Few of us dreamed of being a martyr growing up because we could not grasp laying our life down for anyone else. It was beyond our ability to love anyone more than ourselves. Even as adults, we don’t dream of being a martyr. I don’t think Stephen dreamed of being a martyr, but he was willing to be because he loved God above all else.
As I said last week, we can refuse to participate in God’s plan, which means we can refuse to even try to be like Jesus. But Stephen shows us that we cannot use the excuse of being human as our reason for not being like our Savior. No, we don’t act like Jesus because we love ourselves more.
Stephen loved God above all else, but he also loved others more than he loved himself. He loved the Jewish leaders and people more than he loved himself. Jesus said in John 15:13 that the greatest love we can show is to lay down our lives for our friends. The Sanhedrin were not friends of Stephen, but Stephen was a friend of Jesus. He put his love for Jesus, his desire to follow his Savior above anything else ahead of everything else. Even his own life.
Stephen gave his life for Jesus because he gave himself to the Holy Spirit.
Sunday, September 11
54When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
Lord, you alone are the ruler over the earth; no one can stand against you! (2 Chronicles 20:6) Forgive us when we let anger and consequences stop us from telling others about your greatness. Help us to rely on your Spirit for strength and courage to speak your truth to those who refuse to hear. In the name of our Savior Jesus the Christ we pray, Amen.
Monday, September 12
55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
We look above our problems to remind ourselves that our help comes from you, God, Our Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2) Father, we see examples in the Old and New Testaments that show us where we need to look when our troubles are overwhelming. Forgive us when we fail to look to you for help thinking we can control our own situations. Lead us to look to you in every instance. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.
Tuesday, September 13
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Lord, we can walk through the valleys without fear because you are with us. (Psalm 23:4) Father, it can be hard to imagine a group being led to murder someone speaking the Gospel. We thank you that we don’t face that kind of persecution and lift up our brothers and sisters who face imprisonment and death for telling others of the one true God. Help us remember that others watch us, and their impression of our faith may be the seed that stirs their future growth in you. We pray that your Spirit will move us to speak of your greatness and love without fear. In the name of The Holy One, Jesus, we pray, Amen.
Wednesday, September 14
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Father, you lead us as captives in Christ’s victory march and use us to bring others into your family. (2 Corinthians 2:14) Lord, in feast or famine, celebration or persecution, life or death, we are your servants. We give ourselves to use in whatever way glorifies you. Help us forgive those who hurt us, and let us use those hurts to point others to you, knowing that we will enter into your presence when our job is done. We pray this in the name of your Son and our Savior Jesus, Amen
Thursday, September 15
1 And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.
Father, you are the one true God who provides refuge and removes obstacles. (2 Samuel 22:33) There are those who want to quieten your servants Lord. We ask that you hide us from those who want to see our destruction until the time that our words or actions can bring them into relationship with you. Give us the strength and peace to go where you send us whenever you call. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen
Friday, September 16
3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
You, Lord, are our hiding place; you protect us from trouble and surround us with songs and shouts of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7) Your Word tells us to expect rejection and persecution, but it also provides the hope we need when we are facing rejection and persecution. Help us remember that nothing happens by surprise to you, Lord. Fill us with your Spirit, Father, and let us turn to you in the face of evil. Lord Jesus, we love you and pray this in your name, Amen.
Saturday, September 17
We join with your people across the earth in praise of you! Your love for us is vast, and you are faithful even when we are not. (Psalm 117) As we look back over our week, we remember the times when we weren’t faithful and the sins we haven’t confessed or repented for and ask for forgiveness. Thank you for your forgiveness and for allowing us to go into worship with a clean heart. As we gather to worship in the morning, place a burden on our hearts for those that resist you. Fill us with your Spirit and send us the gifts we need to reach others for you. May your words and Spirit flow from our preacher into our hearts. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.