Summary: The Lord multiplies those who are willing to follow Christ in all aspects of life even if it means personal sacrifice. Stephen spoke out against the idolatry of the people who trusted more in the gods of their own making than Jehovah. (Acts 7:40) It might
Why God Used Stephen’s Willingness to Die for What He Believed (Acts 7)
Illustration:Ministry that costs nothing, accomplishes nothing.
John Henry Jowett.
1. Jesus said, “If anyone will come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) The Lord multiplies those who are willing to follow Christ in all aspects of life even if it means personal sacrifice. Stephen spoke out against the idolatry of the people who trusted more in the gods of their own making than Jehovah. (Acts 7:40) It might not be politically correct to speak out against idolatry but anything less than total consecration to our Sovereign Lord is a form of idol worship.
Illustration:It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, "What will you give me if I release you?" "The half of my wealth," was his reply. "And if I release your children?" "Everything I possess." "And if I release your wife?" "Your Majesty, I will give myself." Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, "Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man!" With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, "I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on you- -the one who was willing to give himself for me."
2. After Stephen martyrdom the Christians were scattered abroad in a great wave of persecution that swept believers to areas that were ripe for the harvest. Soon the believers started evangelizing the areas of Judea and Samaria which quickly became the new center of the Christian missionary movement for the whole world. This fulfilled the second part of Christ’s command given in Acts 1:8. Sometimes when the church is slow to obey God’s directives He allows hardships to give Christians a wake up call. God often uses adversity in the lives of believers for His greater purposes.
Sometimes we have to become uncomfortable before we are willing to do whatever it takes to complete Christ’s great commission. Do not get discouraged when you encounter various trials since God will use you in even greater ways for the sake of the growth of His kingdom and righteousness if you will just trust Him through times of distress.
Do not grow bitter, resentful or angry at your persecutors as God can work all things together for good. (Rom. 8:28) Joseph said, “They meant it for evil, but God turned it for good for the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50:20)
3. The believers who witnessed Stephen’s death were catalyzed to preach Christ with greater boldness, conviction and power. The blood of the martyrs has always acted as a fertilizer for the growth of the church throughout history.
Allow the Lord to use you in ways that you may not think of since He always rewards great expressions of obedience, faith and love. Nothing done in His name goes unrewarded.
4. Stephen was willing to suffer even to the point of asking forgiveness for his persecutors as a measure of how much he identified with Christ on the cross.
When we completely identify ourselves with the sufferings of Christ He will multiply, bless and use our lives as a greater testimony than ever before.
5. Philip’s evangelistic tours followed
Stephen’s death as is seen in Acts 8:4-40. While in Samaria an angel commanded him to meet an Ethiopian official on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. The powerful man was used of God to reach many Africans for Christ as a result of his conversion.
Philip went on to Azotus and Caesarea as he knew that God had other ripe fields waiting for the good news of forgiveness found in Christ.
Allow the Lord to use you with a wide diversity of people who you may not normally associate with.
6. Stephen’s body was laid at the feet of Saul who was seen as one of the chief persecutors of Christians. God used this event in Saul’s life to prepare him for a dramatic conversion along the road to Damascus.
Paul learned that God had other plans for him that were greater than his own.
Allow the Lord to change whatever plans you might have as you follow the example of great men like Stephen.
7. God used Stephen to mobilize Peter’s missionary tour found in Acts 9:32-11:18.
Many of the Jews, up to the stoning of Stephen, were complacently waiting for people to come to Jerusalem to ask them questions about the Lord Jesus.
Realize that God may use adversity to alter your schedule and plans for His purposes.
8. The church of Antioch in Syria became a missionary sending church as a result of the Christians who fled there for refuge follow the persecution in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:19)