We are continuing our study on peace. As always I asked God for guidance and to lead me where he wanted me to go. I wanted this week to look to someone who experienced peace in difficult circumstances. I was led to Stephen. We find Stephen in Acts 6. Here we find Stephen has been chosen as one of seven to serve God. We know he was chosen because of his exceptional faith and he was a man endowed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5). This tell us he was a Godly man with a great amount of faith in God.
We find in the next few verses Stephen has been working for God. God had given him grace and power. He was doing many great things among the people. It also tells us if we read our Bible that he had been given wisdom from the Spirit as he spoke. We have seen many times when one rises to a level such as Stephen Satan isn’t happy; souls are being saved, illnesses wiped out and many people are being won over for God. So what does Satan do? He stirs up trouble.
We see false accusations against him. He is brought in before the high priest where these false accusers come up with all kinds of lies against him. When the High Priest asks Stephen about these false claims he begins to preach. I think God gave him the wisdom he needed as well as the words that were spoken that day. This did not go well with the members of the Council. It enraged them even more. But it says in verse 55 of chapter 7, “But Stephen enabled by the Holy Spirit, stared into heaven and saw God’s majesty and Jesus standing at God’s right side. (verse 55) He exclaimed, ‘Look! I see heaven on display and the Human One standing at God’s right side!” After this is when they charged him. His sentence was stoning.
We find in verst 59 that has they were stoning him Stephen was praying. He was asking God to accept his life. He like Christ also asked that their sins be forgiven. Then he died.
Now how does all of this fit in with peace? I think God filled this man with a peace that can only be understood if you are truly filled with the Holy Spirit as Stephen was. I was once ordered to testify in front of a judge many years ago. I was a nervous wreck as the questions were asked. I was anything but peaceful. I would not have been able to give a speech like Stephen did if my life depended on it. I think he was only able to because of the peace that God gave him.
As the danger in Stephen’s life grows stronger what happens? Stephen is allowed to see heaven and Christ standing next to God. I am thinking God allowed Stephen to see this because he knew what was about to happen to Stephen and he wanted Stephen to focus on what was to be not what was happening at the time. I think again God allowed Stephen to experience a peace beyond any human understanding.
As Stephen is being stoned what is he doing? He is praying. I am thinking I might not be able to pray. I am thinking I am pretty anxious and I am probably focusing on the pain that I am about to experience. I don’t know, I haven’t been through anything like this. I am guessing I am a wimp compared to Stephen.
We find Stephen asking God not to hold these sins against these people. I am pretty sure I would not be asking God to forgive them. I would want God to hold them accountable for what they did to me.
This story teaches me that when life is the toughest it can be if we can focus on God and what he has in store for us we might just be able to experience just a little bit of peace in the midst of life’s trials. Stephen knew what was waiting him so he endured. I think because he was a man of great faith, was given wisdom and lived by the Holy Spirit he was given an extra amount of peace.
I think we can have the same kind of peace that the Holy Spirit gave Stephen if we have faith, if we seek God’s wisdom and we allow the Holy Spirit to live in our lives. The life that Stephen knew was about to end, but a better one was waiting him. He was at peace with it all.
I am learning right along with you that if we have the faith as Stephen when our troubles are upon us we can experience peace…a peace that the world does not know; a peace that only comes from the Holy Spirit.
The next time we think our world is collapsing all around us, when troubles surround us maybe we should get out our Bibles and read about Stephen. Maybe just like Stephen instead of looking at our circumstances we should look toward heaven and see what God has in store for us. Maybe we should focus on what is to come and not what is happening around us. May you experience peace this Lent season.
Dear God: to have faith like Stephen’s is all I ask. To be given words of wisdom to speak in times of trouble instead of complaining bitterly and to live by the Holy Spirit as Stephen did and to experience peace when my world is falling down around me that is what I ask for. Thank you for examples in the Bible that teach us so much. Men like Stephen, Paul and all the others are given to us as examples of how to live our lives. May I always be willing to live like these men. May the Holy Spirit lead my life in a way that will reach others. Thank you God for allowing Stephen to focus on you and not his situation. When troubles come in my life may I focus on your and not my situation. Amen