Summary: Another from a series on the book of Acts.
Stephen: Boldly Going...
Over the last month, we have looked at a variety of people from the book of Acts. We looked Ananias and his wife Sapphira, who blasphemed the Holy Spirit and were killed, we have looked at Peter and John, who were arrested and taken before the Sanhedrin, and have looked at Gamaliel, a leader of the Sanhedrin. These are just a few of those who we have met. Today is no different. Today, we will be looking at someone who I feel is incredibly interesting for various reasons. This man is Stephen.
Stephen was a man who was reported as being "full of faith." This intrigued me as many at this time were already in an up and down faith mode, but somehow Stephen had maintained his faith and it had strengthened into a powerful weapon. A weapon that was enough for this man to persevere into the most dangerous battle of his life without fear of death.
Stephen made me think of a section from a book I had read entitled How to Get Along with Almost Anyone by H. Norman Wright. In the passage he says this:
"Who are the people you know who appear to get along well with others?...The people I know who get along well with others are enjoyable to be with. They show genuine interest in others. When they are with you, they are really with you."
"I think of a man I know who is very gracious, friendly, and refined in his dealings with people, whether they are his friends, his co-workers, or the waiters who serve him. His pleasant manner is not put on; it’s genuine."
"A man who encourages and builds up others, he is compassionate and empathetic, touching people in times of joy and sorrow. He fits the description of a likable character I read about recently in a novel. This man was described as ’large-hearted with everyone.’ The way my friend treats the people in his life is how most people want to be treated."
"Do these qualities describe how you would like to be treated? Are these qualities evident in your dealings with others? It takes time to develop the qualities I find in my friend. I’m still working on them in my life. Fortunately we all have the capacity to learn them and put them into practice."
That is what H. Norman Wright has to say about his friend and the qualities he observed in him. I would like to say that these same qualities were found in Stephen. Stephen was gracious, friendly, and refined when dealing with people and that would ultimately help him in his rather short ministry.
Stephen was what I like to call a Star Trek Christian. He was boldly going where no man had gone before. He didn’t know what was around the next corner, nor did he know what tomorrow held. He simply put his faith in God and allowed that to guide and motivate him. He was the Captain Kirk of his era. He was going in the name of God and presenting the Gospel message to any who would hear and some that wouldn’t.
He was boldly going where no man had gone before. He knew very little about the people he spoke to and even less about those who hated him. However he was the chosen messenger to these people and he took that job seriously.
His motto was:
"It’s been a long road getting from there to here. It’s been a long time, but my time is finally here. And I will see my dream come alive at last, I will touch the sky. And they’re not gonna hold me down no more, no they’re not gonna change my mind. ’Cause I’ve got faith of the heart.
If more people had his optimism and boldness when it came to the Christian faith, there would be many more that would come to Christ. As the old song says: "If I tell two people and you tell two people, then four more people would know. If I tell two people and they tell two people, more and more people will know."
There is a downside to Stephen’s story however; and that is that some so-called scholars were so embarrassed that they could not defeat him in debate that they had to pay people to fabricate a story to condemn him.
The story went like this:
"So in secret they (those from Silicia and Asia) bribed men to lie. ’We heard him cursing Moses and God.’ That stirred up the people, the religious leaders, and religion scholars. They (the scholars) grabbed Stephen and took him before the High Council. They put their bribed witnesses up to testify..." - The Message
These scholars were so fed up with him that they were willing to have him killed on charges that weren’t real. But Stephen took it and stood before the Sanhedrin and awaited his chance to speak. These villains that were more than willing to take the Christians and throw them all into a death camp, were actually buying this manufactured story and kill Stephen.