Lifelines July 30, 2017

7/30/17

Stephen was a special man.  When friction arose within the church, they looked to him as one to smooth the ripples.  Feeding the widows was not a particularly flashy assignment, but it was his to do.  Without that job being covered, time would be taken away from the apostles for their dedication to the word of God.  So, seven men were selected, but these were not just any men.  They had to have good reputations and be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  Yep, sounds like Stephen.

The entire congregation agreed, and that freed the apostles to return to their focus on the word and prayer.  Division of labor always increases productivity, and as the word spread the number of disciples grew.  Even the Jewish priests got the message and obeyed the faith.  Conversions inevitably lead to conflict, and it was hovering just around the corner.  Stephen was just the right man for that moment, too.

Though his appearance in early church history is brief, he is singled out among those seven table servers as a man who not only possessed the mandated qualities, but also one who was full of faith.  His portrait becomes more complete.  He is clearly a person to be admired, respected and not to be confronted.  Challenge him if you wish, but you will not win.  A few dared.  They all lost.

Add to his admirable qualities those of being full of grace and power, and we have a very impressive list.  So, when a group of out-of-towners picked a verbal fight with him, he twisted them in knots that only served to infuriate them.  In no time, they stirred up a mob mentality with lies that led to his confrontation with the authorities.  Stephen was apparently not one to squander an opportunity.

As unwelcoming as his audience may have been, he did not back down.  History is a great teacher, and he utilized theirs to expose the terrible miscalculation they were making, again.  His message must have been an effective one, because they got the point.  They had repeatedly missed the ones sent by God, and they had done it again.  They certainly understood what he was saying, but instead of repentance they attacked him.  Stephen was dead.

We look and see a man who had a good reputation.  He was full of the Spirit (Worthy of two mentions!), wisdom, faith, grace and power.  He enters the picture in one chapter and is dead at the conclusion of the next (Acts 6 & 7).  It is a hard lesson of history.

Stephen was a Christian in every sense of the word.  All we know about his work is that he served widows and preached a single sermon that cost him his life.  Having the right stuff carries no guarantees, except that God notices and that it touches lives.  He is still touching ours.