Keeping It Real When the Pressure’s On

31. December 2010 Acts 0

Text: Acts 7:1-53
Theme: Stephen kept it real even under the gravest pressure.
Key verses: “High Priest: ‘What do you have to say for yourself? Are these acusations accurate?’ Stephen: ‘Brothers, fathers, please listen to me. Our glorious God revealed Himself…'” (v. 1-2). “You stubborn, stiff-necked people! Sure, you are physically Jews, but you are no different from outsiders in your hearts and ears! You are just like your ancestors, constantly fighting against the Holy Spirit. Didn’t your ancestors persecute the prophets? First, they killed those prophets who predicted the coming of the Just One, and now you have betrayed and murdered the Just One Himself!” (v. 51-52a)
What God said to me: Dwayne, on this last day of 2010, as you peer over into 2011, what should you strive to do and be? How about you work at being a bit more like my servant Stephen? As you’ve already seen, he was “continually overflowing” with me. Now notice how he responded to those fiscious and evil religious rulers. They gave him an escape route. They opened the door for him to talk himself out of certain death at their hands. Their question was “What do you have to say for yourself.” Yet, he never even mentioned himself in his entire monologue–not once! Stephen’s very first words to them began with an outflow of praise to me. He said, “Our glorious God.” Praise was in his heart, so praise is exactly–and all–that tumbled out of him. He went from talking about me and my work in the Old Testament and headed straight toward my Son. And he looked them square in the eyes and talked about them and their sin. But still not a word about himself, no attempt to justify and defend himself. Dwayne, can you imagine how many people had bad-mouthed those Jewish leaders and wished they could speak their mind with them? Yet, how many Christians would have folded–and still fold–in the presence of such evil and hatred and threat? Stephen was consistent. What he believed about me and about them was exactly what he expressed in his mini-dissertation to them. Once again, as he had done for so long, Stephen continued to overflow with the grace and power of my Spirit. Stephen was like Jesus…period. And in 2011, you must strive to live consistently, passionately and humbly before me too. You must be prepared to give an answer–the correct and bold answer–to anyone who asks you about the hope that’s in you and that you are known for.
What I said to God: Lord, wow, thank you for these powerful words today. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into the life of Stephen, “a man full of faith and power.” I don’t know if I’ll ever live up to his standard and his passion and faithfulness, but with your help and by your grace and power I know I can. May my family and me live wholly devoted to you in 2011–and beyond.