The story of Stephen in the book of Acts has always been fascinating to me because during the most violent and tragic part of his life – the day of his death – Stephen is still able to maintain incomprehensible peace and a powerful vision of God. If you don’t know the story, Stephen is accused of blasphemy in Acts 6 and is brought before the high priest in chapter 7 where he preaches a powerful sermon, which enrages the people, and they stone him to death (Acts 7:54-60).
As they stone Stephen, he sees a vision of the heavens opening up and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and while they are still attacking him, he calls out to God to receive his spirit (v. 59). This story is so powerful to me because it reminds us that even when there is violence, death, fearful events, and disaster all around us, there is still a spiritual reality to our lives that is the complete opposite of what we see and experience in the natural. This spiritual revelation reminds me of these scriptures:
2 Corinthians 4:16 (NRSV) – “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”
2 Kings 6:17 (NRSV) – “Then Elisha prayed: ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
And there are so many other scriptures that point to the spiritual realm and how we can transcend our physical reality and tap into life in the Holy Spirit. That’s why the Bible admonishes us to live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) because no matter what’s happening around us, we can still have peace, love, joy, patience, and all of those other fruits of the Spirit.
So how can we apply this to today?
We are all living in crisis mode with the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of us are seeing more death now than we have ever seen in our lives. Some people are losing multiple family members at the same time. Others are living in isolation for the first time. I know of a young doctor on the frontlines of the pandemic who is separated from his family so he won’t inadvertently expose them to the novel coronavirus. He hasn’t them in weeks. There are other people who are in isolation in hospitals. They are deathly ill and don’t know if they’ll make it out alive to see their family members again. How does one cope with these horrific circumstances?
I believe Stephen’s story gives us an answer.
We cope by setting our hearts and minds on Jesus. We make it through horrific circumstances by tapping into our life in the Spirit. What I mean by that is there is more to our physical lives than what we see in the flesh. There is a spiritual reality to our existence, and God has given us the power through His Holy Spirit to tap into that spiritual reality. Stephen was able to tap into the spirit because the Bible says he was full of the Holy Spirit. You can get filled with the Holy Spirit through several means. First, you can have another Holy Spirit-filled person lay hands on you (Acts 8:14-17). When I wanted to receive my “prayer language” or speak in tongues, I asked my anointed aunt to lay hands on me and that night I was able to speak and pray in tongues. The second way is you can pray and ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. The Bible says we only need to ask, and God will give us the gift of the Spirit (Matthew 7:7). Ask God to come in, and God will come and “sup” with you. Thirdly, you can be filled with the Holy Spirit by reading and meditating on God’s word. God’s word is alive. Remember, Jesus is the word of God in flesh. The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12, “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (NRSV). The Holy Spirit will come upon you when you read God’s word.
And when you are filled with the Holy Spirit and you set your heart and mind on the things of the Spirit, then you can see and hear in the Spirit. Supernatural things will happen. God will give you visions. You’ll be able to hear God speaking to you. You’ll have divine impartations. You will feel your spiritual help come.
I have had so many supernatural things happen in the spirit during my walk with Christ, but the one that stands out the most to me is the first time that I preached after the death of my first husband (I wrote about it here.). As I mounted the pulpit, and I reflected on all of the things that God brought me through during the death of my husband, the traumatic birth of my daughter two months later where I seized and ended up in the ICU, and the grieving process, the Lord gave me a vision of heaven and the cloud of witnesses who were, in that moment, cheering for me because I hadn’t given up on my faith in Jesus Christ. The vision was so powerful that tears started streaming down my eyes. I even say in the video that I am recognizing the “company of heaven” because God had given me a spiritual vision. This is biblical. There are so many instances like mine and Stephen’s where God’s gives believers a spiritual vision.
In the same way, the Covid-19 pandemic is scary. People are admitted into ICU alone and have to endure alone. Essential and frontline workers are living in isolation. However, we are never really alone. God does send angels (ministering spirits) to care for us in those moments. Jesus is with us and carrying us through just as he said. God also gives us supernatural strength to endure and to face any frightening situation we may encounter if we call on Him. When viewing death from a physical perspective, it’s never easy or pretty. However, I believe with my whole heart that when our loved ones die, they are met with God’s ministering spirits to assist them and bring them into the presence of God. This is comforting to me. This is why even in the midst of tragedy, we can have peace because we serve a God who will never leave us alone and who will never let us be put to shame because of our faith in Him. Take comfort. We will get through this. There is help available. Invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit. Invite the Spirit to live in you and meet you wherever you are. You will feel a difference.