Acts 8:1-2, from The Message:
[The murder of Stephen] set off a terrific persecution of the church is Jerusalem. The believers were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. All, that is, but the apostles. Good and brave men buried Stephen, giving him a solemn funeral—not many dry eyes that day.
Sometimes I read scripture quickly and literally understand it without thinking about what it would have truly been like at the time. It’s easy to see in hindsight that persecution was used powerfully to spread the good news of Jesus, but imagine being a leader in the church. You are one of the few left in town after watching thousands of new converts- baby followers of Jesus- split. You have just buried one of your teammates in ministry, a man who was a leader in every sense of the word, and are mourning both your own personal loss and the deep loss to the infant church. Finally, your own life is at risk.
It was in the middle of this chaos, the apostles were faithful to the call to preach the message of Jesus, and God was faithful to back up their preaching with miraculous demonstrations of His power. The rest of Acts 8 chronicles healings, salvations, baptism with the Holy Spirit, supernatural discernment, and more.
We have the luxury of reading all of chapter 8 in one sitting; the apostles lived the events recorded day by day, moment by moment, without a break. We don’t get the luxury of hindsight in our own lives, but we can trust that God is working just as sovereignty and graciously, even in the midst of chaos, as He did in the lives of the apostles.