Recently, I heard a message about the stoning of Stephen and all the details surrounding his strong display of faith.
I have read through this event many times before but today, God showed me the story in a completely new light.
Acts, the book known for the foundation of the church community.
Through Luke’s eyes, we see the first bricks being established to build what we know today as “the church”.
As the believers began to devote themselves to the Word after Jesus ascended into heaven, we see the first community form. This first community of believers met in fellowship, breaking bread with one another and devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to prayer.
The characteristics found in Acts chapter two and verse 42 preach a sermon in themselves but as we see these characteristics played out in the first Christian community, we see needs arise that the leaders of the church are compelled and overwhelmed in and of themselves to meet.
As in any church body, there are more needs than the community of believers can meet on their own. However, we are not called to meet needs on our own but allow God to meet the needs of those around us through His power and His strength.
The leaders of the early church began to see the list of needs as not just a list but real people with real problems that needed to be met through the hands and feet of the church.
For this reason, we see in Acts chapter five the apostles facing opposition. How many times in our church’s today do we face opposition? I think we can learn a lot about living out “the church with a purpose” from the apostles as they strive to fulfill the needs of the community around them.
As we come to Acts chapter six, we see that the apostles call on seven men to serve in response to the needs of the church. And in steps Stephen, “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (6:5). What a wonderful introduction…to be known as a man who was full of faith, not just a faithful man but he was “full” of faith.
Allow me to pause right here and say: Lord, let me fix my eyes on You and help me to be a woman who is known as being “full of faith”.
As in any faithful follower of Christ, opposition comes knocking as soon as a step of faith is made and it happened to Stephen.
We see starting in verse 8 of Acts 6, that Stephen began performing miracles and allowing the Holy Spirit to use him in a powerful way but the witnesses began to criticize the teachings of “The Way”.
When Christ’s radical teaching meets the eyes of the religious, the result is opposition.
Stephen chose to stand up to the religious teachers even at the cost of his own life. In verse 54 of chapter seven, we see that the religious leaders were “infuriated” with him. But what does Stephen do, he fixes his eyes on Truth.
And what happens next is something that when read, can be missed entirely….
“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
For most of us, we read that and focus on the fact that Stephen had an incredible vision of Jesus at the right hand of God. Which, by the way, is an incredible depiction!
However, allow me to fix your eyes on the one word that changed my entire perspective of Stephen’s glimpse into heaven.
He saw Jesus “standing”.
Take a moment and let that sink in….
He, a man, saw Christ, the risen King, “standing” at the right hand of God.
Stephen caught the eye of the King and not only that, but prompted Him to stand.
Can I just stop here and say what a difference that one word made in my life today?
As I read that verse over and over, I couldn’t help but think of my life.
When have I, mere flesh and bone without Christ, ever made my Father in Heaven stand to His feet on account of my step of faith in the midst of opposition?
I would like to think that in looking back, there were many times that my acts of faith caused Christ to stand, however, I can’t say that there have been “many”.
Stephen chose to speak when others silenced their voices. He chose to stand when others chose to sit and in return, caused Christ to stand to His feet as He looked down upon His son.
And to think that this glorious glimpse was moments before Stephen was to be martyred by the very ones who spoke of religion, including Saul.
Saul, who “completely agreed with the killing of Stephen” (8:1), but went on to be one of the greatest missionaries in all of Scripture.
God specializes in the weak to show His ultimate strength.
I want my life to reflect that of Stephen.
I want my Father in heaven to rise at my steps of faith.
I pray that in times of persecution I can be seen staring into the face of Truth Himself to gain wisdom, so much so that I get a glimpse of heaven.
Let us all learn to stand when others sit and in return, cause our Father in heaven to stand to His feet in abundant joy of His children.