“Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” The proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit and . . . .”
Acts 6:3-5, NIV
Faith is the ability to not just believe in the existence of God, but also be able to recognise the voice of the One in whom you have believed and to so trust in Him that when He shows you the way to go, you will take action and follow Him. Hebrews 11 lists out a veritable catalogue of men and women whose faith led them to do mighty acts for the Lord. They weren’t the sort of people who sat in their armchair ‘full of faith’ but actually did nothing!
A person full of faith is recognisably under the authority of their commanding officer (Jesus) and gladly obeys Him. Indeed, Hebrews 11:7 tells us that it was “in holy fear” that Noah exercised his faith and built the ark. He had no intention of failing in his obedience!
Stephen was a man like Noah! He was one of seven men who were chosen to act as administrators in the developing church fellowship. Even though his role was administrative, it was still essential to be full of the Spirit and holy determination – the primary requisite of anyone who is given permission to exercise responsibility over others in the church. Without the Spirit they would be operating in the flesh and doing what seemed to be good to them alone, and not good to the Holy Spirit also.
The Holy Spirit gave Stephen the necessary wisdom, and he exercised his faith with courage, not being afraid to use his gifting and power to do “great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). When opposition arose, it was not surprising that Stephen was picked out for close attention by the religious authorities – including a young man called Saul! Stephen became the first Christian martyr, in spite of the fact that even the members of the Sanhedrin recognised that he was an exceptional man and “they saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:18). “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him” (Acts 8:3).
Today we are hearing of more and more believers in the Middle East who are once again being made to walk the same walk that Stephen walked and become martyrs for their faith. For the Body of Christ worldwide, this is a time when we need to be putting our arms of love around all those who are suffering for the Gospel and lift them up to the throne of grace in prayer. When and where there are those who, because of their faith, pay the ultimate price, we need to minister in the best way we know how to those who are mourning and grieving. These are very challenging days.
Prayer: Thank You for the amazing example of faith that Stephen and all the martyrs of history have been. Help me, Lord, to always walk the path of faith, wherever it may lead. Help me to play my part and, through intercession, to stand with the families of all those who are called on to serve you through personal sacrifice. In Jesus’s name. Amen.