This morning I RAN to His word. I RAN to my Heavenly Father. I gave him my situations. I gave him my emotions. I asked Him to replace lies with truth. To provide in areas of need. To open doors that need to be opened and close those that need to be closed (and THAT is a hard place to give Him).
I'm currently reading in Acts. Oh my goodness, do I ever wish I had kept my notes from college from a full semester on Acts & The Early Church. This morning, I kept coming back to the chapters on Stephen. I originally read through quite "academically" so to speak because it's a familiar story. I didn't "expect" to learn much from the "familiar". I was basically on auto-pilot. Then my heart was prompted to go back, slow down, pray for His voice to be heard, and to just grab it.
That changed everything.
I learned that I want the heart of Stephen.
- He was instantly described as a man full of God's grace and power (6:8). I could stop right there and write pages of what that means to my heart. Isn't that an incredible description of a person? Isn't that something we should truly want to be said of us?
- Men argued against him, but they COULD NOT STAND up against his WISDOM or the SPIRIT by whom he spoke. (6:10). Filled with the Holy Spirit and full of wisdom? That has become my prayer focus specifically in the last several weeks and right there...right on the pages of scripture is a man that completely embodied those qualities. What kind of life is possible when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and have wisdom? Remarkable. Powerful. In His Steps. That's the kind of life I seek!
- His face was like the face of an angel. (6:15). While he was before the Sanhedrin, with false witnesses speaking against him, his face showed to whom he belonged. It showed who lived in him. His face visibly showed heaven. That image just gives me goose bumps to think about! What if we lived such a life that our faces, our demeanor showed that of an angelic, heavenly quality? What if people were able to see, without us saying a word, to whom we belong?
- The entire next chapter is an incredible speech. Almost a historical account. A moving description of how God was at work. Constant use of words like: God said. God was with him. God appeared. God sent. God spoke. Powerful words. Loved going back and reading it seeing those words stand out.
- At the conclusion of the speech, they were irate and irrational. They were furious and gnashed their teeth at him (7:54)....but, oh how amazing is this....despite what was going on in that moment, Stephen, FULL of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and SAW THE GLORY of GOD, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (55). That image right there alone is enough to just make a person want to shout (even those of us introvert, "calm" and reserved individuals...ha!).
- The result of this angry group of people, the result of this speech of power and conviction was death. Stephen was immediately dragged out of the city and stoned. Graphic. Heart-wrenching. No doubt about it, it was a moment that should have been defeat. It should have been the end of his witness. But.....it wasn't. When faced with such an incredibly unbelievable situation would our witness be of taking it all back? Would we turn our backs against God? Would we throw in the towel? Stephen didn't. He didn't retaliate in anger. He didn't spew out words of hate. Instead....he forgave. He FORGAVE. Not only did he forgive, he asked God to NOT hold the sin against them. They were literally killing him with one stone after another. One wound after another. Yet, he forgave and asked God to release them from the sin of their actions. (7:60)
So much to learn from one man. May his heart full of the Holy Spirit encourage us to live a life with just a fraction of that same power.