Summary: Our word “MARTYR” is a transliteration of the Greek word for “WITNESS.” By their lives and by their deaths, the martyrs have borne witness for “JESUS CHRIST, THE FAITHFUL WITNESS.”
TITLE: HE STOOD UP FOR ME
SCRIPTURE: ACTS 7:54-60
Can I talk to you this morning from the subject – He Stood Up For Me. Stephen was the President of the Jerusalem Board of Deacons. He was a leader in the church. He seems to have been an eloquent and fiery proclaimer and defender of the faith. But he was also a man just like you and me. He had the same sorts of problems that we face and the same sorts of struggles. The fact that he was used by God is a matter of Grace.
We have a tendency to look for Christian Heroes. We find them and we place them up on pedestals.
• But there are no Super-Christians
• The closer you get to your Christian heroes, the more you will see that they are just like you
• They have the same Faults
• They have the same Struggles
• They have the same Flaws
• They have the same Addictions
• Therefore we can identify with Stephen
As I began praying and preparing for this message, I began to read in an effort to refresh my memory about those that had given their lives for the cause of Christ. I have concluded that GOD GIVES SPECIAL GRACE TO THEM IN THEIR DYING MOMENTS. The Czech martyr, Jan Hus, whose statue and church bare his name and located in the City of Prague, was promised safe passage to discuss his criticism against the Catholic Church.
• But they betrayed him and burned him at the stake
• He died, not cursing at his persecutors for their deception and brutality
• But singing praise to God as the flames consumed his flesh
• The story has been repeated thousands of times
• At the head of the list stands Deacon Stephen
• The first Christian martyr
Our word “MARTYR” is a transliteration of the Greek word for “WITNESS.” By their lives and by their deaths, the martyrs have borne witness for “JESUS CHRIST, THE FAITHFUL WITNESS.” It must be noted, Stephen’s death is the only death scene and martyrdom described in detail in the New Testament, except for that of Jesus Christ.
• Can I Footnote here, early on in this message?
• We run around talking about – I Will Die For the Lord
• God is not concerned about who will Die for Him
• God wants to know – Who Will Live For Him
• How you going to be willing to Die for Him and you are not even willing to Live for Him!
I want to extract a few points from this powerful text this morning and then take my seat. We were first introduced to Stephen in the first verses of Acts 6. He was one of the men chosen by the church to oversee the equitable distribution of food to the needy widows. His name is a Greek name meaning “Crown.” The church had seen a great deal of growth at this point in our text. It had begun with an explosion and it continued to see growing numbers.
• This is a problem that every church should have
• If the church is not growing, there is a spiritual problem
• The local church should constantly and consistently see growing numbers
• We have two new Deacons in training here at PPWC because of the growth of the church
• The first century church taught us that growth translates into more Deacons required
The qualifications for the position of Deacon had been they be full of the Spirit and of Wisdom. This is now seen in Stephen who was full of Grace and Power.
• From where do you get Grace and Power?
• It comes from the same place you get the Spirit, Wisdom and Faith
• You cannot Buy It
• You cannot Earn It
• You cannot Steal It
• You cannot Trade For It
• You cannot Matriculate for It
• It comes from God and God alone
This isn’t something that Stephen worked up on his own; it was given to him by God. The Christian faith involves living in such a way that Jesus lives through us. If you desire these qualities, then go to the Lord and ask Him for them. I wonder, do we see these same required giftings in God’s servants today? When I look at the Pulpits across the land, I believe that we are really confused. We look at leaders today and think they have:
• Giftings to Sing and Whoop in the Pulpit
• Giftings to Sing and Recite Drafted, Memorized Prayers on Deacons Bench
• Giftings come from God for the Edification of His Kingdom
All too often we think the education that we have achieved is a replacement for the Holy Spirit. When churches seek a New Pastor they want to know the educational level not Power of Holy Spirit operating in their life. Most of the time their education is not earned at a recognized institution of higher learning. Saw a Pastor being presented a Doctoral Degree last week by the Prelate of their Fellowship, no formal preparation. Deacon Stephen very well could have had formal education, may have Matriculated at Accredited Universities of his time, but that was not important. Well…What qualified him: