2008-09-29 - Stephen's Big Mouth
Through humility, Stephen loses his life and gains a glimpse of eternity.(Acts 7:51-60, Hebrews 11:35b)
"Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection." (Hebrews 11:35b NIV) From my perspective, Stephen fits this bill. Stephen was not a conformist. He did not tell people what they wanted to hear, but what they needed to hear. He was not afraid of pointing out people's faults.
The people didn't take Stephen's criticisms very well. It did not matter that he was right in his assessments concerning the people. They were acting like ungodly pagans. Still, the people didn't appreciate Stephen telling them: "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him - you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it." (Acts 7:51-53)
So they retaliated by stoning him. Others may have tried to make a deal, or become angry with God. During this crucial time in Stephen's life, he prayed. One of the things he asked the Lord was to forgive the people. Stephen, amidst pain and ridicule, did not want these people to suffer for their misguided actions. He had the comfort of knowing where he would spend eternity. I like to think that gave him comfort.
Stephen was not afraid to speak his mind. He felt these people needed to change their actions and attitude, and did not want them living a life a part from the Lord. His number one focus was God and others. I myself strive to be less selfish. Could I be like Stephen? Could I tell people how and why they needed to change? All said in a loving and non-judgmental tone? Realistically, I do not have the outgoing and bold personality he did. Although I have said many prayers to God, praying that we would change our ways and that our eyes would be open to the truth.
When I read about Stephen, I notice characteristics I am striving to obtain - forgiveness, boldness, and unselfishness. His story shows me how much work I still need to do in these areas. Thankfully, the Lord doesn't see situations as humans do. He sees us as a wonderful work in progress. He doesn't condemn us for not learning faster. He is not as hard on ourselves as we tend to be.
God, the next time I am faced with opposition, please remind me to look to You for wisdom and inspiration. I also ask that You reveal to me areas where I need to be more God-centered and less me-centered. Show me how to take the first step in forgiving, as Stephen did. In Jesus'name I pray, Amen.