Text: Acts 6:1-15, Genesis 4:3-7, 1 Timothy 3:8-13, Exodus 34:29-30
We can disavow the prosperity gospel with our words but still believe it in our hearts. We shake our fists at God, saying, “I did what you told me to and this is how you repay me?” I’ve done this a time or two in my life and am guilty of doing it again as recently as this morning.
Stephen was a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:8). He reminds me of a few other men who came before him: Abraham, Noah, Job—men the Bible tells us were full of faith and for whom things went terribly wrong. I sometimes wonder if being “full of faith” is a prerequisite for all sorts of calamity. Not exactly the way we were told it would turn out, though, right?
Come to Jesus and the things of earth will grow strangely dim.
Come to Jesus and He’ll make your life better.
Come to Jesus and His beautiful plan for your life.
These are true things, but the caveat to the clause should read something like this:
Come to Jesus, die, and then be raised to life with Him eternal.
Coming to Jesus involves a death of self we’d often rather forget.
Did Stephen know this when his name was counted among the first deacons of the early Church? Being full of faith and the Holy Spirit, did he know he’d be arrested just a few short verses later?
Come to Jesus, display His fruit, and stand before the council for your stoning!
I’ve spent a good portion of my Christian life in pursuit of the faith, grace, and power the Holy Spirit brings. I’d be just fine with being known as “that girl”—the one full of faith. But I now know enough about suffering that, as I stand before the council of the world, I’m unsure and wobbly, shaky and fearful. I’ve disavowed the prosperity gospel, yet I’ve believed it all the same. Do this, be like this, follow this, and it will always go well for you. Yes, but… well, what about when it doesn’t?
God was not in the debt of a man like Stephen or anyone else. It was Stephen—the servant and deacon who performed great wonders in His name—who was indebted to God. We get this backwards all too often. We center our energies on what God owes us, center our beliefs on what we’ve done for Him. While He is a good, faithful, kind, and generous God, He’s no puppet on the strings of our whims.
God was with Stephen there, in the place of his arrest, before the appointing of his death, and Acts 6:15 tells us, “They saw his face was like the face of an angel.” There’s a certain type of unshakeable peace for those who are the true servants of God, and Stephen knew this before he ever opened his mouth to speak. His peace wasn’t a peace the world could give, and it wasn’t something he could conjure up himself. It was the peace of God, given to a servant of God.
There is peace for the one who knows there is no bargaining with the God of the universe.
Be full of faith, friends, and full of the Holy Spirit, grace, and power. Do mighty wonders in His name (Psalm 77:14). But do not fear or be surprised when you’re called before the council, when hard things happen, calamity occurs, and difficulties rise. There is a good and strange peace for you there.
We serve a God whose actions do not depend on our goodness. Let us praise Him for it.
Lore Wilbert is the Director of Community and Formation at Park Church, Denver, and writer at Sayable.net. Find her on twitter @lorewilbert.