Mark 13:9-11 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. For the Good News must first be preached to all nations. But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
This summer on Wednesday evenings at our house a group of friends are gathering to study the book God Space by Doug Pollock. Last week somehow the discussion included martyrs. One of our friends offered this intriguing perspective: that the martyrs faced all at one time in a concentrated way the type of opposition that many believers deal with in milder ways throughout their lifetimes. In both cases, she said, the key is dependence on the Holy Spirit. And what matters is communicating who Jesus is so that the focus is on him, not on us. The Holy Spirit will always glorify Jesus.
This made me think of Jesus as he was dying asking the Father to forgive his murderers. And Stephen in similar fashion with his last breath shouted, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” (Acts 7:60). That’s a life completely empowered by the Holy Spirit.
How did Stephen get to that place of strength and courage and compassion? We don’t know much about him, but when he was chosen to be one of the seven first deacons, Luke tells us he was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit (Act 6:5). Later in the same chapter, he is described as “full of God’s grace and power, performing amazing miracles and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). Those who tried to debate him couldn’t stand against the “wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke” (Acts 6:10).
My takeaway is that I need to develop spiritual muscles by daily submitting to the Holy Spirit, seeking intentionally to keep my life free of whatever might hinder or block his freedom in my life. That way I don’t have to be afraid of encounters big or small that might at any time feel threatening. Or at least, I can admit my fears, offer them to the Lord, and receive through the Spirit his peace and love in their place—love that extends even to those who might want to do me harm. That is “Spiritnatural”!