When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. – Acts 7:54-55
Most of us, in the Western church, will live our entire lives having never experienced true persecution for our faith. On the other hand, it is common to most that we will at one time or another experience some form of unjust or undeserved treatment at the hands of others. What is the key, if any, to enduring it? If unjust treatment is an unpleasant reality of life in this world, how are we to endure it? I believe that Stephen’s response, though clearly a case of persecution, gives us a look at the answer.
The key to enduring the unpleasant, unjustified attacks that are common to those who hold firmly to God’s truth lies in the indwelling, infilling presence of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian martyr, Stephen being the first, endured horrible suffering and death simply through the powerful and overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit; therefore, it stands to reason that lesser trials will be endured in the same fashion.
I have never truly “suffered” for my faith in Christ, yet (like you) there have been times in my life that I have considered myself wrongly maligned. Of course, there have also been times when I had it coming! In such cases, I did not always respond as I should, but when I won the victory and behaved rightly it was simply because I was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Admit and repent when you have not. And, when your “neighbor” doesn’t love you back and you are treated in an unjust manner, allow the Holy Spirit (with Whom you must walk daily) to fix your heart and eyes on Jesus.
The Spirit which makes us suffer is the only One which can comfort us. – Jean-Pierre de Caussade