I was dreading to make that phone call last week.
The reason was that about a year ago, in a similar situation, when I called our customer to inform we had found that some of the parts we delivered to them could have a defect, they stopped their production and shipped all the parts back. It costed us a fortune.
Now I had again a situation where our tests indicated we could have an issue and I was going to inform the customer. I was prepared to demonstrate it was not a very serious issue and the probability that bad parts were present at their plant was low. Besides that, their final product test would for sure detect in case one of the parts was not OK.
But again, in the past the situation was almost identical, and I ended up with a screaming Quality Manager on the other side of the phone telling me to get the parts out of his plant immediately, because they were not going to be using suspect parts.
So, I took a deep breath, made a quick prayer for wisdom, and made the call. An almost friendly voice answered the phone. I carefully explained the situation, and to my surprise the man just said they would keep an eye for it, and if they found a bad part he would let me know.
I was pleasantly shocked. A very similar situation yielded a radically different result.
I still don’t know why, but I am not complaining.
That made me think about two stories in the Bible: Daniel and Steven.
From what we know both men were faithful to God in their lives, yet their stories seem to have a very different ending.
Daniel is presented as one with “an excellent spirit” and Steven was a “man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”.
They both generate jealousy from others around them. Daniel’s peers “tried to find grounds against him”, while in Steven’s case they “could not stand up against his wisdom”.
Daniel’s colleagues accuse him to the king, stating that he “paid no attention to the king” and continued praying to his God, despite the king’s decree. About Steven it is registered that “they secretly persuaded some men” to say that Steven spoke blasphemous words against God.
As a consequence Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den, while Steven is dragged out of the city to be stoned.
Daniel is protected by God, who sends His angel to “shut the mouth of the lions”. Steven is stoned to death.
What happened here? Why didn’t God protect Steven? Those rocks could have turned into cotton balls.
Was God distracted and failed to react quickly enough to protect Steven? Did Steven have some sin we are not aware so he didn’t deserve God’s protection?
Why did a similar situation resulted in such a radically different result?
If we stop reading those texts at that point those questions will remain unanswered, but if we continue we get more:
As a consequence of Daniel’s protection, the king issued a decree that all people should reverence Daniel’s God “because He is the living God and He endures forever”. God’s name was exalted as a result.
When Steven is stoned a great persecution against the Christians broke out, and they were scattered everywhere, then the Bible says that “those that were scattered preached the word wherever they went”.
As a consequence of Steven’s stoning the Gospel spread throughout the world, and eventually it came to you and me. God’s name was exalted as a result of his death.
When I read those two stories I can only wonder how many times we are in a situation when we cannot understand why something is happening because we can’t see the full story. How can it be a good thing if we lose a job, or if we get sick, or if something else bad happens?
Steven’s God is the same as Daniel’s God. He is my God too.
Did Steven draw the short stick? I don’t think so.
In the book of Acts, chapter 7, verses 55 and 56 we read about Steven’s fantastic experience:
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. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
Can you imagine? To see our Lord standing, ready to welcome us to His presence…
What a privilege!
Two faithful men, two similar stories, two apparently different results. All under God’s control.
To Him be the glory.