Message: Death and Growth
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jessyka Albert
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin today in prayer. Ask God for understanding through the Holy Spirit and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Acts 6:8–7:60 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: If you found yourself cornered and unfairly accused, but a real opportunity arose for you to defend yourself, would you adopt Stephen’s approach? What if you knew that the results could lead to death? Would you still adopt Stephen’s approach? Stephen could have talked about Jesus. Stephen could have answered the accusations directly. Stephen, could have tried to defuse the tension. Luke, is not interested in helping us to understand any of these possible approaches. He explains right from the start that the powerful accusers set up “false witnesses.” The court was cooked. Perhaps Stephen knew. Perhaps the trial of Jesus, the beatings of Jesus and the apostles, and finally the awful agony of the Cross was all too fresh for him. Perhaps the injustice and abuse of the poor was rising up as an issue he knew he must address. Clearly, Stephen sensed there was something broken within his church. Clearly he was dissatisfied with the status quo. Remember that he had been called by the community to help the widows who were not being cared for. The “church” was growing so fast that its infrastructure could not handle all the demands. You can imagine the stories that Stephen would have heard from all those widows. Widows not just as a result of the physical death of their husbands. Some of these would have been “widows” because of their faithfulness in following Jesus. Their husbands and families would have rejected them. What would we say to them today? Follow Jesus, but make sure you don’t lose your job since we can’t help you. What would we say to those who feel unwelcome? Marginalized, ignored, and avoided? When we make a policy to uphold what is “right” without being part of the mess of everyday life, the detachment forms even more pressure and guilt. Jesus was accused of keeping company with those who were not welcome. Stephen saw this. He chose to rise up. There has to be a reason that Luke decided to record Stephen’s entire speech for posterity. It can’t simply be a random string of stories. There was something inside Stephen, driven by the Spirit, that told him that now was the time to say what must be said. Now was the time to rise up. His courage in turn meant that Philip would reach the Ethiopian (Acts 8:4–40), Peter would reach out to new cities and to the Roman officer (Acts 9:31–11:18), Paul would preach in Damascus and in Jerusalem (Acts 9:19–30), and many others would share the Gospel all over the land (Acts 11:19–26). Stephen’s courage to stand and face death only spurred on others to be faithful.
Recalibrate: What are you being called to stand up for?
Respond: Pray for strength to be an advocate for the weak.
Research: Who in your local community needs someone to stand with them?
Take a walk down memory lane with your child today. Tell them of all the ways you can see Jesus in your life, in your community, and in them. Dream of where you both may be 10 years from now.
Have you ever seen someone do something bad and not get in trouble? Or have you ever seen someone do something good and get in trouble? Sometimes things don’t work out the way we think they should. Stephen got in trouble for sharing about Jesus. Was what he did right? Why?
How we respond to those who hate us often shows the true nature of our hearts. Stephen could have responded to people’s false claims by becoming angry or defensive. Instead, he spoke calmly about God. Think of one person who seems to dislike you. How can you respond kindly to them?