Stephen is a beloved character to me, not solely because he testified to the Gospel without self-censorship before the Sanhedrin and forgive his killers as they stoned him—but that his steadfastness manifested from the beginning of his story.
When rehashing Stephen’s life, it’s only natural to focus on his testimony before the Sanhedrin and martyrdom, but what’s lost in his faithful yet brutal end is his initial calling.
In Acts 6, Luke writes about the dispute between Hebrew Jews and Hellenistic Jews (Jews that had adopted Greek culture and ideas), which centered around the Hellenists’ complaints that their widows were overlooked in the daily distribution of food in favor of the Hebraic Jews.
The twelve apostles knew that the distraction would serve only to widen the cultural tensions between the Hebrews and the Hellenists, as well as hinder their time dedicated to ministry. In 6:2-4, the disciples came up with a resolution
“So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ ” –Acts 6:2-4
And who did they choose? Stephen, amongst six others, was tasked with handling the food distribution to believing widows, whether they were Hebrews or Hellenists. Luke describes Stephen as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5).
From the beginning, Stephen’s humility is evident. He became the equivalent of a food and beverage manager without complaint. He and his coworkers carried out the job and more disciples came into the fold as a result.
Stephen stands as an example of a man who knew what his role was and did not balk because it was not a top ministry position. Instead, he carried out his work and completed the task at hand.
Have you ever been so caught up in future assignments or promotions when it comes to your role in the kingdom? I know I have, and ambition can distract any believer from focusing on their current assignment.
Notice that in Acts 7, Luke records that Stephen performed signs and wonders among the people, and in addition, he debated with the Jews about the Gospel. It’s clear he had gotten an upgrade in his posting. In Acts 7:10, Luke writes, “But they [the Jews] could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.”
Readers can see later that the Spirit’s anointing rested upon Stephen even as he was stoned. But the Spirit was with him from the beginning; he was never a flash-in-the-pan that came out of nowhere. Rather, Stephen yielded to the Holy Spirit at every step, from a food and beverage manager to his sermon before the Sanhedrin.
We must remember that, whatever our role in the kingdom is today, we must carry ourselves steadfast and professionally. It’s critical to not permit yourself to get a bad spirit when the circumstances do not seem favorable.
Stephen was just as comfortable serving hungry widows as he was debating in the synagogues. His attitude remained humble and yielded, which are two qualities that will not be present if you seek a servanthood rife with glory and recognition.
The lesson I’ve drawn from Stephen’s story is that even the average joe can demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit in his own role, regardless of recognition or acclaim. You may not reach Stephen’s heights and testify before the ruling class, but you can carry yourself with the same faithfulness and honor.
Kevin Cochrane is a writer and college student. For updates on his latest blog posts here at restandrefuge.wordpress.com, you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC, find him on Facebook, or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email. Want to read more? Check him out at themajestysmen.com/author/kevincochrane, a friendship and mentoring community for Christian males (views on my blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com are my own and do not necessarily represent those of The Majesty’s Men). To contact, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.