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My first biblical hero was Stephen. I wanted to name my first son Stephen until I met my husband and realized my son’s last name would be “King”. “Stephen…King?” Hmm. So, instead of Stephen, our first son’s name became Jacob. But, I still have deep admiration for Stephen’s life and leadership.
Stephen came into leadership when the early church was booming with so much growth the disciples couldn’t keep up. So the 12 disciples chose “seven men..who were known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” to help. Stephen was one of these seven men. He was “full of God’s grace and power, performing great wonders and signs among the people.” With nineteen leaders instead of twelve, “the word of God spread. The number of disciples increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to faith.” But, as Jesus’ influence increased, anger and jealousy among the Pharisees also escalated.
The Jewish leaders chose to take out their frustration on Stephen, but after countless debates, they could not win an argument against him, or “stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke,” so they devised a plot to kill him. The religious leaders collected a group of false witnesses and brought Stephen before the Jewish court of law, the Sanhedrin. They were hoping this trial would end in Stephen’s death, and it did. But before they picked up stones to stone him, Stephen preached the greatest gospel sermon I’ve ever heard.
Aside from a miraculous intervention, Stephen knew this was the end. As Jews, full of fear, righteous indignation and hate, crushed and bruised his flesh with stones, 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. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'” Stephen chose not to give into fear by saving face. Stephen chose not to give into pride by demanding God take justice on his enemies. In fact, he traded fear, pride and hatred in for love as he prayed these words with his last breath, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”(Acts 6-7).
Stephen was the leader I want to be. Not because he was an eloquent spokesman or because he had a large following, but because he was willing to be humble and obedient to the greatest leader of all time, Jesus! If we want to lead, we must learn how to obey God, whether or not his plan abides by our agenda. True leaders hold their plans and their egos loosely in order to fulfill a greater will and to lift up the only name that deserves glory. Sure, I believe leaders have a responsibility to be an earthly example, but we are not, and never will be, the ultimate example.
As Stephen died, when he saw the Father and the Son in heaven, he didn’t ask God to judge his enemies. Instead, he held his life, his ego, his anger loosely so that he could be part of a greater miracle: forgiving his enemies just as Christ did on the cross.
Ouch! Lord, help us to lead like you..and like your disciple Stephen. Help us to joyfully lay down our lives and take up our crosses. Help us to worship you more than ourselves. We love you. You are our greatest desire. Amen.
I will be praying you move forward in your faith until we talk again!
Sharie’s newest book came out in July 2017. In I Love You More (Except When I Don’t), author and speaker Sharie King shares the common struggle women have in yearning to love Jesus more and yet, feeling incapable as they try. Telling personal stories and teaching Scripture throughout, Sharie challenges women to set aside striving and embrace God’s way of grace instead. She’ll not only encourage you that you can love Jesus more; she’ll show you how.