You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Stephen’ tag.

“Then the Spirit of God came upon Zachariah….He stood before the people and said….Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands?  But they plotted against him and by order of the king they stoned him…….said as he lay dying, ‘May the Lord see this and call you to account'”   2 Chronicles 24:20,21,22

“When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth…..all rushed at him dragged him out of the city and began to stone him…..Then he fell on his knees and cried out ‘Lord do not hold this sin against them'”  Acts 7:54, 58, 60

Let me start this post with the comment that I in no way shape or form mean this post to be any comment of judgement on the act of Zachariah.  He was a man of God called to testify to the people of Judah for which he paid with his life.  He was faithful to the end and, as such, should be greatly admired.

Zachariah lived during a time when the people of Israel were split into two kingdoms; the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.  Unfortunately for both kingdoms, some of their kings strayed from following the Word of God, unlike what King David had done.  Joash was one of those evil kings.  There was a mighty prophet during the time of Joash named Jehoiada.  While Jehoiada was alive, he was able to lead King Joash to follow in the ways of God.  Together, but mainly at Jehoiada’s leading, the temple was repaired.  Also, all the other temples to Baal and other gods were torn down.  However, when Jehoiada died, King Joash quickly forsook the Lord and started to worship other, local gods.  So the Spirit of God entered into Zachariah, Jehoiada’s son.  God is not one to leave his people leaderless when it comes to the desires of God.  God longs not to punish, but to lead to repentance and a right relationship.  But instead of repenting, King Joash orders Zachariah stoned to death.  As the sentence is being carried out, Zachariah calls upon the Lord to take note of the evil nature of those killing him and wants them to be called to account.

Now jump forward a little over 300 years and you come to the time of Acts.  In Our Heavenly Father’s perfect plan and timing, Jesus Christ has come to earth, lived, preached, healed, died for our sins and has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.  We are told that Stephen is among the first of the believers to be added to the church.  He was a person filled with God’s grace and power in that he preached boldly and did miraculous signs in front of the people.  Stephen was seized by the Jewish leadership out of fear and jealously that Stephen was preaching in the name of Jesus Christ.  Stephen gives an impassioned defense of the Gospel.  But the Jewish leaders thought they had taken care of the problem when they crucified Jesus, so to have some still speaking so passionately and bringing people to Christ was more than they could stand.  They therefore order Stephen stoned.  Yet Stephen does not ask for deliverance, he does not ask for vengeance on those killing him.  No, Stephen asks God to forgive them.

Why the difference in these two absolutely Godly men?  I believe it boils down to two things; first, is  Jesus Christ and second is the Holy Spirit the resides in the heart of believers and testifies concerning Jesus Christ.  Jesus himself, in the Gospel of Matthew declares that many prophets had longed to see what the people of Jesus time were seeing, that is Jesus Christ, and they did not see Him.  You see Zachariah did not have the opportunity, during his time, to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Zachariah did not have the Pentecost experience.  Steven did.  So  because of the teaching and example  of Jesus Christ to love your enemies as well as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit with Stephen, he was able to ask God to forgive his executioners.

So what is the lesson for you and I, Dear Sisters and Brothers?  To be born again, we proclaim that we believe in Jesus Christ, that He is the Only Son of God.  We proclaim that He died for our sins and was raised again.  We understand that through the Grace of Our Heavenly Father the Holy Spirit has been given to us to live in our hearts to teach us the real and total truth of Love.  We believe that we have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Thus, having knowledge of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, let us strive to be like Stephen.  When adversity strikes, when the world comes up against us, when we are reviled and persecuted for our beliefs, let us not lash out in contempt, let us not call out to Our Heavenly Father to damn or condemn.  With and in the example of Jesus Christ and His Love, let us seek to forgive those against us. Let us be a beacon of mercy and light.  We are told that Stephen, even in the midst of his despair looked up and saw the Glory of our Heavenly Father as well as Jesus Christ standing at His Right Hand.  Let us likewise keep our gaze focused on Jesus Christ knowing that as we do so we will receive the strength by the Holy Spirit to become more like Him.  Though understand this, becoming more like Christ is not based on our own righteousness but starts and ends with Christ; who makes all the difference.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we give thanks for the power that we are able to receive through the salvation of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Help us to use that power in love and forgiveness to all, especially those who would persecute and act against us.  That in so doing we may prove to be an example that would help to lead the lost to You and Praise Your most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

“Who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them……And to one he gave five talents…and traded with them and made another five talents……but the one who had received one went and dug in the ground and hid his lord’s money.”  Matthew 25: 14-18 (exerts)

“And Stephen, full of faith and power did great wonders and signs among the people.”  Acts 6:8

It is one thing to give illustrations, it is another thing to have a living example; thanks to Jesus Christ, we have both.  For Jesus taught the people using parables; stories.  He told several in an attempt to illustrate, to get across with common language and circumstances, that which was and is virtually incomprehensible; what the kingdom of heaven is like.  One of the stories that is referenced above concerns a rich man leaving his talents (money) with his servants while he is away.  Two of the servants are wise and take what has been given to them and invest it to get more.  One fearful servant does nothing to try to gain anything but buries the talent in the ground.  The two servants that used the talents to get more are called wise.  The one servant who does not use the money but buries it is called lazy and foolish.

It’s a good story but when would we ever see it happen in reality?  Enter Stephen.  Scripture tells us that Stephen was a follower of Jesus Christ.  We know that Stephen is not one of the original twelve but at some point, either hearing Jesus himself, or hearing the disciples preach, he became a believer.  We are told that Stephen was known for having wisdom and being full of the Holy Spirit.  Yet Stephen could have decided to keep those talents and their use to himself, hiding them, burying them you might say instead of sharing them.  Instead Stephen is chosen and accepts serving in the new church concerning the meeting of daily needs.  In discharging his duties, Stephen is so talented that many after hearing him, are repenting and becoming members of the church.  Stephen is multiplying His Master’s possessions.  When Stephen’s enemies can not find any weakness in his faith or his preaching about Jesus Christ, they revert to telling lies about him to get him in trouble.  Stephen is brought before the council to be tried.  Again, Stephen does renege on his faith or shirk his responsibility to speak the truth; far from it.  Instead through the divine inspiration of Holy Spirit; starting with Abraham, Stephen gives one of the most thorough, impassioned explanations and defenses of Jesus Christ as the One True Messiah.

“Now wait a second!”, a skeptical person might say.  “You know what Stephen got in return for his good deeds and his impassioned defense of Jesus Christ!?  He didn’t get a thank you wise and trusted servant.  No, he got smashed in the head with rocks as the crowd stoned him to death!”, the skeptic would finish.  And from the world’s point of view, Stephen was foolish to be so bold because it meant his death.  Yet here’s the thing, Stephen didn’t have a world view.  Stephen had a view of the kingdom.  As they were picking up stones preparing to kill Stephen, he looked up into heaven and saw Jesus Christ at the Right Hand of the Father.  He forgave the crowd and Jesus excepted Stephen’s spirit into heaven.  One can imagine Jesus receiving Stephen with those words:  Well done good and faithful servant.

So what are we to make of this?  What does this story have to do with us?  Much!  For we have the benefit of both the parable that Jesus tells and real life example in action of Stephen.  You and I call ourselves servants of Our Heavenly Father.  As servants, we have been given “talents” by Our Heavenly Father.  Now these “talents” might be actual financial resources but they may also be talents in leadership, fellowship, musical, preaching, teaching and on and on.  Our Heavenly Father does not want us to bury those talents, that is not use them either out of fear or fatigue or neglect.  He wants us to invest our talents doing wonderful acts for His Creation.  Through people seeing what we do in love, we can shine His light in their hearts melting the coldness of this world and replacing it with the Love of His World.  If you and I aren’t careful where we train our vision, we may end up seeing the world, seeing the envy, spite and hate some, perhaps many will have for us.  In the world’s view we may become tempted to withdraw and bury our talents for another day.  But, like Stephen, we can focus our view on Jesus Christ and have a heavenly view; Our Heavenly Father will not forsake us but will show us His beauty, power, mercy, grace and most of all, love, which will sustain us through all trials whatever they might be.

Should we find our talents deeply buried; we can call upon the shovel which is the Holy Spirit to dig into our hearts and retrieve those God Given talents so that we may use them for His Kingdom.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, thank You that You have provided learning and real life examples of how we can carry out that learning.  Help us to be like Stephen, using the talents You have so richly bestowed upon us, to help our fellow person and further Your Kingdom.  Forgive us when we become fearful allowing the world view to tempt us to bury our God Given talents away.  Pour out Your Holy spirit that we might be bold in using our talents we pray.  That our lives would be lived in glory and praise to You.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

%d bloggers like this: