Wishing you all a blessed New Year,

St. Pauls East Canton

       As we work our way through the book of Acts, we see many examples of faithfulness. One of those is Stephen, whom we meet in chapter 6, and by the end of chapter 7 we read of his death. In fact, we often know him for his death as the first martyr – one who is killed for their devotion to Jesus. What we often miss, though, is his life. Yes, he died for Christ, but he also lived – and he did it faithfully and powerfully. He is a model of the Christian life that is worth following.
        Stephen was full of Jesus which also meant that he was full of grace, full of power, and full of wisdom. Can this be said of us? I hope so, but these are great areas in which we can seek to grow. Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit which allowed Jesus to work through him. When people met him, it was not only Stephen they met but, in a very real way, they met Jesus living in him and through him. It is even said of him that he was radiant and that “his face was like the face of an angel.” I believe Jesus wants to radiate through our lives as well.
         Stephen was also purposeful and knowledgeable. He knew the purpose and goal of his life and he knew God’s word. He knew it so well that when he was asked to defend himself, he instead proclaimed Jesus and essentially summarized the whole Old Testament in chapter 7! This was not just rote memory but true understanding. This kind of knowledge comes from our spiritual hunger to know God through His Word. Dutiful Bible reading won’t get us there – only diligent seeking will.
       Stephen was aware of the spiritual realm. He was focused solely on the glory of God. This gave him the ability for him to see clearly and preach clearly and prophetically. His words were more than just mere human words. They saw deep into the soul and spoke deeply to the soul. Even in his death he was so in tune with the spiritual realm that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He never lost sight of Jesus and this enabled him to remain fearless.
       He was fully surrendered to Jesus. He put all of his eggs in Jesus’ basket. He counted on the fact that what he had heard about Jesus was true and he could literally bet his life on it. Prayer was his practice because Jesus was his source. It was through prayer that he met Jesus when he needed Him.
      These attributes may seem pretty idealistic, an even unrealistic for you and me. And they are, in fact, they are impossible. That is the whole point. We can never work hard enough to achieve them. That is exactly why we need Jesus and why we need grace. By grace we receive supernatural ability – strength beyond ourselves to live a life that increasingly reflects Jesus. Stephen was an ordinary person who lived by the grace of God. May we, like him, live by the grace of God and reflect Jesus through our lives.
                              Pastor Ed
                        An example of faithfulness
St. Paul's East Canton
St. Paul's East Canton
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