6 Lessons from the Life of Stephen

Stephen was one of the most prominent leaders of the early church and the first martyr. However, Stephen was exemplary in both his life and death. We find the story of Stephen in the book of Acts 6-7. This book introduces a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. It is noteworthy that there have always been those faithful believers whose love for and commitment to the lord seem to shine greatly that others around them notice, and Stephen was such a man. Nothing is known about his personal life - his parents, siblings or whether he had a wife or children ; however , what is known about him is what is truly important . He was faithful , even when he faced death.

Stephen's ministry was shortlived as it was a catalyst that propelled the church to move out of Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria which would then become the gateway to the rest of the world. 

Let us explore 5 object lessons from the life of St Stephen 

1. Faithfulness in Service

St Stephen was chosen to serve tables in the early Christian community but became known for his faith. Stephen served as a bridge to bigger and better things for the church.  His role as a deacon in the early church was to serve the community, ensuring that the needs of the members are met. 

Stephen also remained steadfast in proclaiming the truth of the Gospel , even in the face of opposition and persecution . He fearlessly preached Christ and defended his beliefs regardless of the consequences 

2. Bold Witness

Stephen fearlessly proclaimed the message of Jesus and his courage reminds us to boldly stand for our beliefs . One of the most significant moments showcasing Stephen's bold witness is found in Acts 7 , where he delivers a powerful speech before the Jewish religious leaders . In his speech, Stephen fearlessly confronts the religious authorities , recounting the of Israel's rejection of God's messengers and Jesus Christ. He boldly accuses them of resisting the holy spirit. Despite knowing the consequences of his words, Stephen remained steadfast in his conviction and did not water down his message to appease his audience. His unwavering commitment to the truth serves as an inspiring example of bold witness

3. Suffering and Perseverance

Stephen's story demonstrates the power of perseverance in the face of adversity. Despite the false accusations against him, he remained committed to his faith and boldly proclaimed the truth about Jesus Christ. Even as he was being stoned to death, he prayed for his persecutors, asking God to forgive them. Through Stephen's example of perseverance , we can learn to fix our eyes on Jesus. Stephen's focus was on Jesus not on his circumstances. He knew Jesus was with Him, even in his suffering.

4. A life of Obedience

Stephen's life was characterized by obedience to God. He was willing to do whatever God asked of him, even if it meant facing persecution and death. 

Stephen's life of obedience is a beautiful example of how we should live as christians. He was willing to obey God's commands even when it was difficult. When he was given the opportunity to escape from his persecutors, he chose to stay and face death rather than deny his faith ( Acts 7: 59-60).

His obedience is a testament to the faithfulness of God and it has inspired many christians for centuries.

5. Martyrdom is tragic but an extraordinary victory for Christ

We can look at martyrdom as absolute tragedy and it is for those who suffer at the hands of terrorist and for those they leave behind. However, God's glory shines through the martyrs in ways we cannot explain.

The stoning of Stephen is a powerful reminder to those of us with faith to remember that God can use us in extraordinary ways if we are filled with the holy spirit.

Stephen preached to people about Jesus and God and some of the Jews got so angry about this that they told lies about Stephen and had him taken before the Jewish court ( Sanhedrin). Stephen bravely preached a sermon about how people like them had rejected God before. And now they had rejected Jesus, the one God wanted Israel to follow as their leader and king. Some of the Jews became so angry at Stephen that they threw stones at him until he died.

Stephen was the first martyr of the christian faith and from this time forward, the followers of Jesus Christ were treated very badly and many left Jerusalem to live in other places. Everywhere they went, they proclaimed Jesus.

As believers, we should proclaim the gospel of Jesus wherever we go. And this can be done by;

1. We can share our testimony of how Jesus has changed our lives.

2. We can share the good news of the gospel in our conversations with others

3. We can share the love of Christ by serving others in practical ways 

4. We can be a living example of what it means to follow Jesus Christ

5. We can let our actions reflect love, kindness, and compassion , embodying the teachings of Jesus Christ

6. We can look for opportunities to serve those in our community. Acts of service can open doors for for sharing the gospel.

7. We can invest time in building genuine relationships with people around us. Through these relationships, we can share the gospel.

8. We can support missionaries or ministries that are sharing the gospel 

9. We can ask God to give us boldness and courage to share the gospel with others.

Stephen did everything right and he still ended up dead. Why? We do not always know why God allows people to suffer. But we do know that the sermons we preach in our pain are louder than the ones we preach in our prosperity. Stephen's most effective contribution to the kingdom of God came through his martyrdom.

The life of Stephen teaches us that we should be willing to proclaim the gospel no matter the cost. We should be bold and unashamed of our faith. We should also trust God to give us strength and the courage that we need to stand for what is right, even in the times of opposition.

Stephen's life is a powerful example of what it means to follow Jesus and to live a life that is pleasing to him. It is not always easy to follow Jesus, but it is always worth it. If we are willing to preserve through difficulty and to trust in God, we can experience his blessings and live a life that is full of meaning and purpose. 

Stephen was also filled with the holy spirit which empowered him to speak with boldness and clarity. His reliance on the holy spirit challenges us a christians to seek the guidance and strength of the holy spirit in our own lives and ministries.

Also, Stephen's ministry among the early christians highlights the importance of unity amidst diversity within the body of Christ. Stephen served alongside others with different backgrounds and gifts, emphasizing the unity found in the body of Christ despite cultural or social differences. The church of Christ in our world today should also emulate this. 

Most importantly, we should remember that our ultimate purpose in life is to glorify God and to make him known to the world. Be ready to live a life like Stephen's.

6. Stephen had Heart of Forgiveness

This is a very important lesson to learn from Stephen as it is one that many people often struggle with. Beyond the benefits attached to forgiveness, it reflects the God in all men. A heart that can forgive is a heart that knows it has been forgiven, a heart that has known how much of God it houses.

Acts 6:60: “Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

This was the prayer Stephen said as he was being stoned to death. Right amid being put to death for the truth, his last prayers, much like that of Jesus on the cross, was that which absolved his killers of the effects of their transgressions, fulfilling what Jesus Christ said in Luke 6:27-28:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

 We cannot say we have known Christ if we do not have space for grace and mercy. It is beyond being a regular church goer or someone who boasts of keeping most of the ten commandments or all. It isn’t just forgiving those we love or that have been good to us more times than not.

Matthew 5:43-45:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven”.

A heart that does not love all, has not known God, a heart that does not forgive, has not known love.

The greatest demonstration of love was that while we were deep in sin, not asking for forgiveness or even acknowledging our wrongs, God forgave us and came to die so that this could be revealed.


2. Learn to Speak the Truth

When Stephen was asked “Are these charges true?” in Acts 7, by the high priest, in relation to the claims he made about God, he gave them an even more detailed account of All that he had truly come to know God as, even though he knew he risked being put to death for it. He stuck to the truth irrespective of the outcome of it. Many a time, when faced with situations that threaten us or things we hold dear, we choose what seems to be the safer outcome as opposed to the right thing to do, even when they do not threaten to take our lives. One of the problems with this is that, when we resort to telling lies especially out of fear, we subtly insist to ourselves that we do not believe in whatever the truth is. The more you insist that telling lies yields better results, the more you desensitize yourself to the power of the truth.

3. Be Bold and Courageous

Another thing to note about Stephen was his boldness, it was because he was bold and had no fear that he could speak the truth without fear of consequence. More importantly to note was the fact that the boldness he had came from the knowledge that it was Christ who was the boldness and speaking in him/through him. That is why it was recorded that Stephen in Acts 7:55, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

He knew he was carried by the spirit of God, therefore he was bold to present himself and let the Holy spirit speak through him. It is easy to feel inadequate or full of fear if we depend on our own selves alone when faced with challenges of life, but when we yield to the spirit of God that we all so graciously carry and that we all truly are, we lose fear because we know that God cannot be defeated in any way.

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