Acts chapters 6-7 tells us of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Twice he is described as a man “full of faith” (6:5 & 8). I think that description is key to understanding his willingness to speak out in the face of extreme opposition.
Accused of blasphemy, the Jews stoned Stephen. However, this practice had been banned by the Romans. I have read that the stoning therefore was more a mob-like reaction than actual justice being carried out. Regardless, Stephen must have known he was facing potential death, he must have known the outrage he was causing.
People were mad, they were distress and they didn’t want to hear what Stephen had to say. But that didn’t stop him, he kept right on proclaiming Gods message until the end.
So how did he have the courage to speak….Faith.
Stephen had faith; in fact he was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” Acts 6: 5.
This faith didn’t “just happen”. He didn’t “just happen” to decide to speak out. He didn’t “just happen” to tick a few people off. He didn’t “just happen” to know the history of the Jews and Gods promises to them and he didn’t “just happen” to be full of faith.
Being “full of faith” takes daily commitment, daily practice.
In 1 Corinthians Paul teaches us to deny our selfish desires and to serve others. He tells us how he lived his life: “Therefore I run thus; not with uncertainty. Thus I fight; not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection...” 1 Cor 9:26-27 NKJ.
Further on, he tells us that he dies daily to self. He goes on to say, “Do not be deceived: ‘evil company corrupts good habits.’ Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” 1 Cor 15:33-34 NKJ
He spoke those words to the Corinthians shame… and to ours. You don’t have to be a Missionary in a Third World Country to be a witness. There are people who live next door that do not know Christ and it is to our shame.
Being “full of faith” like Stephen takes the discipline of Paul. It takes a daily commitment to “awake to righteousness”. It takes self control to not sin and that can only be done through vigilant training of our spirits and minds. We must daily choose to transform our minds into the likeness of Christ, to allow him to govern our thoughts and actions.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2a NIV
We cannot assume (you know what happens when you assume, don’t you?) that if the occasion arose that we will be “full of faith and the Holy Spirit”, that doesn’t “Just happen”.
God wants to use us, but if we do not know his words, if we do not allow ourselves to be used, he cannot.
If Stephen had not been in the habit of reading Gods word, if he had not spent time allowing his mind to be transformed, he probably would not have been the first Christian Martyr; God would have used somebody better prepared.
Not saying you want to be a martyr but I am saying that if you want to be used by God you have to submit to him. Great acts of faith do not “just happen”. You must allow him to fill your heart and mind with his will for your life instead of being a slave to fleshly desires.
You might be thinking, ‘man I would love to be full of faith but I’m scared of what God might call me to do’. That is understandable. What you must realize is God will grow you day by day. Stephen wasn’t sent to speak to the people on day 10 of his walk with God. He was sent when he was fully ready. When that time came he didn’t care about his life as much as he cared about sharing the Good News to those who were perishing without it.
As he was speaking, it is reported that people “saw his face as the face of an angel”.
His appearance is yet another sign that he was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” and that he was not worried he might die. He wasn’t about his own business, but about his Lords.
In the end he did give his life, but as I read the words describing his last moments I can’t help but be almost envious. His faith lead him to his death and his faith lead him to a place many of us may never fully understand.
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord do not charge them with this sin.” (Can you imagine praying for the ones ending your life…that really does take putting Gods will supreme) And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:59b-60
Question: Are you growing in your faith or are you content where you are? (You don't have to answer on here, but please be honest with yourself)