"While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit'" (Acts 7:59).
Once while giving a financial report in a meeting that was in, I came face to face with a few challenging obstacles. First of all, I'm not a numbers guy. I don't like dealing with numbers, but inevitably, as I pastor a church, numbers are inescapable. It furthers my love and appreciation for calculators, computers, and competent administrative assistants! After hours of blood, sweat, tears, and decimal points, we had brought to completion this financial report that was a reflection of provision, stewardship, and progress.
The other obstacle I faced was the temptation to become defensive. It is a temptation that we all face. There I was giving a report on the subject of finances, feeling like a twelve point buck in an open field on the first day of hunting season. There were questions. There were good questions. There were comments. There good comments. And of course, a comment that seemed piercing and pointed. In earlier days, I would have "stood up" for my honor, defended my character, and attempted to put the individual back in their place. I would have been the fool. Rather, I took a pause, thanked the gentlemen for his comment and moved along. God, through many of my trips, falls, and personal periods of embarrassment, has taken me on a journey that has challenged me, corrected me, and is causing me to see the better way. He never called me to be my own defender. He is my defense.
The most common response to abuse, especially when it's delivered verbally, is to give it right back. It is easy to give in the overwhelming invitation of emotions to become defensive and to kick in to 'self-preservation' mode. Stephen was being stoned to death. His crime? He believed in Jesus. He spoke the truth. He would not give into the popular opinions of his day. Unarguably, he didn't deserve the treatment he was given.He didn't attack back or attempt to defend himself. His response? He prayed. He didn't argue with God, complain to or against God. He didn't even blame God. He prayed.
It's true. We all face those times in life where we feel we are on the receiving end of what feels like a verbal assault. Of course, we immediately assume and are convinced that we know the motivation behind the words and must stand our ground and fight for our honor. When we let the intensity of our emotions determine the reactions of our words, we are headed for great disaster.
When you feel as though you are being attacked or disrespected, it is so easy to want to 'fight back' or to avenge yourself in some way. The greatest defense that you will ever find is found in Christ. He is your defender. How would conflicts in your life resolve if your first action was to respond with prayer rather than react with passion and pride? Tensions would ease and an openness in to being led in a way that honors God would be more clear. Let prayer be your first response. No reaction outside of prayer will be effective. Prayer will guide you, calm you, and put the conflict in a proper perspective. Your best defense is Jesus.