This article was originally published in Edition (7) of Prayer Magazine,  Jul-Sep 2006.

 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”

Then they put their hands over their ears, and drowning out his voice with their shouts, they rushed at him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. The official witnesses took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.  And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  And he fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

ACTS 7.54-60 NLT

Stephen was a bright flash in the life of the early church. He was a man ablaze, ignited with a burning passion for Jesus. Two qualities identified him to be of practical help to the disciples- He had faith in God and he was full of the Holy Spirit.

These two qualities shone out when he was up against the Jewish High Council who were angry at the miracles and wonders he performed. They paraded witnesses who spoke jealously against Stephen and the Bible tells us that all through this Stephen had the face of an angel.

Finally it is his own time to speak and Stephen proceeds to give a fantastic summary of scripture. You or I might have pleaded for our lives, but Stephen’s words were spoken right into the hearts of the gathered religious leaders. His determination to honour God, to stand up against sin and hypocrisy, effectively signed his own death warrant.

Stephen was a worshipper. Even when all around him were becoming angry and violent, even when you or I might have been preoccupied by our earthly situation and our physical wellbeing, Stephen was able to focus on a heavenly perspective and was able to pray simply and intimately.In his dying breath Stephen recognised the eternal, spiritual nature of his life, and he was willing to ask for forgiveness for those who had killed him.

What a strong example of humble, Jesus-centred, servant leadership!  Putting the cause of Christ first and personal comfort second will always be necessary for those of us in leadership. The ability to look heavenward in times of earthly tribulation will always help us find God’s perspective. The eager anticipation of heavenly glory will remind us that this world isn’t all we have to look forward to. The willingness to forgive those who have done us wrong is a vital strength that no leader can do with out.

Stephen’s character as a man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, is a character that all of us whom God has called to leadership should aspire to.

 

 

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