(Stephen said) “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”
When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. ~ Acts 7:51-60
For the majority of chapter 7, Stephen preaches and tells the history of the Jewish people leading to Jesus.
And then come the harsh words of condemnation to the council.
To those who are supposed to be upholding God's word.
To those who are meant to be leading.
And see where it gets him?
Now, granted most pastors, deacons, or preachers don't have to worry about being stoned to death when they have some tough things to say in their sermons.
And we don't usually have to be worried about dying when we talk to others about our faith.
And yet from Stephen we learn that upholding God's word isn't always easy.
And that is certainly true for leaders. I had a preaching professor who once advised that good preachers should always "preach with their bags packed!"
How comfortable are we in our faith?
How comfortable are we talking about it?
How comfortable are we facing being disagreed with?
How comfortable are we hearing a preached word that sounds like a rebuke or challenge?
Can we still love those who are angry with us, or those at whom we are angry? Can we speak or hear words that challenge? Can we pray for those we disagree with?
Stephen prayed for those who killed him.
Can we do the same for those who disappoint us on our faith journey?
Lord, help me to lead in love and share my faith with conviction. Amen