November 2023 | Persecution: The First Martyr—Stephen



Pr. P. J. Daniel

It has been heard that the famous American Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham was once asked by the American politicians if they could nominate him as the candidate to run as President of America. Thanking them, Dr. Billy Graham, firmly yet gently replied that he was not ready to take up a job which was of a lesser position than what he was already engaged in. Yes, serving the Great God is more honorable than being the President of United states. 

Jesus said: “Harvest is plentiful, true, but laborers are few”.  Somebody once re-read that portion thus: “harvest is plentiful, but true laborers are few”. How true is seems today! There are so many so called laborers found in this modern era, but true laborers are seldom found. Genuine laborers are the need of the hour. There are so many preachers, but laborers are very few. There are numerous professional Reverends (in excess) but true laborers are scarce.

The term ‘labor’ can be more reflective than what it superficially appears.  To grasp its true meaning, a visit to the labor room of a general hospital should be undertaken, where a woman experiences labor pangs and agonizes in pain to bring forth a new babe into this world. This is the sense of the word ‘labor'. Every true servant of God is to go through labor pain experiences as they birth new souls into the Kingdom of God. Apostle Paul says: “I am in labor pain until Christ is formed in you.” That should be our attitude in Christian labor. Laboring is not easy. It is a hard task, more an adventure. A laborer must possess caliber and courage to face every challenge and struggle.

Another significant factor to be borne in mind of a laborer is that our labor is not for self-fame or popularity, but for the exaltation of our Lord. We do everything as unto the Lord. It is not for our self exaltation but for the veneration of our Master.

Another example of a selfless labor for the Lord is mentioned in the Gospel of Mark 14:3-9, a woman comes with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. Anointing the head and feet of Jesus is seen in the Gospels at least three times by three different persons. One is by Mary, the sister of Lazarus John 12: 1-8. The second one is stated in Luke 7:36-50, by the woman who lived a sinful life. Her name is not mentioned there, however she is differentiated with her sinful life from the other two.  The third one is stated here in the above portion Mark 14. But her name is also not mentioned. When we study those passages inquisitively, especially the time, place, person and the mode of anointing with the oil, we can undeniably distinguish it as three different persons during three different occasions. I shall not go into details in this regard, but my primary aim is to make you aware how she offered it and how she was blessed. This perfume is precious and costly. It might be the wages of a man who labored many years, now accrued by a woman. This could possibly be the earning of her life time.  It was all she had, extremely precious to her.  Usually they kept it for her marriage.  But she brought that to Jesus, broke the jar and anointed Him. She did not want to keep even a little for herself. She offered it all to Jesus - totally. 

 Ananias and Sapphira are a familiar couple; they sold one of their properties – not all – and kept something for themselves and offered it at the feet of the Apostles. That became a curse, not a blessing to them.  So the Lord expects from us a total offering like the woman with the alabaster box. The whole room was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. How wonderful! Whatever we do for the Lord, should be a fragrance to others. It is important to note that her name is not mentioned here but it is her offering that is given importance. Very often we publish and propagate our names, which will only be loathsome to others. When we do something for the Lord there will be negative criticism. We should not let that detract us from doing what we have been called to do. But our activities and offering should be pleasing to our Lord. Here the Lord Himself intervened in the matter. Jesus began to appreciate her. The first commendation: She has done a beautiful thing to me. Second commendation: She did what she could. Third commendation: She did it beforehand. And the Fourth is: She and what she did will be talked about everywhere the Gospel is preached. Though her name is not mentioned here, her memory and her selfless act of love, worship and adoration will be remembered all over the world like sweet incense. How wonderful it is! Look at the blessing of a sacrificial giving! She did it as if unto the Lord.

Another example of how true labor turns to bless thousands is recorded in all the four gospels. The story is not about a grown up man but about a little lad who offered his five loaves and two fishes to the Lord. He was with the Lord for many hours to hear the words of Jesus. His Mom had given him this food for his own need. But he did not eat it while he was hearing the message. Some children think that the time the Word of God is being preached in churches is the time they can eat and drink. (It is my humble suggestion to the young mothers of today not to practice such things inside the sanctuary. Our children should be fed before or after the service. Any child can survive for three hours without food except infants. We should not train  children with the feeling that the time of worship is the time to eat.) This little boy is a good example to us. First of all, he did not eat while he listened to the Word. Secondly, when Andrew asked him he did not hesitate to give all the food he carried. He could have told Uncle Andrew that he was very hungry. And that the food was given by his mother for him alone. He could have shared some of the food instead of giving it all. But the boy kept none for himself, he gave it all - five loaves and two fishes. That is a sacrificial giving. That fed more than five thousand. I am sure that this boy was also fed fully. When he offered all to Jesus it became a blessing not only to him but also to the multitude, otherwise only he would have been fed.

There are some other interesting facts to note here in this incident. The loaves are made of Barley which is usually used for cattle feed. It was used only by very poor people for their food. This boy brought the food of the poor. But when those loaves were placed in the hands of Jesus it is mentioned there not as loaves but as bread (in Gk ‘Artous’.). What a transformation! When he gave those simple loaves in the hands of Jesus it was turned to sweet and healthy bread made out of wheat flour. See the change in the fish too! When it was in the hands of the lad the Greek word used there is 'hupsaria’ (HUPSARIA) which is usually used for pickle, made of small little fish. But when it is placed in the hands of Jesus there the Greek word used is ‘IXTHOUS’ which is a common word used for big fishes. Amazing! If we give all that we have, no matter how simple or mere it may seem to us; when given over to the Lord, He can multiply it and turn it into the best. Nobody knows the name of the little boy but his sacrificial giving will be preached all over the world until His coming. Moreover the boy will be rewarded and his name will be recognized before many millions of Saints. Truly this is the blessing of labor.

When we look at the Epistle to Romans by Apostle Paul, he commends many men and women who labored in the Lord. We see Mary who bestowed much labor to the Lord (v 8) Tryphena and Tryphosa labored in the Lord. Beloved Persis labored much in the Lord (v l2).

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as you know that your labor is not vain in the Lord”. Amen.

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