Christians today often get caught up in passing the buck. I have heard many times over, phrases like, “We served our time, now it's someone else's turn.” I am not talking about situations where the ministry torch in one area is being passed to a new generation so the old generation can move into another area. The cases I am referring to are when members of ministry decide its time to “retire”. They decide that their dues have been paid and it's time to sit in their proverbial rocking chairs, biding time until the second coming or physical death.
While we will delve into the issues of here-and-now ministry in the weeks to come, this week we will be asking “What if?” What if the first church leaders, the forefathers of ministry, if you will, got burned out? What would our world look like today if the apostles did anything other than minister up to their dying breath? Though we cannot know for sure, we can take a look at some great examples of ministry that did not get burned out and develop some guesses as to what may have happened if these men chose to pass the buck.
Today we are going to take a look at Stephen, the martyr. Acts 6:8-10 tells us who Stephen was. He was a man of God, capable of doing great and miraculous works in Jesus name. Stephen was causing such a ruckus that other “men of God” became angry and opposed Stephen by speaking false witness against him.
All of Acts chapter 7 details Stephens impeccable understanding of who God was and is and is to come. His monologue to the Sanhedrin clearly lays out God’s plan and, finally, in chapter 7, verses 48-53, Stephen calls the men out for what they truly are, “stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears.”
Before Stephen spoke these words he had to have an idea of how things might turn out. In fact, in those verses he points out that these men betrayed and murdered The Righteous One. Yet, despite this knowledge, despite knowing that these words would not go over well, Stephen refused to allow the enemy to burn and destroy his desire to do God’s will.
What if Stephen hadn’t let His light shine through during this experience? What would have been different? I believe that had Stephen taken the easy way out a lot would have changed. First off, what impact would he have in the church? Would he still have the power to perform great and miraculous things in Christ’s name? I believe his testimony among believers would be quite damaged. Second, and maybe most important, what would have come of Paul? Acts 8:1 says that Paul approved of Stephen’s death, yet it's not much later that he has his own experience with heaven. Is it possible that Stephen’s testimony of Heaven is exactly what Paul’s heart needed in order to be receptive to his own experience? Without Stephen choosing to push forward despite the rising flames and pressure from the world around him I do not believe that Paul would have been able to answer Jesus by name on the Damascus road. I do not believe that the seed of understanding would have been planted. If Saul never had opportunity to become Paul, where would the church be today? What would be the state of gentiles? Stephen’s passion until the very end played an important purpose in the church and--by extension--in our personal relationships with Christ.
Father God, help us this week to look at the examples of Godly men and women who fought until their dying breaths to spread the good news. Give us insight into how much they impact our world even today and how we are capable of affecting future generations in much the same way. Give us a passion to do everything we do unto you Lord for all of our days. In Jesus name we ask these things, Amen.
Devotional written by Lindsey.