By Margaret D. Mitchell
Week of October 9, 2022
I was so taken with the power and sequence of Stephen’s work during Bible reading recently—His ministry of serving in the Book of Acts, chapters six and seven.
Stephen, who was commissioned by the twelve apostles, helped them to focus on “prayer and preaching the word of God” during a time of expansion (Acts 6:4).
He was one of seven chosen in his church to serve in the role of waiting tables. He was honorable and full of wisdom (Acts 6:3). He was “known as a man full of faith and overflowing with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5).
Stephen was so full of supernatural power that he “performed many astonishing signs and wonders and mighty miracles among the people" during a time of quick growth and daily increase of Jesus followers (Acts 6:7-8).
Stephen was a solution to a problem, a provision for lack, a compliment for a complaint, a friend for the forgotten and a delight for secret displeasure. He poured out grace for the disgruntled and wisdom for the hungry widows (Acts 6:1).
However, Stephen also proved to be an upset to the ugly (Acts 6:9).
His pure acts of freedom made him a target of those with a counterfeit spirit. The opposition worked through a group known as Men Set Free in Acts 6:8. This group “boasted in their freedom from all moral laws” (Acts 6:8 TPT study note).
This reminds me of the same spirit in our world today.
Still, Stephen’s best defense was Holy Spirit’s wisdom in the face of this group’s attempts to provoke argument, conspire in secret, falsely accuse and outright lie against God’s humble servant.
They tried to gather people to side with them by stirring up the crowd. Then they seized Stephen, taking “him before the supreme council” (Acts 6:12).
Even then, right before their eyes, while being falsely accused, Stephen’s “face glowed as though he had the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15)!
When being questioned by the high priest, Stephen demonstrated that he understood John 8:36 TPT, which says, "So if the Son sets you free from sin, then become a true son and be unquestionably free!" He understood his purpose for being truly set free, which was to serve and worship God (Acts 7:7).
Stephen knew who he was and where he came from. He knew Jesus as Supreme High Priest and lived above reproach. Therefore, what could man do to him?
Well, we know that Stephen’s earthly outcome from his counterfeits was a stoning.
Yet, triumphant ascension, glorification, and new life awaited Stephen as Heaven broke open and he crossed into eternity (Acts 7:56).
So, what we learn from Stephen’s story is that the world lives by a different standard, which is freedom from moral law. The world sees it differently than we do, because they want their way, not God’s. They see God’s way as foolish, and they don’t understand what Stephen knew, which is that the only way to fulfill the true and greatest desires of the heart is to follow Jesus.
Stephen understood that honoring Jesus was pivotal in the process. Stephen understood that it wasn’t all about himself. He knew that it was about the continuance of building God’s Kingdom on earth. He loved God and He stood for truth.
Stephen had greater vision and integrity than those who questioned him, as he fixed his eyes on our Lord. He was aligned with God and had God’s victory working on his behalf the entire time.
Where the “high” council tried to beat Stephen down, The Most High God brought him up. Where they tried to silence him, Stephen preached a sermon in their faces that they could not refute (Acts 6:10). Where they tried to snuff out his power, Holy Spirit was in the midst, propelling Stephen before them and even opening up Heaven to receive him in glory.
What an ovation!
Have you ever felt you were the only one standing for Jesus amid false accusers, who tried to stop you? If so, did you find Holy Spirit—the very Spirit of Jesus—in the midst? Did you reach for Him to bring you up even higher? Did you fix your gaze on your Rock of Victory-Salvation?
As we enter even more a timeline of multiplicity, we must be strong and courageous like Stephen, fixing our gaze on Jesus, speaking truth to the end and praying for the mercy of others, even if disbelief and lies and rocks are being hurled in opposition.
Our gracious God of victory-salvation works to give us a good outcome no matter what others try to do. He alone is our greatest ending. And for this we can trust Him and marvel at Him, just like Stephen.
So, pray with me, if you will…
We thank You that honor is cyclical—that when we honor You, You honor us, even in the midst of hellish circumstances. Thank You that Your truth cannot be contained, that no fear of man can silence us, as we reverence You, our Most High God. Thank You for giving us the courage to speak Your truth, even in the faces of the jealously deceived. Thank You, Jesus, that, as we stand for You, You will stand for us in glory (Acts 7:55-56). Thank You, that as we experience Your overwhelming Presence, we can pray mercy on our worst afflicters, like Stephen did. And like You did, Jesus, oh Lord of my life.
In Jesus’ Mighty Name,
Margaret D. Mitchell is the Founder of God's Love at Work, a marketplace outreach purposed to share God's greatest power source - the love of Christ.