Stephen was undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in the infant church. We first see him in Acts 6 being chosen as one of the very first deacons. Luke reports him as “full of faith and power” (Acts 6:8). Luke also mentions that he had to fit the recommended qualifications listed for all deacons in vs3 “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom”. Stephen stood out in the crowd at church ! But his shining moment comes in the next chapter as he preaches a great sermon yet with, at least initially, not great results.
If you have read much of the Bible you know what I mean. Chapter seven is lengthy even for Acts, being sixty verses, but is worth the read as you see Stephen had a tremendous grasp of the Scriptures and the wisdom to know just how to preach them to a crowd that he describes as “stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears” Ouch ! But he was spot on as far as his assessment and what they needed to hear ! What a bold witness and they proved his point, they stoned him !!
Maybe at times you feel like Stephen. You do the right things though others around you could care less you are. You are faithful to God but things aren’t panning out. You’re learning and trying to obey the Word of God but where is it getting you? Even people who claim to serve the Lord are causing you grief ! Stephen, despite his tremendous spiritual resume, was still a sinner and could then have struggled with those same attitudes yet his faith caused him to press on. And yet you may be thinking, yes but look where it all got him, first martyr of the new church !
How much we need to lift our sights above the carnage of this world to see the true picture. That’s what Stephen did !! In the midst of a fantastic sermon which was not recognized or appreciated in the least he said this, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” (vs.56). Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus is always said to be SITTING, but here Christ is giving Stephen a “standing O” ! Welcoming him home ! I wouldn’t be surprised if Christ’s first words upon ushering him into heaven were “WELL DONE thou good and faithful servant” !
And of course, we know that the good we do isn’t always recognized or appreciated many times right away. So we see in the very first verse of chapter 8 the first mention of Saul of Tarsus “consenting unto his (Stephen’s) death”. It had to affect him hearing a great sermon and seeing such a rotten reaction to it. Its no wonder when Saul got saved he had been “kicking against the pricks” or greatly agitated and convicted in his soul about Jesus Christ as his Messiah. And from there Saul becomes the great apostle we know as Paul !
Stephen’s shining moment was that sermon, that at first glance seemed to be the only impact made was the one on his saintly head by stones. But no way, many came to Christ through it (and by the way, still are) and think of the myriads of souls and churches started just through Paul. Never minimize the good you are doing, look up a little bit above the fray. You too can make a GOOD impact that will have long term postive effects for Christ !!