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Scripture: Acts 6:1-16
Denomination: Independent/Bible

Summary: Stephen is the embodiment of godliness. Let us be humble enough to serve. Put the needs of others before self. Stay faithful to God no matter what.

There was a need in the church. With the growing number and increasing needs, one aspect of the ministry was neglected.
• In the daily distribution of food, some widows were being overlooked.
• They needed some people to oversee the “daily distribution of food” (6:1) – basically, people to ‘wait on tables’, the apostles said.
• Probably similar to what we do today when we have a buffet – someone to dish out the food, and make sure that everyone has a fair share.
The apostles announced it this way: “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables” (6:2), so let’s choose some men who are “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” (6:3)
• Notice their solution was not to find men skilled in logistics or distribution. They did not seek out men with a background in business or management.
• Later we read Stephen was chosen, a man “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”
They didn’t look for abilities, they looked for CHARACTER. They didn’t look for giftedness, the apostles look for GODLINESS.
• This was unexpected, especially when you announced for people to help with the distribution of food, to wait on tables.
• If the people are to have confidence in this group of people, entrusted with this responsibility, the apostles knew they needed men of good reputation.
It was all about CHARACTER. It’s a good reminder – God is looking for CHARACTER.
• God is concern with character, not charisma and capabilities.
• He is concerned with WHO we are, more than WHAT we can do; WHO we have become, than what we have ACHIEVED.
• Whatever we can really achieve for God flow from who you are.
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And so the congregation chose these seven men – listed in 6:5 – and among them, Stephen was highlighted - “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”
• Luke pointed him out again in 6:8 that he was “a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”
• Obviously Stephen was outstanding, and Luke needed to highlight him because he viewed him as the embodiment of spiritual character. He is the model for us.
The description given to Stephen was exceptional.
• We read the word “full” several times – 6:3 “full of the Spirit and of wisdom”; 6:5 “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”; 6:8 “full of grace and power”.
• The members of the Synagogue debated with him but “could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.” (6:10)
• 6:15 “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”
Stephen may be serving as a “server” (deacon) in the church distributing food, but he made a GREAT IMPACT in ministry.
• 6:8 says he did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.
• He was eventually arrested for preaching passionately for the Gospel and was brought before the Sanhedrin.
• And he preached on – delivering a passionate plea to the Council members - to understand what God has done for them (Israel) and urge them to trust the “Righteous One” (7:52) whom they had murdered.
And the result of this passionate plea (longest recorded sermon in Acts) - the authorities decided to stone him.
• And as a result of this event, they decided to launch an all-out attack against the church, spearheaded by Saul.
Acts 11:19 “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.”
This man left an imprint in the history of the church. Luke wanted his readers to know, that this man made an impact because of his character.
• In so many ways, we see glimpses of Jesus’ nature in Stephen’s character – he speaks the truth, with authority, wisdom, courage even in the face of opposition. He was so filled with the Spirit that his face shines like an angel (6:15).
• At the end, he prayed for the Lord to receive his spirit as he dies and asked God to forgive those who were stoning him, very similar to Jesus’ prayer on the cross.
• He lived and died like his Master. Both died young but made a huge impact.
That’s a life well lived. And that’s what I liked to share with you this morning – what makes a great life? It need not be LONG. It has to be significant and worthwhile.
• I saw a few common treads in both the lives of Jesus and Stephen.
Stephen is a man full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, faith, God’s grace and power; performs “great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (6:8) and preaches with wisdom and with a deep knowledge of the Scriptures…
• He was quite an exceptional person, YET he was first elected actually to wait on tables, to distribute food to the poor widows among them.
• He was humble enough to serve. He was gifted in many ways but that did not stop him from doing something as simple as serving out food.
Nothing is too small for a big man. The greatness of this man is seen in his willingness to serve.
• In fact, it could be his faithfulness in doing small deeds among the people that brought him this recognition.
• People elected him because he was found faithful and dependable.
If "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6), then no wonder Stephen is a man full of God’s grace (6:6)
• The greatness of this man comes from his humility.
• It reminds me of how Paul described Jesus in Phil 2:5-8, 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!
• It sounded almost like a description of Stephen here!
How great are you? When was the last time you served?
(2) COMPASSION: Put the NEEDS of others before SELF
I am not just talking about the physical needs of the poor among them, which is quite obvious in this text.
• I am seeing Stephan’s passionate plea for the Council members to turn around. He was urging them to understanding the works of God in their history.
• He was driven by another need that was before him – more significant than the giving food to the poor – the salvation of these religious leaders.
• They were so near and yet so far; so knowledgeable of the Scriptures and yet so blinded.
If you read through his message, you can sense the growing intensity in Stephen’s appeal.
• When he reached the end, you can feel his passion – 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears!”
• Why is he so worked-up? I believe he saw the indifference in their faces as he was speaking. “You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (7:51)
Have said all these, Stephen saved his last breathe for a prayer – a prayer FOR them. 7:60 “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
• The greatness of this man comes from his willingness to put others before self.
• Warren Wiersbe: “God doesn’t bless us just to make us happy; He blesses us to make us a blessing.”
How great are you? When was the last time you paid a price serving someone?
(3) FAITHFULNESS: Stay FAITHFUL to God no matter what
Stephen died preaching. He died preaching because he cares for the souls of these men.
• And Luke tells us specifically in 8:1 that the one leading the charge to stone Stephen was SAUL.
• Stephen’s testimony made a deep impression in his mind. When Paul shared his testimony in Acts 22:20 he mentioned it: “When the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.”
Stephen did not die in vain. No servant of God ever dies in vain.
• The 2nd-century Church Father Tertullian: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church."
• Our service for God are the seeds God use to plant His purposes on earth.
• Our investment in God’s work reaps eternal rewards. We may not see them this side of heaven.
Stephen did not get to see any converts. It’s so sad. In today’s world, we want to see results.
• Too bad for Stephen, he got to see none of these. He did not get to see Saul, the one orchestrating his stoning, turning to Christ and becoming His greatest missionary of his time.
• We are not call to win, we are called to witness. Stay faithful and leave the result to God.
Stephen has only ONE passion and that is Jesus Christ. He lived just like Him.
• He lived for Him and died for Him. His treasures are in heaven, not on earth.
• The Lord gave him this special blessing at the end - of seeing the glory of God, and Jesus Himself standing at the right hand of God.
• That was probably his greatest longing and comfort, and the Lord Jesus gave it to him.
Let’s live this GREAT life. Live like our Master. Our CHARACTER is everything.
• Be like Christ and live like Christ.
• Be humble and serve, put the needs of others before self, and stay faithful to God’s calling.
• In doing so you would have lived a great life. There is nothing else that can make life more worth living.
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