New Hope Notes
Stephen: Courageous Witness
Pastor Richard Waialeale
I want to tell you a story about a two-day Billy Graham Crusade: Billy Graham was arranged to speak on the second of the two nights, and the Crusade organizer was to speak on the first. However, Billy wanted to attend the first night so he dressed incognito and sat in the back so no one would recognize him.
Billy noticed that sitting in front of him was an elderly man who was so moved by the message being delivered that he was squirming in his seat. The pastor who was delivering the message the first night concluded his message, gave a salvation call, and invited everyone who would like to receive Christ to join him at the front of the stage. So Billy taps the elderly man on the shoulder and asks, “Would you like to receive Christ? If you want, I can walk with you up to the front.” The old man jumps up, turns around, and not recognizing Billy Graham, says, “Nah, I’m going to wait until the big gun comes tomorrow night.”
Here’s an interesting point. Unfortunately, people feel that evangelism should be left to the big guns, not the little shots!
This series is called “Faith in Action.” Today, we will talk about Stephen from the book of Acts. Stephen started off as a little shot, but by the end of his ministry, becomes a big gun. In chapter 6 of the Book of Acts, an explosion of new believers occurs and as in any mega church, there was rebellion with naysayers and religious leaders who didn’t agree with the method of evangelism—so while many were coming to know Jesus, they were faced with rebellious naysayers.
Even today, you’ll see that as your faith grows you will come across rebellious naysayers. Take Peter for example. While Peter and the disciples were experiencing great growth, they also experienced great challenges from religious leaders and other small factions.
When you encounter this kind of rebellion, it’s good to recognize it so that you can allow your faith to grow and move past it!
Three Kinds Of Rebellion—ways we can find ourselves rebelling against the Lord:
1) Sin = missing the mark, falling short, not measuring up. This actually comes from an archery term to “miss the mark” or “miss the target.” You fell short somehow.
2) Transgression = going beyond the set boundary. To transgress means to go too far. It is a deliberate disobedient act against God.
3) Iniquity = intention to hurt, damage, do evil. It’s a bad action. It’s a deliberate act to hurt someone.
David talks about three types of rebellion against the Lord in Psalm 32:5 (NIV), “I acknowledged my sin to You, and did not cover up my iniquity. I confessed my transgressions and You forgave my guilt.”
David says that he acknowledged his sin, confessed his transgressions, and didn’t try to cover up his iniquities. He repents for all three and knows that God will forgive him!
When we rebel against God, we form a separation between Him and us; when we repent, we come closer to Jesus.
Stephen (in the book of Acts) was able to influence a lot of people. Meanwhile, the Jewish leaders were afraid of losing their influence and seized Stephen and brought him before the Council. Stephen displays an unwavering commitment to his convictions in front of the authorities that had the power to execute him. He stands and expresses what he knows is true—no matter what happens! This leads to his stoning and he remains unshaken! This is the kind of example I want to talk about today.
You may be thinking, “That’s not me.” But I’ll tell you that it is you! Everybody can be a bold and courageous witness for Christ, but you must have a godly character. Godly character is the basis of a courageous witness for Christ—no matter the circumstances, no matter the results. You may ask yourself, “How do I become a bold and courageous witness for Christ?” The answer exists in…
FIVE INNER QUALITITES OF GODLY CHARACTER:
1) HE WAS FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Acts 6:3-4 (NIV) says, "Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
What does it mean to be “full of the Holy Spirit”? Galatians, 5:16 (NIV) says, “I say, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
People can tell when you are walking in the spirit because there’s something different and more active about you. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
To be filled with the Holy Spirit means allowing the Holy Spirit to occupy and control every area of your life.
2) HE WAS FULL OF WISDOM
Proverbs 2:6 (NIV) says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
Proverbs 9:10 (NIV) says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Wisdom comes from knowing God; He reveals his wisdom through scriptures. Therefore, we encourage you to do daily devotions. You can receive a free journal (fill in the insert in your bulletin) and start gaining more wisdom. If you want to start a life group and do devotions with others, you can receive two journals. When you finish this journal, on the last page is a discount to get another journal at 25% off.
The next quality is…
3) HE WAS FULL OF FAITH
Stephen is described as a man full of faith in God and he displayed resistance to the naysayers. Acts 6:5 (NIV) says, "This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit."
It’s easy to say we have faith when things are going great, but what about when things aren’t going great? Stephen, for example, was up against his enemies, but he stood up in Jesus’ name. Having faith means knowing God is sovereignly working through you even when you’re facing those who want to destroy you! You may feel as though you’re suffering, but being full of faith is knowing that God is using that suffering as part of His plan to create something great for you!
4) HE WAS FULL OF GRACE
John 1:14 (NIV) says, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Acts 7:60 (NIV) says, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them…”
Jesus Christ is full of grace and truth. Jesus was God's grace personified in human form. Stephen boasted about the grace of God. Any person who understands and lives God's grace also becomes a person who shows grace to others because grace flows outwardly into a gracious spirit towards others!
Remember the false ballistic missile threat? Anyway, I called my mother-in-law to make sure she was okay. Just before we hung up, she said, “Hey, if I don’t see you tomorrow, I’ll see you in Heaven.”
The last inner quality is…
5) HE WAS FULL OF POWER
Acts 6:8 (NIV) says, “Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”
Stephen allowed the Holy Spirit to occupy and control every area of his life, and God gave him the ability to perform great wonders and signs among the people!
God cannot bless the steps you aren’t taking. And you will never know what God can do in your life if your answer is always, “I can’t.” I remind you that you can! You will only get stronger spiritually when you start telling God, “I can, and with Your help, I will.”
ONE OUTWARD QUALIY OF A GODLY CHARACTER
We discussed five inward qualities, but here’s one outward quality: We go through the ups and downs of life (whatever the struggle may be) and although we might be full of the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom, full of faith, full of grace and full of power internally, we must still act outwardly by leaving the results up to God!
That’s a tough one because God often works in ways that may be confusing to us; otherwise, there wouldn’t be the saying, “God works in mysterious ways.”
Psalm 23:4 (NIV) says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
God doesn't promise to guard us from trouble; He promises to guide us through troubles. Stephen was able to go through his “darkest valley” because He knew the Lord was with him! Whenever you begin to understand that promise as Stephen did, you too will be able to find comfort in the most uncomfortable situation you face! LEARN TO LEAVE THE RESULTS TO GOD!