Acts 8:1b, 4 – And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. . . . Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.
Upon the death of Stephen, a great persecution broke out that scattered the members of the Jerusalem church. While many might have assumed that such a persecution would weaken the cause of Christ, in reality, it strengthened the cause. When the followers of Jesus were driven out of Jerusalem, they took the gospel of Christ with them. They preached the gospel wherever they went, and thus fulfilled the words of Jesus from Acts 1:8. Jesus told his disciples, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The persecution of Acts 8 began the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem, through Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the ends of the earth.
This entire event teaches us that God has a plan that is far beyond what we would ever imagine. So often, we hide from sharing the gospel because of our desire for human comforts. Here, God removed the comforts from the followers of Christ, and the church grew. God works in the face of persecution. He strengthens the faith of believers, and moves them to sacrifice greatly for the sake of the gospel. No, we might never choose this voluntarily, but God knows what is best. His ways are beyond our comprehension. His plans will not fail.
So, the next time circumstances come in your life that appear to be unreasonable, do not forget what God did with a body of believers who were forced to flee for their lives. Remember that God took what they had to perceive as a great evil, and he made it into the fulfillment of his commands. If he can do that with the first century church under tremendous persecution, he most certainly can accomplish his will in the midst of your struggles and difficulties.
Lord, I recognize that you are sovereign. You take all circumstances, even the ones that are beyond our imagining, and work them together for the glory of your name and the growth of your kingdom. No one, not even those who would attack and kill Christians, will ever be able to slow the growth of your church. You can use the hands of those who persecute us to drive us to the places where the gospel will spread. Lord, I ask that you will help me to remember that you are in control at times when my life seems out of control. I am always in your hands. Your plan is always in motion, and your will is always going to be done.