Trying to understand God’s will can be difficult at times. Why was Stephen killed while Saul is continually spared? We need to trust that God has a reason and be content with that! We can certainly see how God continued to use Saul, but he still experienced difficulties. Do you remember the message that God gave Ananias about Saul? “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (9:16). Just because we see him spared twice here doesn’t mean that he didn’t experience hardship in his life, and much of that hardship related specifically to the ministry God called him to:
2 Corinthians 11:24-27 “Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing.“
Peter also performs some significant miracles, but we understand that not everyone got healed and not everyone was raised from the dead! God had a purpose and a reason for what he used Peter to accomplish, and we see that reason in verses 35 and 41: many turned to the Lord and believed! We are reminded again that we need to trust that God knows what he is doing in life, and in our own lives.
For example, God had already prepared the way for Paul’s ministry by providing an advocate for him with the apostles. Barnabas, the “son of encouragement” (4:36) took up Paul’s case. God has a plan! Incidentally, have you ever had anyone defend or help you when you were misunderstood or misconstrued? Perhaps you can return that favor by doing the same thing for someone else today.