Things take a rough turn for the early church. Instead of fading out, as people expected, believers were rapidly increasing as the movement grew and people were not pleased. Stephen is arrested and brought before the high council and instead of backing down in fear to protect himself, he uses the opportunity to proclaim God’s story.
We have a lot to learn from Steven. He’s brave, bold, attuned to the Holy Spirit and directly mimics Jesus’ character, right down to the moment he’s murdered.
I love this part:
“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”
Usually when the Bible talks about this imagery it says that Jesus is seated next to God. The commentary in my Bible notes that the position of standing indicated a judge declaring judgment on someone back then. But I’ve always read it like Jesus was standing up for Stephen, with Stephen, as he spoke out and became the first martyr in the church.
There’s a lot to take away from these chapters, but the theme that grabbed me today is how important it is to know God’s story. If you’re here reading this blog, I know you agree. I just love how God uses both Stephen and Philip to have amazing encounters with the Holy Spirit and advance the message of the gospel through his story.
I want to be like Philip, chasing down people in response to the Holy Spirit, able to recognize a prophecy of Jesus in the Old Testament. I want to be like Stephen, able to retell the history of God’s relationship with Israel in one, long speech (mid-year resolution: memorize chapter 7). But also, I want to be able to retell my history with God. I remember the first time someone asked me to share my story (popularly referred to as one’s ‘testimony’ in the Christian crowd) and I awkwardly rattled off different Christian camps and mission trips I had been on growing up.
“No”, they said, “when did God’s grace show up in your life and what happened because of that?”
Would you be able to tell God’s story if someone asked? Would you be able to tell your story? Take time today to run through them in your head.
Also, pause right now and pray for Christians all over the world who face deathly persecution every day to follow God, advance the gospel and get the story into people’s hands.