Am I Courageous Enough to be Stephen?
Thoughts on Acts 6:8- 7:60
The story takes up just two chapters in the entire Bible. But the message has thundered through the centuries with a deafening crash. And the end contains a line that cannot be found anywhere else in the Bible. It's the story of Stephen.
Stephen was a young man chosen to be a leader in the first church. But very soon it was evident that Stephen was more than just a hard-working man; and before long the people recognized Stephen as a man "full of faith and the Holy Ghost." (v. 5) He grew in wisdom and in the Spirit to such an extent that not even the false, corrupt "religious" leaders were able to argue with him (v. 10). They became so angry, and afraid of Stephen that they falsely accused him and took him before the High Priest to be condemned for blasphemy (Does this sound familiar?). But Stephen, being full of the Holy Ghost preached a message that cut them to their hearts. When he finished they beat him, and then stoned him. Just before he died he looked into heaven and saw what no one had seen before, or since; he saw Jesus STANDING!! (Acts 7:55-56)
Don't gloss over that. Linger here for just a moment. Jesus was standing up to receive Stephen into Heaven. Never before, and not since has Jesus stood to receive one of His own. The sheer glory of this record is breathtaking. The Son of God, Jesus Christ the Savior stood up as Stephen was being stoned in order to receive him into heaven. Amazing!
As I thought about this passage it occurred to me that no one stood up for Stephen when he was falsely accused. But don't you know that Jesus stood up for him. And the reason Jesus stood up for Stephen was because Stephen stood up for Jesus. You see Stephen was tired of the lukewarm hypocritic "religious" people. He was tired of the double standards and the excuses. It was time to smash some toes with a dose of the truth
I can't help but think we need some Stephen in our churches today. When I look at the state of the church today it's no wonder we’re in the shape we’re in; we are a people of comfortable excuses. Stephen wasn’t comfortable with excuses in his own life, or in the lives of others. Stephen wasn’t lukewarm, he was red hot and ready to hold people accountable as the Bible tells believers to do. Stephen was so sold out and dedicated to Christ that he was ready to throw everything away to stand up for his Jesus.
The implications of this passage are hard, it’s a dose of spiritual medicine that I need because, like the “religious” people Stephen confronted, I am prone to becoming lukewarm without people in my life willing to get in my face and hold me accountable. Truth is, we all need people that care enough to get in our face and remind us of the truth of God’s Word when we are messing up. That’s not judgmental, that’s accountability and it’s biblical. Let me illustrate.
Why is it that we will attend our child's school event as sick as can be, but a headache keeps us home from church? Why is it that we will go to work dead tired from staying up late watching the big game, but we miss church because of a "late night?" Why do we schedule appointments during church times as if we had nothing better to do? How is it that we can read novels and magazines all day long, but the Bible is just "too hard to read?" Why are we always willing to participate in anything that involves food, but not so willing to be involved in prayer?
What is truly astounding is the bewilderment of many Christians. We look around society and wonder why kids don't want to come to church, even though mom and dad made church optional and not a priority. Parents wonder why kids behave so poorly, even though the Biblical guidelines for discipline were ignored. Husbands and wives wonder why their marriage is crumbling, even though they refuse to follow the principles for Biblical manhood and womanhood prescribed in Scripture. Christians wonder why we are weak in our faith and prayers though we refuse to make our relationship with Christ our number one priority.
So why do we have weak Christians, weak marriages and spoiled children? Very simply it is because we refuse to be like Stephen by standing up for Jesus and making Him number one. The time has come to stop making excuses and start prioritizing. Wouldn't it be incredible to look up one day and see Jesus standing? Can you imagine seeing the King of King’s and Lord of Lord’s stand to greet you as you approach His throne? More than anything in the world I want to hear Jesus say to me “well done, good and faithful servant.” That should be our highest priority and goal.
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