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Stephen the Martyr: The Humble World-Changer
Stephen Enters the Book of Acts
Stephen is one of my favorite people in the Bible. My list of favorite people and events continually grows. There is so much to take from each of them. So many of the stories are about courage, and the belief in something greater than the individual. What we have is, in fact, greater than any of us. It is worth dying for. The struggles that we must endure on earth serve a purpose. They set an example to others and they strengthen us and we will be rewarded for it. Stephen knew that. Stephen had a solid reputation before he was ever mentioned in scripture. The reason his name was even brought up is because he had already made a name for himself through his selfless service and devotion to Jesus.
In chapter 6 of the Book of Acts, we see the original Disciples of Jesus discussing issues and problems. They were trying to balance their duties given to them specifically by Jesus, and serving the people of Jerusalem. They realized their flock had grown larger than they could handle. They were falling short, because they were never meant to do it alone. The growth of the faith and the needs of the people allowed others to step out and step up into service for Jesus and His people. Stephen was among the first 7 chosen to assist the Disciples in caring for the flock. The need was to feed the widows of the community. Stephen was chosen specifically because he was filled with the Holy Spirit, was full of faith, and was a man of good reputation. Stephen left to attend to his duties. Acts 6:8, “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.” (NASB).
The First Martyr
Have you ever felt like just as you get going or you are finally doing good someone is there to tear you down? Why can’t people be happy with your success? The Gospel was spreading and there were people converting every day. Stephen was part of that movement. He was part of something great. Just like us, though, there were people that were not happy with what he was saying and doing. Stephen was on a mission though. He saw beyond this world. He was set apart, and everyone could tell, whether they liked him or not they could tell he was different. They killed him because of that. He didn’t care though. He didn’t let this world dictate who he was, or how he was supposed to act. He died, but he changed the world when he did. Paul or Saul at the time, the author of over half of the New Testament was affected by Stephen’s death. Paul’s journey to who he became was initiated with Stephen’s death. All the believers in Jerusalem scattered after his death, and spread the Gospel to the known world. Christianity was contained to Jerusalem until Stephen died, then it spread to a point that it would never be contained again.
Launch Point Jerusalem
Stephen was murdered in Jerusalem. Afterwards, all the believers fled the city and the spread of Christianity began.
There are many aspects we can take from Stephen’s life and passage in the Bible, but I want to focus on Stephen understanding his role. Stephen changed the world and was not the center stage character in the bible or even in the Book of Acts. Stephen only appears in the Book of Acts and it is for a few verses, yet his impact on the world today is immeasurable. I believe it is because of what was written about him in Acts 6:5, “a man full of faith”. We relate that part to the fact that he was martyred for Christ and think that is what it’s about. It may very well be, but I believe there is more. Stephen was so full of faith that he knew his recognition came from God not man. He was willing to serve the widows of the community because that is what was needed of him. I, by no means want to denounce the importance of that job, but there’s nothing about that position that sounds glorious to man. When we look at serving in ministry we first see all the spotlight jobs like evangelists, pastors and worship teams. Popularity and fame come to mind. We know all those men and women on TV. Feeding elderly, widowed women wouldn’t fit that image. It is easy to miss the men and women behind the scenes that are doing just as much if not more for the Kingdom, but we don’t know their name. Stephen, however, full of faith, wasn’t worried about what it looked like to anyone else but Jesus. Are we ok with doing the job Jesus asks of us even if we are faceless and nameless to those we serve on earth? Is it enough that our reward waits in Heaven, and we may never receive a thank you, much less fame? Are you willing to be a “Stephen”, and change the world even if it costs your life?
Matthew 6:2-4, “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you,” (NASB).
Will You Answer the Call?
Stephen did what was asked of him. He humbled himself, and God exalted him. His work is mostly unknown to men, but he changed the world. Here are the questions I ask myself, and I am asking you. Do you humble yourself before God and man? Are you willing to do whatever is asked of you to serve the kingdom even if it doesn’t look glamorous? Are you willing to be a world-changer and never be known except by God? I pray that every one of you are world-changers like Stephen. I pray that every one of you know and understand your purpose, and that you play a role in His Kingdom. We need you to accomplish His mission. Whether we ever know each other’s name or not; I pray you find your purpose and live that purpose out. I know that if you do, then you will change the world, even if it is for just one person. Jesus will know, and that person will know, and you will be rewarded from our Father. God Bless you all and your families.
1 Thessalonians 2:4, “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts,” (NASB).