Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?” To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran.
When cornered, when confronted, when in a sticky circumstance, how do you tend to react? Do you get defensive and try to shift the blame? Do you avoid confrontation and get quiet? Do you get mad and fight back? Or, do you listen to the Holy Spirit and speak as He directs? I think if we were honest our initial reaction in the face of conflict looks more like fight or flight than listen and testify. More often than not my flesh gets the best of me, my emotions lead me, and I find myself responding out of fear rather than faith. This came to mind as I read Stephen’s response in the midst of confrontation.
In Acts 6 we find Stephen falsely accused and standing before an angry mob. Opposition arose and verse 10 tells us, “…they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.” Because they couldn’t defeat his wisdom they stirred up fake gossip and claimed he was speaking blasphemous words against Moses and against God. Imagine, for a moment, being in Stephen’s shoes: fake gossip, lies, false accusations and people seeking your harm, yet you’ve done nothing wrong. Now you find yourself in front of an angry mob…talk about scary, talk about frustrating, talk about completely unfair. And when the high priest asked Stephen to defend himself saying , “Are these charges true?”, his response is truly the perfect example. He doesn’t get defensive and shift the blame, he doesn’t avoid confrontation and get quiet, and he doesn’t get mad and fight back. In the face of conflict he listens and testifies to God’s Truth. He doesn’t even refer to his innocence; rather He reminds them of God’s plan and their disobedience and unfaithfulness. Here’s what’s even crazier: I’d like to say that Stephen’s obedience and faithfulness brought him prosperity and blessing, but his reality is that it brought him death. Yet Stephen knew that God was His Shepherd, His Father, His Defender, His Protector, and that He had a perfect plan. Even at the end of his life Stephen prayed for the forgiveness of his offenders and enemies. In every circumstance He listened, testified, and honored God regardless of the cost.
How would you react? In the face of being cornered, in the midst of confrontation, and in a sticky circumstance, how would you react? My prayer and hope is that, like Stephen, I’d choose to listen and testify realizing that my life is not my own and it’s not about me. Sure, my flesh is going to want to rise up in defense, sure my emotions are going to flare up and seek justice, yet today I’m reminded that my calling is to heed the voice of the Holy Spirit and obey. In the face of accusation may I listen and testify, in the midst of struggle may I listen and testify, in the challenges of the day may I listen and testify.
Jesus, please help me to honor You when I’m cornered, confronted, or in a challenging circumstance. May I be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. May I not react in my flesh and emotions, but may I respond by listening and testifying that You might be honored. In Your name, Amen!