Everyone knows about Paul; his deep faith, his sacrifices for the Gospel, and his radical works. This week we learn about the first Christian martyr and ultimate relentless Christian, Stephen; the one who first inspired Paul’s faith. But what does that mean, relentless Christian?
Stephen - the first Christian martyr
Stephen was one of the chosen seven from Acts 6, a reputable, full of the Spirit and wise man. Luke begins Acts 7 recalling how Stephen was full of God’s grace and power, performing signs and wonders (Stephen is actually the first mentioned non-apostle to be performing signs and wonders). In this passage, we see Stephen being opposed and, with ill intent, falsely accused. But being a man of the Spirit, he responds with wisdom and grace (the Greek word for Wisdom is mentioned in the book of Acts four times and two of the mentions are used to describe Stephen). We know this is only possible as he is a man filled with the Spirit.
In Acts 7, Stephen begins to preach to his accusers with more than a couple of considerations:
In defense of his faith.
Capturing the interest of the Jewish crowd by mentioning Abraham, Solomon which was two of the Jews’ favourite things: history and scripture
Exposing them as sinners.
Presenting a Christ-exalting message, proclaiming that Christ is the Messiah and the ultimate temple in which people may encounter God (Hebrews 9:11).
These are bold words for the Sanhedrin, as the essential message goes against what Jewish society believed about encountering God. To no surprise, these people became absolutely outraged by Stephen’s speech. Knowing this, Stephen still preached the Christ-exalting message and in the last moments of his life, he prays for himself, the people stoning him and the onlookers.
The impact of our actions
Stephen may have not fully known the impact of his actions. With such great opposition, he probably didn’t expect to get the message through to anybody, but now we can see the Christ-exalting impact that he had. Paul (then Saul) stood among the witnesses of the stoning. Who would have known that just a few chapters later Saul would give his life to Christ and become one of the greatest Christians in the Bible (Acts 22:20).
Like Stephen, we may never know the impact we could have in trying to exalt Christ in our lives. It’s possible no one will ever know that impact (God’s lil’ secret), but that should never stop us from sharing the Christ-exalting message and living Christ-exalting lives. Never stopping in trying to live God-exalting lives makes us relentless Christians.
Dear Lord God,
We thank you for showing us an example. Through Stephen, of what it means to relentless in our faith. We pray that we may adopt the same hunger to exalt Christ, and the willingness to surrender everything to You.
In Your powerful and graceful name we pray,