The Cloud of Witnesses
Former title Lessons From the People of the Bible
Lesson 3: Stephen – A Man Opposed By Those Who Should Be Encouraging Him
A Man Opposed By Those Who Should Be Encouraging Him
Last time, we left Stephen doing signs and wonders. We would expect everyone to be supportive and enthusiastic about that, wouldn’t we? Maybe the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ isn’t a Kiwi invention after all. However, as a nation we seem to have embraced it and unfortunately it will infiltrate the Kiwi church if we are not careful. Satan stands opposed to every work of God and we had better wake up to that or he will keep winning the battles.
It was hard for Stephen. I’m sure all he wanted to do was to carry on seeing captives set free and making disciples. After all, that is what Jesus told us to do, wasn’t it?
So why was he caught up in these mindless arguments? It’s reminiscent of the rubbish Jesus had to deal with from the religious leaders of His day. It also appears Stephen was as successful as Jesus was. He won the arguments but they still didn’t wake up and change their ways. So just as with Jesus, they had to find some false witnesses to cause a scene in order to stop Stephen getting on with the ministry he had been God-ordained and set aside to do.
Please notice that it wasn’t the pagans who were opposing Stephen. I’m sure they were extremely grateful for all the signs and wonders he did for them and for showing them the way to God. No, it was the fellow believers who were the problem.
Were they arguing about the food distribution? No. Were they complaining that the widows were worse off now under Stephen’s leadership than they were before? No. Were they complaining that Stephen was turning them away from Jesus and His words? No.
They were jealous of his ministry and wanted to end it. They couldn’t present a rational argument against him because he could refute their nonsense with spirit-based wisdom.
So they decided to throw a spanner in the works by saying he spoke blasphemy against Moses and God. Please note it wasn’t against Jesus. Stephen was encountering the same opposition that Jesus did. These people were holding on to their man-made traditions, which they attributed to Moses and, by inference, to God.
Undoubtedly, the very same issues that Jesus came to clarify. How often did Jesus say – You have heard it said, but I tell you…? Yes, they were still straining out the gnat and catching a camel! The nub of it was – We have heard him say this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.
Even up against such vehement, vitriolic accusations, the ‘light of truth’ in Stephen shone so brightly that as the people sitting in the Sanhedrin looked at Stephen, they saw him light up and shine like an angel.
Stephen would say to us today...
Don’t be surprised if Satan uses those who should be supporting you to bring you down. But don’t worry, the light of your integrity and truth will shine all the brighter through the darkest moments.
Father, please help me to see through those who would seek to discredit me and the ministry I’m involved with. Help me remain true to You and Your calling for my life so that even through the hard times, people will see You shining in and through me. Amen.
John 1:1-18; Matthew 12:1-14; Acts 18:1-17.
Why do we hesitate to rejoice with those who are rejoicing?
How can we learn to discern those who may become our adversaries?
What do we do in order to keep true to our faith and ministry when pressed down by discouragers?