Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.
A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.
But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. (NLT)
Those in the early church didn’t have it easy. The Roman authorities weren’t the main problem at this stage. The Jewish religious leaders were their great opponents. Such opposition resulted in the stoning to death of Stephen. And it resulted in many in the church scattering as Saul and his colleagues rounded up those who followed Jesus.
This scattering was a setback but also an advance. Instead of clustering in Jerusalem and finding comfort in one another, the church members went off in all directions. Their immediate aim was to avoid being captured and maybe killed. But they didn’t just run and hide. They made the most of the scattering and conveyed the good news of Jesus to those who might not otherwise have heard.
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In our life of discipleship, we cannot always see what is a setback and what is an advance. We may become preoccupied with a sickness or a disappointment or a failure and so cease to live out and speak out our faith in Jesus. We need to realise that God is able to work good out of circumstances that in themselves are far from good.
So while we may not welcome a setback, we can still discern what opportunities might be offered through it. Whether it be personal upbuilding or effective witness, God does not want us to waste the adversity we experience. Those not so good things can do a lot of good.