Summary: CONFIDENT trust in Christ produces COURAGEOUS living through Christ.
Living Above The Fray
I know each week as we come together as a church family into this room, we all enter with different issues swirling about in our lives. This week some of you faced health issues. We had folks in our church that had tests and procedures, emergency room visits and bouts with sickness.
Some of you had work situations that you know Monday morning this albatross is going to be waiting on you to deal with. Others have relationship conflicts, marital misunderstandings or unruly children. Then there’s the financial side of things. We just had government extortion day last week on April 15 and for some this year it was particularly painful. Then there’s the general cultural moral and ethical nosedive that’s going on around us. If you start considering all these things you might say, “Under the circumstances, how could I be anything but depressed?” But here’s the deal – we’re called to live – not under the circumstances, but above the circumstances; we’re called to live above the fray.
That idiom, “above the fray,” refers to being above the conflict, difficulties, hardship and struggles that our world is marked by. How do we live above the fray? As believers in Jesus, it all comes down to trusting in the certainty of the gospel.
In just a moment we’re going to read a description of Stephen and some of the accusations that were hurled against him. Upon first reading it you may be tempted to think, “Stephen’s life is totally irrelevant to what I’m going through. I mean, this passage talks about accusations of blasphemy, the customs and traditions of Moses, the destruction of the temple – all ideas and concepts that seem completely foreign and out of touch with my life situation.” Well, on the front end I’m going to ask you to trust me as we delve into this account of Stephen’s life and the charges that were brought against them. What I believe you’ll discover is the same way he was able to live above the fray of all that was swirling about him is the same way you and I can live above the fray as well.
8And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council,
13and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Stephen’s life as a follower of Jesus was like a meteor flying through the night sky – very brief, but brilliant and bright; powerful and spectacular. Some might say his life ended way too soon. He didn't have a great position of power; he wasn’t an apostle or even a pastor. He was simply a follower of Jesus who had been captivated by the good news of His salvation. And even though his life was short, God used his brief time as a disciple of Jesus to produce earth-changing results. Three things I want you to notice about Stephen that will encourage us to live above the fray.
I. The CHARACTER He Possessed
Stephen, full of grace and power…
Now if you were here last Sunday, we had a tremendous day as we ordained four men to serve among the 18 laymen in our church who are deacons. They seek to lead and serve in practical ways in our body. We briefly looked at verses 1-7 of chapter 6 which lays out for us really a prototype of deacon ministry. In those verses we saw how the apostles delegated a practical, logistical aspect of ministering in the church to seven men. They did this so that they would not be distracted from their primary responsibility –preaching and prayer. Those seven men serve as the prototype of deacon ministry in the local church.
Luke, the inspired author of the book of Acts, gives us the names of the seven men who were called to take up this responsibility. And here’s something amazing about the selection of these men. There were at this point over 20,000 adult members of the Jerusalem church – 10,000 or more of those being men. And from those 10,000 men they chose 7. That’s fascinating to me, these men are the cream of the crop, the top of the class, the best of the best, the pick of the litter. And the first man named among those seven men was Stephen.