Today we read the story of Stephen’s Trial in Acts 7: Stephen was emboldened by the Holy Spirit and gave a testimony that reframed the whole of the history of Israel in light of Christ, the true Messiah. This was deeply challenging to the religious norms of the time and ultimtely lead him to suffer a gruesome death as the first recorded martyr for Christ.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” 57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died – Acts 7:55-60
Tragic as this account is, it’s also incredibly encouraging to us as we seek to follow Jesus. Even with his last breath Stephen was exemplifying Christ’s love by seeking forgiveness for those who were killing Him. How do we life like this?
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him – Romans 12:1
Paul, who was present at the stoning in Acts 7, went on to write these words extoling the mindset that Stephen displayed that day. We must live each day as a living sacrifice, considering ourselves, our desires, our passions, our desires, as if they were naught. Only when we seek to live life for God’s pleasure rather than our own can we be effective for Him. Dead to self, alive in Christ!