He is the first one among the seven. The 11 apostles and Matthias appointed him to take good care of the widows. That man is full of the Spirit, faith and power. He did great wonders and miracles after the apostles prayed and laid their hands to him.
He grew in wisdom and Spirit that no one even the philosophers win over him in dispute. So they persuaded men to testify, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.” The people got angry and they brought him in Council. But instead of depending himself in false accusation, he started preaching, perhaps the longest speech in the book of Acts.
He was blessed to see the open Heaven and saw Jesus standing in the right of His Father yet no one believes on him. They dragged him outside the city and stoned him. Upon stoning he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” that was his last word before he fell asleep.
That man possessed the titled, “the first martyr”, and his name is Stephen.
When my pastor asked me to speak about selflessness in biographical sermon, Stephen is the second person I thought next to Jesus. As far as I understand selflessness it is an act of putting someone first before you. Nevertheless Jesus defined it as, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) I am confident that Stephen can teach us three things on this matter.
Selfless in sharing Christ.
I read a story about a girl and how her last bucket list took her life. The last thing she wanted to do is to save a life. When her friend is about to hit by a car she pushed her away and face herself in danger. Eventually she died. I really admire that girl and her boldness. The good news is saving soul is not literary saving someone in rushing car, it is about sharing Jesus.
When Stephen brought in the Sanhedrin he excuse not himself in the accusation, he took the opportunity on preaching the Gospel. The Bible says “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:23) Doing “All” takes a lot of sacrifices. The question is, are we sacrificing everything about ourselves for the sake of Gospel?
According to the survey 10 percent of the Christian in our churches today has actively participating in fulfilling the Great Commission. Where’s the 90 percent? They maybe too focused in worship team, dancing ministry, intercessory, publishing, multi-media ministries and so many activities inside the church. There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes we neglect that regardless of our ministries we are called, each one of us to bring souls at Jesus’ feet.
John Wesley said, “You have one business on earth to save souls.” Haven’t we realize that the ultimate purpose of our Devotion life, Bible studies, Worship service is to be filled by the Spirit so we may go out and preach the Gospel? We are saved to share Salvation to others.
Selfless in praying for others.
I want you to pause on reading and think of prayer requests. Done? Let me guess the prayer concern is for you isn’t it? Usually in any prayer we put our concerns first than others. We are thinking, what are my needs? Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is incomplete. Remember when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane? He prayed for himself, Stephen also in the story however the prayer doesn’t end with “me” and “my”, they included others.
In our church, we write our prayer concerns and put it on tithes and offering envelop. We, the core leaders are responsible for praying for that. One time there is a stranger request pleading like, “Pray for World peace.” Well honestly my initial reaction was, “Seriously? It’s too broad bro!” But then when I began to intensely pray for different part of the globe especially for Palestine and Israel war, my tears keep flowing. Haven’t you notice that you get stronger after praying for others more than when others prayed for you? The ultimate of purpose of intercession is to bring other’s needs.
Our prayer is a seed. Psalms 126:5 says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” When Stephen cried out, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” I know what he is doing, he is opening stubborn hearts in prayer. Selflessness is after your feet get tired on mission field, you still have to bend your knees and start on battling the souls in prayer. It will never put in vain I tell you, Stephen gained Saul because of that prayer, though he is accountable for the martyr’s death, he later became one of the effective ministers in history who wrote most of the book in New Testament.
Selfless in giving forgiveness.
Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to give to someone. A selfish person will never give this because of their hurt and offense. But as I said earlier he did, he prayed, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” For me what makes Stephen a martyr is not his death but his act of praying and forgiving the people who stoned him till he died.
Six years ago my father disowned me as his daughter because of attending Christian service, he actually asked me to leave our house but it does not happen because of my mom. I am emotionally wounded in that event. Plus, I always had fights with my sisters; in my little flaws they blame the church. I experienced working in the market in order to go outside and attend Youth Service. I also heard unpleasant conversation from my neighborhood. What I have learned? If you don’t face adversary with faith, you will face it with bitterness. I obeyed what Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
The most crucial about exercising unconditional love is we’re giving others the right to hurt us. The changes don’t follow instantly. There are moments of tiredness in my prayer. But today I had a good relationship with my family and looking forward to win their souls as the prayer goes on.
A pastor in America encouraged his congregation to apply that commandment, he asked, “How many of you prayed for our missionaries being hostage in Iraq? Most of them proudly raised their hand. Then he asked again, “How many of you have prayed for Iraqis?” and their hands started to fall off. Forgiveness is not just for those who deserve it; give it freely because He gave that to all.
Jesus wants us to die not on the same woods and nails or the same ground where Stephen was stoned, He is inviting us to die on our selflessness.