Some of my favorite stories in all the Bible are those about Steven (Acts 6-8). I’d like to tell you one of those stories.
We start in Acts 6. It’s the beginning of the chapter and the Greeks are complaining because the physical needs of their widows were not being met (6:1). So the disciples prayerfully went out to find more disciples to meet this physical need. They found and chose an additional group of disciples, one of which was Stephen (6:5). With the physical and spiritual needs of the Greek people met, the “word of God increased” and many were saved in Jerusalem.
As a new disciple, Stephen was full of “faith and power” (6:8). His ministry resulted in many “wonders and miracles” through the power of God in his life. But of course, opposition arose because of the many miracles and men came out from the synagogue to dispute with Stephen. So, they disputed with him, but they couldn’t deny his wisdom. Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit! He must have frustrated them so!
Since they couldn’t deny the power with which Stephen spoke, or the power of the Holy Spirit in his life, they found men to lie about Stephen and to stir up trouble (6:12). These men brought him before the High Priest and the council. The High Priest was Caiaphas (the same man who sat over Jesus’ trial). The men falsely accused him before the council, but they also spoke truth when the said that Stephen reported that their practices and customs would change when they began to follow Jesus.
What’s so exciting here is that in the midst of this trial, Stephen is sitting silently with his face shining like that of an angel (6:15). In the midst of the scrutiny, he just glows – showing that his power comes from within and therefore isn’t going to be diminished by these dark circumstances and surroundings. Finally, Stephen is asked to respond (7:1). And respond, he does! When he speaks, all he does is start from the beginning, telling about the history of the Jews and the truth of God’s plan for them, which is fulfilled in Jesus Himself. What a story that is!
Now, the end of Acts 7 is another amazing story about Stephen, so I’ll save that for another time. But let me tell you why I am telling you this story. It’s the same reason every time. There are amazing lessons in this story for us.
First of all, God expects us to be all things for all people (I Corinthian 9:22). That means that He can call us to meet all kids of needs for others, not just their spiritual needs, but their physical as well. If we become aware of a need, it’s because God wants us to do something. If we can’t fix a situation, there’s always something we can do.
Secondly, Stephen’s power and abilities came from the power of the Holy Spirit in his life. Stephen was opposed because he was living and speaking the truth of Christ. If we have no opposition in our life and those around us who don’t know Christ find no fault with our lives – we’re likely not living the truth of Christ. When we live and speak the truth of Christ, the devil is going to try to stop us, as he tried to stop Stephen. The ways of Christ are not of this world … remember we are called to be a peculiar people zealous of good works (Titus 2:14). That is not the way this world works.
Thirdly, Stephen spoke with wisdom from the Holy Spirit. In Luke 12:11-12, Jesus promises us that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, will give us words to say when we know not what to say. When we fill our minds and hearts with God’s Word, and prayerfully speak, the Comforter will give us what we need. Jesus is always the answer and He always has the answer. Our words should reflect the time we spend in God’s word, and the time spent in prayer.
Fourthly, Stephen glowed because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in His life. How amazing that the Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts when we accept Jesus Christ. We carry Him around with us all day – wherever we go. What an amazing gift. Something that always amazes me is that in the Old Testament times the Holy Spirit came and spent time with people, but then moved on. The Holy Spirit never resided inside an individual. We read about Moses spending time on the mountain with God and returning with a glow that eventually faded. Have you ever considered that the same power that caused Moses to glow lives inside your heart? We should all be glowing!
Lastly, when Stephen was asked to speak and to respond to accusations, all he did was answer with the scriptures. We’re told that if we speak scripture, the devil will flee. When Jesus was on the Mount, being tempted by the devil, He quoted scripture and the devil left (Matthew 4). Stephen knew that all he had to do to defend himself was speak the Words of the Lord – which he did. And that is all we must ever do. When accusations come knocking, answer them with the Word of God. As Stephen did, live closely to the Word of God and let it be the defense for your life.
Stephen is one of my favorite disciples because his life shows me the power of God that is available in my life. Who is your favorite? Why?