Note: if you are planning to take my free Zoom class on Freed From Sin beginning tomorrow evening you will get an email with the sign in link during the day on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.
|Basket of Apples, c 1865|
by John Francis
Those of you who read this blog regularly will recall that last week I used the illustration of apples placed in baskets to reveal what we are to do with our faith – place it in God. With that in mind, I want to tweak that illustration slightly and apply it to today’s blog post. Instead of five people each with an apple let us narrow that down. Let us give one person five apples. Placed in front of him are the same number of baskets. The apples represent faith. The baskets represent what the man places faith in. He places one or two apples in one basket, another in a different basket, and no apples in some of the baskets. Which happens to be a bit more like how life actually operates.
We are given a measure of faith. We place some of that faith in God, yes, but we also often place some of that faith in institutions, in men, in industries, in investment strategies, etc. In other words, rarely, if ever, do we only trust one thing. We often trust many, to one degree or another.
What does it mean to be full of faith? There are those who would say that means there is no room for doubt. I am not one of those people, and I already addressed that earlier in this series on faith. No, to be full of faith does not mean that there is no doubt in your life. It means to place all your faith in God alone. No longer do I spread my faith out among the different baskets. I find the basket labeled “God”, and I put all my apples in that one basket.
Stephen, the man described here as being full of faith, is not a major Bible character. He is, however, mentioned in one other biblical account. Following his election to the office of deacon, he preached with boldness and power and he was soon brough to the attention of the Sanhedrin. Arrested and brought to trial, Acts 7 brings us the speech Stephen gave in his own defence. He begins by reviewing some pertinent points of Jewish history and showing how those pointed toward Jesus. Toward the end, he pulls no punches in what is a basically a sermon to the association of men who had recently murdered Christ. Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers. The Sanhedrin reacted to this broadside with all the grace of a wounded rhinoceros. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. Following this display of demonic fury, they proceed directly to the sentencing phase – death by stoning. As Stephen slips the surly bonds of Earth in direct likeness to his martyred Master he whispers an immortal prayer: And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
What grace Stephen brought to his martyrdom! Aye, and more than grace. This is nothing less than being full of faith. How so? Because he committed the entirety of his life, in complete trust, into the hands of His God.
You do not have a greater possession than your life. Thus, you do not have a greater gift. Our Saviour said as much mere hours before He practiced it when He told the Apostles, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15.13). Stephen gave his entire life, every single breath of it, willingly and trustingly into the hands of His Heavenly Father. He let the Father choose how to spend that life. And he did not resist or fight or change his mind at the last minute when he realized how God would choose to spend that life – in martyrdom. He put all his apples in one basket.
The first step in that process is to place your faith in Christ alone for your salvation, but that is just the first step. That done, the story of the rest of your life is written as you learn how to gradually decrease your trust in anyone/anything else and gradually increase your faith in Him.
Someone once described the Christian life as being the polar opposite of the
physical life. I was born tiny and helpless,
entirely dependent for everything on my parents. As I grew, I became less and
less dependent on them and more and more dependent upon myself. Finally, as I
matured, I ceased to be a dependent at all and became independent. Spiritually
speaking, I was born large and in charge, only dependent on God for my Saviour.
But as I grow, I become less and less independent in my thinking and living and
more and more dependent upon Him. Finally, as I mature, I cease to be
independent in any area at all and I become entirely dependent upon Him for
|Stoning of St. Stephen, c 1625|
I am full of faith. I am all in in. All my apples are in one basket. Him.