Raw Reflections from the Journey

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Growing by leaps and bounds, men full of The Holy Spirit, Stephen’s death

Things were going swimmingly. The Way was growing by leaps and bounds and then there was a snafu…accusation of discrimination in food distribution.

This wasn’t the first time the disciples had seen and experienced a problem in their ministry. Jesus had some pretty rough going, remember? And they’d stuck it out even when others left. They had on the job training and now the advantage of the Holy Spirit. They called a meeting and apparently agreed on an effective solution, because the next you know, they are continuing in prayer and teaching/preaching God’s word while men full of the Holy Spirit AND good sense were selected to manage the food distribution.

“and good sense” jumps off the page. It wasn’t qualification for leadership to be filled with the Holy Spirit. They needed “good sense” too. Lots to be said for that. Practical wisdom; probably a factor of maturity and experience…

The Calling Journey, Tony Stoltzfus (www.coach22.com, or www.thecallingjourney.com) emphasizes that one’s calling is shaped over time through life experiences that give us the opportunity to find our identity in Christ (as opposed to various roles and titles) and to depend wholly on God for direction, discernment, provision, etc. Many a lad and young lady set out to do great things for God, or yearn to, but lack life experience that seasons, conditions and ultimately provides the background needed for wisdom to be cultivated.

Interesting that men full of the Holy Spirit (and good sense) took food distribution seriously and did it well. What if they didn’t? The Way may have sputtered or had a lull, but rather, it continued full steam.

Then Stephen, (the same Stephen named first as one of the seven chosen to oversee the food distribution?) is targeted by jealous and mean spirited dissenters for public debate. “they tried to argue him down” from a position that many would aspire to; “..brimming with God’s grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them.”

Why can’t good stories continue uninterrupted? Why does there always have to be a villain to spoil the day? You see it in movies all the time. Peaceful and loving scenarios interrupted by tragedy or evil. In Ghost (Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze) the young couple in love is headed home from a date, smiling, laughing, loving and the man is accosted by a mugger and killed. Sudden violence and death. Why?

It’s the reality of the world in which we live, eh? And the same today as then. Evidence of an enemy at work to taint and tarnish all that is good, beautiful and righteous.

Acts 7 depicts Stephen’s demise, but notice that he doesn’t go down without making further inroads for The Way, and it’s leader. Similar to Peter in earlier chapters, he seizes the opportunity to preach to an audience by describing the history and context of the appearance of Messiah. The chronology continues for some time, and nearly lulls the reader into complacency when Stephen applies the coup de grace to the audience, seeking the same type of repentant response that Peter and the others had obtained in earlier episodes of public preaching, “And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors…”

Well, so much for a warm welcome and a polite audience. “At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed-he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side.”

Us preachers, teachers, writers and public speakers would be wise to take a lesson from this; to have eyes for God when presented with any opportunity to declare truth and to invite the unsaved to repentance. By doing so, we’ll make the most of every opportunity to present a life-saving message and truth; that God so love the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believeth in Him would not perish, but have ever-lasting life…

Better to offend for a moment by confronting others with the disturbing truth that Jesus is Savior and Lord and that they (we) are sinners doomed to damnation unless and until we repent of sin and surrender to Him, than to offend them forever by NOT telling them.

Being careful to not offend was not the way for those of The Way when it first began, and so it shouldn’t be today.

Finally, following the example of Jesus, Stephen prayed for Jesus to take him, “Master Jesus, take my life”, and then his final worlds, “Master, don’t blame them for this sin”….Sounds a lot like “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Stephen appears to have been a pretty good student, and so he didn’t miss his opportunity to live for Jesus and then to die for Him as the first Christian martyr.

No comments:

Post a Comment