It's Not About You - the Stoning of Stephen

Acts 6 and 7 describes the powerful story of Stephen, his life of service and martyrdom, and his love even in his death.  From start to finish Stephen’s life screams, “It’s not about me.”  Stephen was not concerned about getting respect; he was all about serving, about waiting tables and doing what was needed.  He was one of the first deacons appointed to serve the members of the church in Jerusalem.  He knew that life was not about him obtaining blessing and prosperity, but about pointing people to Jesus. 
Stephen, full of God's grace and power, performed wonders and signs among the people.  Members of the Synagogue began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.  So they stirred up the people and Stephen was seized and brought before the Sanhedrin.  Stephen boldly addressed the religious leaders, giving them a history lesson and vividly highlighting the Israelites lack of faith and rebellion against God. 
He concludes the speech In Acts 6 by saying 51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.
Where did Stephen get this kind of courage and selflessness?
Acts 6 goes on "54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God."
When Stephen looked up into heaven, he saw Jesus stretching out nail pierced hands to receive him. Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, who had given up his life for Stephen and washed the feet of sinners - was standing to receive Stephen. Every other scripture in the New Testament that talks about Jesus being at the right hand of God and at God's throne, Jesus is sitting.  But here, Christ stands in affirmation.  All the religious leaders are calling Stephen a heretic, but Jesus says, "He's mine!."  Earth was condemning and rejecting him, but heaven was commending and receiving him.
Then Stephen prayed, “Father, forgive them…” Where have you heard that? Stephen is becoming to others what Jesus had been to him.  Those who believe the gospel and behold the gospel become like the gospel.
And while from an earthly perspective it may have looked like Stephen's life was in the hands of the devil, he was actually in the hands of God, who was overruling all of these events for good. Stephen didn’t know it, but watching him die was the one who would become the greatest evangelist the world would ever know, and God was using Stephen's death to bring this young man, Saul, to faith.
You who are suffering or are in places that are difficult to obey, you need to see Jesus in those places.  Understand that he is in control. Just like he used the evil plans of Joseph’s brothers for good, just like he took Stephen’s martyrdom and used it to produce the greatest Christian missionary, Paul, God is using your suffering ultimately to achieve his purpose. 
You need to see Jesus standing in love and victory at the right hand of God.
Stephen overcame the world not by receiving “blessing,” but by dying faithfully with his eyes fixed on the risen Christ. And God used Stephen's death for more than he’d ever dreamed, for from his death came the greatest evangelist who would ever live.  God saves the world through your suffering well in the midst of death. You want to be overcome the world? Serve. Confess that it’s not about you, and submit to obedience whatever the cost!
In Him,
Pastor Boyd

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