Summary: Saul made a big U-turn and became a band new person in Christ. We can too. This was his defining moment. What is yours?
“The Power of a Proper U-Turn”
The setting for our message today is in 36 AD. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus have all taken place …. He has ascended to heaven and now it is up to a small band of men and women to move the message forward. Every one of them would have a decision to make, what I will call a defining moment and in that moment they would be asked to make a decision that would completely change their future. One that would ultimately cost them their lives. Of the 12 disciples, Judas took his own life but of the other 11, 10 would eventually die a martyr’s death. John, the exception died in an old age just after writing down the Book of Revelation.
Now in this study this morning I want us to focus on two men…. Stephen and Saul. First Stephen. Now you may remember that when the early church started, as the church was increasing in number someone in the church started complaining. And was for a good reason. Some of the widows were being overlooked in the church. There was a daily distribution of food and they were not receiving enough. So the 12 apostles called the people together and they said, we have to do something. We need more people to serve these women. To get this food out. They said it would just not be right for those of us who are preaching and teaching God’s word to give that up so we can serve food. Both the physical food and the spiritual food matter and we can’t do both. We need help. So we recommend that you select 7 men to serve as deacons to do this work. Then we will continue to devote ourselves to prayer and the teaching of the word. So they did. They chose 7 men. One of them was a man named Stephen. The scripture tells us in chapter 6 v. 8 that Stephen was full of grace and power and performed great miracles among the people. As is the case when someone becomes an effective leader and if they are well liked often others will step up and oppose them and try to push them out of leadership. Call it jealousy, insecurity … whatever you wish but it is the work of Satan when this happens.
But in this case the Bible tells us in v. 10 they were unable to stand up against and His wisdom and against God’s spirit which was in Him. So when you can’t find any dirt on someone what do you do? You make something up. So they did. They said hey we heard Stephen preaching and he is saying some things about Moses and about Jesus that are blasphemy. And the word started to spread. People got all stirred up; and they grabbed him and took before the court. People testified against him. Chapter 7 opens with the court asking Stephen, is this true? At that point Stephen preaches a sermon which is found in chapter 7. It is a harsh sermon; sometimes preaching is harsh and he closed by telling them that they were stiff necked and unclean people. He had missed the course on “how to win friends and influence people.”
In v. 54 the Bible tells us that when they heard this they were enraged and obviously were angry and they gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen just continued to gaze into heaven. Stephen then makes an incredible statement …. He says I see the Son of God standing in heaven. There was a standing ovation for Stephen by Jesus Himself. The people couldn’t handle it so they started shouting and charged him and drug him out of the city and they stoned him to death. This was the first martyr for the faith. Now standing there at the time that this took place was a man named Saul. The scripture tells us in v. 58 that they took Stephen’s garments and laid them at the feet of this man named Saul.
The defining moment for this first martyr, Stephen became a defining moment for Saul. Early in our ministry my wife and I did a lot of work with youth and children. There was a camp in Northeast Arkansas we would take them to each summer located in the mountains. It was beautiful. As many times as we went there I would usually make the same mistake. When you’re almost to the camp you go over a large hill and then the turn to the camp was very sudden the sign was kind of hidden, so I would miss it. Would have to go up the road a brief distance to make a U-turn. If someone else was going to drive and we were giving him directions, we would say, go over the top of the hill, travel about a half-mile and then make a U-turn and you can get to it. It was almost easier to just include the U-turn in the directions.