly what the Lord wanted him to say... but the Jewish religious leaders did not like it. They did not want to buy the sermon CD. As a matter of fact, they screamed in protest, covered their ears, and stoned Stephen to death.
Don't you know that the Christians were at a loss to explain that situation? I imagine they went home a little afraid and a little shell-shocked. They had big hopes that the Lord would have used Stephen's message to convert the religious leaders... but that obviously did not happen. Stephen was dead... and it must have seemed like life had dealt them a plate full of ashes.
ASHES IN LIFE
Have you ever had things go terribly awry in your life? Have you ever felt like your life that once held such promise has now been derailed? Have you ever felt like your hopes and dreams have burned up and there is nothing left but ashes?
Remember, God specializes in taking the ashes of life and transforming them to beauty... in taking the mourning and turning it to joy... in taking the despair and turning it to praise. He is a miracle working God. When we give Him the dregs of our situation, He can turn it to delight.
THE REST OF THE STORY
As bad as the stoning of Stephen was for the early church, God used it for good. A young Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus watched Stephen die... and although he was "in hearty agreement to put him to death," the way in which Stephen died - full of faith and courage and love - undoubtedly struck a chord in Saul's heart. As a result, Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the church, became Paul the Apostle, the greatest Christian who ever lived.
Was the stoning of Stephen ashes? Yes. But God turned it around for good. Just like He can and will do for you.
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
In your difficulties today, change your perspective. God is at work behind the scenes. He is getting ready to take the lemons in your life and make lemonade. Look to Him. Give Him thanks for what is about to happen for you. Remember, He delights in turning the tables on the devil and working all things together for good to those who love Him. He is a good God and is worthy of our total and complete trust, regardless of the present circumstances!
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Jeff Schreve is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas. He and his wife Debbie have been married for over 20 years and are blessed with three wonderful girls. Jeff began From His Heart Ministries, a radio and television ministry, in January of 2005. This ministry is completely listener/viewer supported. It continues only through the faithful and generous gifts of people like you. Pastor Jeff takes no salary from this ministry. All gifts go to further the broadcast. Click here to become a ministry partner.