From God’s word – Stephen was faithful in life and death

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By Toni Ford

In Chapters 6 and 7 of Acts of the Apostles, we read about a man named Stephen who was faithful both in life and in death. Warren Wiersbe says, “There are two words for ‘crown’ in the New Testament: diadema, which means ‘a royal crown’ and gives us the English word ‘diadem,’ and stephanos, the “victor’s crown,” which gives us the popular name Stephen. You can inherit a diadema, but the only way to get a stephanos is to earn it.”
I have to wonder if John was thinking of Stephen when he wrote Revelation 2:10: “But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” Stephen was definitely a man who received from God the crown of life, which makes him a good example for us to follow. So, what type of man was Stephen?
Stephen a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. The body of believers were growing in number, and although this was a great thing, it also brought about “growing pains,” making it difficult for the apostles to share the Gospel as they had been called by God to do so. When meeting together, the apostles recognized that the majority of their time was being taken up in serving the needs of the people. Serving others is what God calls us to do, yet, at the same time, God has given us all gifts. Some have the gift of hospitality or serving, while others have the gift of teaching and pastoring. The apostles had been called by God to teach and share the Gospel with the people, and they realized they needed to select seven men who would be willing to serve and minister to the people. Acts 6:3 says, “And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom.” Out of the seven men listed, Stephen is the only one who had an added description by his name. Acts 6:5 says, “Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit).” As I read these lines, a few questions ran across my mind:
“How would people describe me?”
“What does it look like to be full of faith and the Holy Spirit?”
“What do I want to be known for?”
These are important questions to ponder.
Stephen was a witness to the people. Stephen’s ministry was not limited to serving the people; he also won the lost, and God used him to perform amazing miracles and signs among the people. Up to this point, it was the apostles who performed the miracles (Acts 2:43; 5:12), but now God gave His power to Stephen as well. Part of God’s plan was to use Stephen to bear witness to the leaders of Israel. As we continue to read in Acts Chapters 6 and 7, we see how Stephen’s powerful testimony would be a witness to the Jews first. His message would then go out to the Samaritans and then among the Gentiles. As a result of the miracles and witness Stephen was having among the people as he witnessed to them, some of the Jews opposed him and started a debate with Stephen. Acts 6:10 once again gives us a beautiful description of the man Stephen was: “None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.” No one could match or resist Stephen’s wisdom and power, so their only alternative was to destroy him.
Stephen faithful unto death. In Acts 7, we read Stephen’s address to all of the Jewish leaders, reviewing the history of Israel and the contributions made by their revered leaders. He goes on to tell them about the Messiah and how He had come to earth, died and risen from the grave and now ascended to heaven to be with the Father. However, their ears did not hear the truth, their hearts did not receive the truth and their necks did not bow to the truth. As a result, they proceeded to stone Stephen to death.
Not only was Stephen tried in a manner similar to that of our Lord, he also died with similar prayers on his lips. Acts 7:59-60 says, “As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ He fell to his knees shouting, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin!’ And with that, he died.” At that moment God gave Stephen the grace to forgive his murderers and to pray for them. Stephen believed the promises of God, and it was this faith that saved him!
Lord, I pray that I would not only read about Stephen but that I would seek to become more like Stephen. May the truths of who You are and the promises of Your Word be my foundation, one that I stand on in times of blessings and in hardships. Thank You for being the same – yesterday, today and forever!
If you would like me to join you in prayer, please e-mail me at tonif77@gmail.com. I would love to pray for you!

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