The Word for today: Acts 7:1-43
Over the next couple of days, we will be hearing about Stephen.
Stephen is a great Bible hero of mine. He played a crucial role in the spread of Christianity. His brave and eloquent testimony profoundly affected Saul of Tarsus, who would become Paul, the primary missionary/evangelist and thinker in the Christian church.
Stephen will forever be known as the first martyr of the church. But before we describe those circumstances, I want to ask you a very strange question:
Are you a martyr?
Most of you are thinking I've lost my marbles! You're thinking that martyrs, by definition, are unable to answer the question I've just asked!
Not so fast. Stephen gave his death, but did he give his life?
We don't know. We don't know how long Stephen had been devoting himself to the cause of Jesus Christ. But it could not have been very long, for the events of Stephen's stoning were not too far removed from the crucifixion of Jesus.
Martyrdom, in its broader sense , is when we give our lives to something. Martyrs, sometimes, are not called to give their deaths, but their lives. Jesus touched on this when he said,
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." (Luke 9:23-24)
Dead men don't take up their crosses daily to follow Jesus. But martyrs do.
Out there somewhere, reading this right now, is a hero--a Stephen, or a Stephanie. God is calling you to take up your cross and die daily as your own plans and dreams--your very own self--are abandoned, left to die, for the sake of the higher calling you've heard.
Heed that call. We need another hero, another Stephen. Who else, if not you?