Read: Acts 6:8 - 7:60
Verse: Acts 6:9: “Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however…”
“Any time you dare to lead toward change, you also invite criticism, misunderstanding, and opposition. Lead anyway!” -unknown
On the surface this is a depressing chapter. It opens with a great and wise, godly man, and ends with him being stoned to death by the common people and by Jewish leaders (who were supposed to be his own people who were with him). What good can come of this story? What can we learn from Stephen, especially about the hardships we face in opposition?
- Stephen was filled with God's grace and did great things for God. This matters when we face opposition. Can we say, "I listened to God, and I sought to live gracefully, doing as best as I can to serve God and others?” If so, then we can stand in confidence and face opposition knowing it's because of my faithfulness, not because of my selfishness.
- Stephen remembered God's history and knew God's word. In this chapter, he walked through the whole story of God's people. Why does this matter? God’s story reminds us of His faithfulness. Every leader God raised up faced incredible difficulty. Joseph was falsely accused, just as Stephen was. Joseph was also threatened because of jealousy, just as Stephen was. Moses was rejected by his own people, just as Stephen was. Jesus was attacked by those who he came to save, just as Stephen was. When we see how God has led leaders in the past it teaches us:
- What we should expect when we seek to bring about the changes and carry out the mission God desires.
- That we can have confidence that God can take tragedy and opposition and do much greater things than we could've imagined in the present.
- Stephen trusted God's plan in the face of an uncertain future. He spoke boldly, dared to do great things and confronted evil things, facing the real threat of death. How was he so bold? He knew how God had worked in the past in leader’s lives, he knew how God had done great work within him, so he came to also trust God to be faithful in the future. The hard reality is that this doesn't mean everything worked out for Stephen or even worked out in the immediate present for anyone else. Stephen died! The church that was growing fast was now, all of a sudden, being dismantled and scattered. Things looked bleak! But what we don't yet see is that the man overseeing Stephen’s stoning, Saul, is for the first time hearing and seeing the power of God at work. And while Saul didn't change immediately, the seed was planted and Saul, later known as Paul, would eventually become Jesus’ greatest evangelist and spread the church across the world. In addition, the church being scattered seemed awful but it is also what led to Christians and the message of Christ being spread throughout the world.
Stephen’s life was cut short, and yet he had an incredible impact. As William Wallace said, “Every man dies but not every man truly lives". Stephen dared to change things and dared to face opposition for the sake of God. But his short story, taking up only two chapters of the Bible, has changed History. When we remember what God has done, we can have confidence in what God will do!
- Where is God leading you to be bold? Where can you dare to lead for godly change?
- Take time to write out ways you have seen God be faithful in trials in your life, in the life of others, as well as in the lives of people in Scripture. Do this as an exercise when you are discouraged or facing opposition when God is calling you to make changes in your life and serve Him and others.