“I seek not a long life, but a full one, like You, Lord Jesus.” —Jim Elliot (one of a team of missionaries murdered while serving in Ecuador in 1956)
Stephen undeniably lived fully and completely surrendered to Christ. As he stood before the Sanhedrin (see Acts 7), falsely accused and betrayed, God anointed him to proclaim that the gospel was for everyone, ultimately opening the way for the gospel to other peoples and cultures as described in Acts 1:8: ” ‘in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’ ” (NKJV).
Stephen didn’t stand before the religious council, refuting the false testimony brought against him. Instead, he stood in the power of the Holy Spirit, proclaiming and prophesying, calling each of them into account.
As ministers we, like Stephen, are confronted with opposition at times, in the form of distrust, criticism, false accusation and even rejection. Sometimes we forget that we are engaged in a spiritual battle of the highest order, and one that can become very taxing. When the enemy is wearing us down with warfare, it can cut to the core of our being, tempting us to shrink back and not give ourselves completely.
I’m reminded of a time, several years ago, when I was in a dark place. I was very discouraged, hopeless and angry, believing nothing I did seemed to make any difference—I felt like giving up. In the middle of my “pity party,” my close friend and assistant pastor strongly rebuked me, which shocked me out of my stupor.
“Pastor,” he told me, “what you’re saying isn’t true!” He then vividly painted a picture of the transformation that was taking place in so many people in our congregation. As he shared, I became broken and undone by how desensitized my heart had become. I will always be thankful to God for that intervention—I almost missed the miracles of God that were right in front of me!
With his final breath, Stephen breathed the love of the Father: “Forgive them,” he said (see v. 60).
Stephen saw the Lord Jesus stand as if to say, “I’m standing with you, and I’m standing to receive you” (see vv. 55-56) Nearby stood Paul—then Saul—who witnessed someone’s life possessed by the life of the Spirit. Without a doubt this must have impacted Paul’s life.
Because of Stephen’s steadfast faithfulness, lives were changed, and a world was changed! The ministry that you and I have been entrusted with is making a world of difference, too—don’t ever forget this!
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10, ESV).
By: Robb Hattem, district supervisor of Foursquare’s Northeast District
Share your journey through Acts » Comment below to share what God is showing you personally as the Foursquare family reads through Acts together this year! You can also subscribe to the weekly Foursquare Leader Prayer e-mail to receive insights on Acts from Foursquare leaders around the world.