As we continue to focus our attention on the attitude of thanksgiving, my thoughts turn to those who risked everything so we might have the gospel and that it might spread. John the Baptist did not live to see the day of the Spirit, but he was excited to prepare the way for Jesus who in turn prepared the way for the Spirit to be sent on the Day of Pentecost so the gospel would be proclaimed to every people group around the world.
In speaking to the Jews about His own authority, Jesus refers to the witness of John with great appreciation; “There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth…He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light” (John 5:32–35). Jesus was very thankful for the ministry of John the Baptist because he prepared the way for Jesus. As was the life of Jesus, John’s life was cut short, but both of their missions were fulfilled.
This was also true of Stephen in Acts 7. His boldness in proclaiming the glory of God down through the centuries of Israel’s history resulted in his death. To the church in Jerusalem, his death seemed tragic. Yet, how thankful we must be for this martyr for Christ. His faithfulness pushed the gospel out of Jerusalem and “those who were scattered went about preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4). He fulfilled God’s purpose for his life and it resulted in fruitful expansion of the gospel.
These are the beginning of a long line of martyrs who had one goal; the gospel of Jesus Christ for all people. Are you thankful for those who did not count their lives of any value, not precious to themselves, “if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (20:24). Are you willing to be numbered among them?
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