This past week we’ve been at Christian camp and one of the stories I taught was the story of Stephen. I don’t think I’ve ever preached on Stephen because it’s not really a story that gets nearly enough attention. It’s really incredible, though, that Stephen was chosen in the distribution of food because he was full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit. His tenure did not last long at all. It turns out that Stephen could not keep silent about his God. He wanted everyone to know how amazing God is and he was doing great wonders and signs among the people.
It didn’t take long for false witnesses to arise and accuse Stephen of some very ungodly things. Stephen was arrested and he used this opportunity to preach about Jesus Christ. When Stephen accused them of resisting the Holy Spirit, they had had enough. The crowd ground their teeth at him. Stephen looked up to heaven and said, “Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56 ESV). At this, they stopped their ears, rushed him, and began stoning Stephen, laying their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.
When Stephen fell to his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (vs. 60). After he said this, Stephen fell asleep and died. Stephen’s faithfulness to the end and his plea for God to forgive these men of murder had to have had a major impact on Saul (later named Paul). It may not have moved Saul in the moment, but later when Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, he most likely would have been haunted by Stephen’s last words. This story shows us the importance of being faithful to the end and treating people with mercy. This one act of grace that Stephen had for Paul and the others would be a catalyst that sparked one of the most influential evangelists in the history of Christianity. We’ll rarely know what influence we’ll have on others by being faithful to God.