Today, we spotlight the man named Stephen. His story only spans two chapters in Acts, but his life served as an example of all we can and should be as Christians, and his death, a catalyst for the Gospel being spread throughout all of the world!
Luke described Stephen as a man "full of faith and the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5), "full of God's grace and power" , and said that he "did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people" (Acts 6:8). Even with all of these attributes, Stephen was a humble man. He is described almost on par with the descriptions of the Apostles, yet took the position of serving and ministering to the neglected widows.
The phrase, "full of the Holy Spirit", indicates that Stephen had given himself over completely to following Christ. Because of that surrender, the power of God manifest on him continuously. Being full of God’s favor (Grace) he and able to have the Holy Spirit work through him in the form of miracles and signs.
Now, we either operate in the Spirit (like Stephen exemplifies), or we operate in the flesh. because these two natures (spirit and Flesh) are both in constant contention (Galatians 5:17). We cannot operate in both simultaneously.
In these chapters Luke wonderfully encapsulates the very essence of what we as believers face in our lives. When we make a choice to surrender and follow Jesus troubles will inevitably arise. In Stephen’s case it was in the form of religious people conspiring and leveling false accusations against Stephen.
In our lives it is inevitable that people will come against us. Be it atheists arguing the existence of God, or even religious people in our churches who want to argue doctrine, or those jealous of our walk or calling who try to tear us down. When confronted by these types of people, if we are not operating in the Spirit, the flesh will gladly take over. When we operate in the flesh we tend to respond to the accusers in a state of pride, anger or self-righteousness. How many times have you witnessed those who “evangelize” or who are “apologists” argue with their accusers, not in an effort to win their souls, but to win the battle. Battling with the absence of the Holy Spirit and grace of God leads to our own faulty wisdom being put before the perfect wisdom of God. The end result is usually the accuser being pushed farther from God and more entrenched in their own delusional and wicked behaviors. Thus, we become a stumbling block at that point.
Stephen’s example shows us how operating in grace and surrender allows God to speak and accomplish his goals rather than our own agendas. During his speech to the Sanhedrin , his accusers looked “Intently at Stephen and saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). The conviction and power of the Holy Spirit fell so hard, that they became enraged and “gnashed their teeth at him” (Acts 7:54). The best thing about this is that even in the midst of leveling charges against the religious people, his operation in the Spirit was evident. Stephen was allowed to see and verbalize that God had allowed him to “look up to Heaven and see the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55).
Now think of the last time you were confronted, persecuted or falsely accused. How did you respond? Did you respond by being full of the Spirit and letting God fight the battle, or were you full of something else?
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