May 26, 2107
In the book of Acts, the first martyr to the Christian faith, Stephen, is introduced explaining the good news of Jesus to a very hostile crowd. At first they listened to him. Indeed, it’s reported that he had the “face of an angel” and they stood still and paid attention. His appearance and speech were attractive and captivating.
Stephen could have won the crowd over had he told them what they wanted to hear or simply “diluted” the story about Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and divinity. But he did not speak cautiously and with respect to the power of those listening or the danger of the mob at hand. He spoke boldly, fearlessly and honestly about what he knew was true. He could not bring himself to deny His Savior. And, as you know, the mob went wild; they “gnashed their teeth, threw dirt in the air, covered their ears and ran to him as one demanding that he pelted with stone until he was dead. Stephen was murdered for speaking of God’s love.
Stephen knew the dangers of speaking for Jesus Christ but he humbly accepted it rather than deny the Savior of his soul. Speaking the truth is often dangerous and even today could result in a man/woman being killed in many parts of the world.
I wonder how many of us who stand behind a pulpit, or lead a Christian camp, or claim to be a follower of Christ, demur from speaking the truth if we think it will cause someone we respect to think less of us. I am not talking about politics or cultural issues, I am referring to discussing Christ’s death on the cross and His call to discipleship! Some of the preaching and teaching I have witnessed from mega-churches to small chapels seems to be more of the “feel-good” Christianity than the religious tone that Paul, Peter, John and Stephen expounded. These men suffered for the truth. I won’t be executed for speaking the truth in the USA—nor would any other pastor. But I might be ignored or fail to attract a large crowd on Sundays——or at my camp—if I continuously spoke of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Stephen was an utter failure as a deacon and preacher in the eyes of the world. His first message was his last. But he was faithful to the call.
God has not ordained us to to be successful, but like Stephen, faithful.