Hey there. Thanks for listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, a ministry supported by Harvest Partners. I'm Greg Laurie, encouraging you.
If you want to find out more about Harvest Ministries and learn more about how to become a Harvest Partner, just go to harvest.org. Let's pray together. Now, Lord, we ask You to bless us. We open Your Word.
We know it is true. And help us to see how we can live our lives well. We ask all of this in Jesus' name. Amen. So we're in a new series in the book of Acts called Upside Down Living, and the title of my message is A Life Well Lived.
And I'm going to be looking at Acts chapter six and also a little bit at Acts chapter seven. I think we would all agree in noting right now that we're very distracted these days. It almost seems as though our whole culture collectively has ADD. We're barraged with all of these images on, of course, our phones and our tablets and our TV screens and our laptops and even our watches. It's nonstop communication. In fact, it's been identified as a real issue that is called digital distraction. According to Harvard Business Review, it's this digital overload is creating problems in the workplace today because there's so much information coming our way constantly.
It's making it hard for us to concentrate. I mean, just think about life on the road. People are like drunk drivers because they're using their phones, right? You're behind the person and the light goes green and they don't go, why? They're texting someone or they're looking at their phone.
Someone swerves out of their lane. You know how it is. Digital distraction. Well, here's something to consider. Christians can be distracted, too.
We can lose our focus on what really matters in our life. So I have a question for you. What are you passionate about? What are you passionate about? Now, I can answer that question for you by simply looking at your social media, because the Bible says where your Instagram is, there will your heart be also.
Of course, the Bible doesn't say that. The Bible says where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. But the reality is people tend to reflect on their social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and even TikTok what they're really excited about. So as I go through your feed, I'm going to know what matters to you. For some, it looks like it's cats. Their life revolves around cats or maybe their dog or maybe what they just ate. For others, it's politics. For others, it's something else. And here's what I'm saying to you. If you're a follower of Jesus, number one, you should be passionate about following Jesus. That's where your heart should primarily be.
Listen to this. You're going to walk where you look. So if I'm looking this direction, this is where I'm going to walk.
So where you look is where your life will go. And we want to get our focus on Christ himself. Paul understood this when he said this one thing I do, forgetting the things that are behind, reaching forward to the things that are before, I press toward the mark for the prize in Christ Jesus.
One thing, David said, one thing I have desired of the Lord and that will I seek after that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. Well, I bring this up because now as we come to Acts chapter six and chapter seven, we find a distracted church. So the devil has tried to stop the church from advancing. These first century Christians were turning the world upside down in the best sense of that phrase.
They were changing things for the better. And the devil doesn't want this to happen. So the enemy employs two strategies. First, he attacks them to do persecution. As you may remember, John and Peter were arrested for preaching the gospel. They were told to no longer preach the gospel.
So what do they do? They got together with the other believers and prayed for more power and more boldness to preach the gospel. And the Holy Spirit came on them and the room shook. So then the devil tries a different approach, corruption. He tries to infiltrate the church through an evil couple who were deceitful and were the classic definitions of hypocrites.
I'm talking about Ananias and Sapphira. And they were dealt with quickly and handily. So now we see the next strategy of the devil. A strategy that frankly he is still using in the church today and it is distraction. Distraction.
Failing to make the main thing the main thing. So let's read a few verses together. If you have your Bible or your tablet or your phone or however you're reading with me, let's look at Acts chapter six, verse one. By the way, I'm reading from the New Living Translation. As the believers were rapidly multiplying, there were rumblings of disconnect.
I would underline that. That's interesting. As the believers are multiplying, there are rumblings of discontent. The Greek speaking believers complained about the Hebrew speaking believers saying their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the twelve called the Christians together and they said, we apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. So brothers, select seven men who are well respected, who are full of the Spirit and of wisdom and give them this responsibility so we apostles can spend our time in prayer and preaching the word.
Well, it goes on to say everyone liked the idea and they chose the following. We need to give us a list of those who were chosen, including Stephen and Philip, and then we read in God's message continued to spread and the number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem and there were great miracles that were performed and many of the Jewish priests were converted too. So reading these verses, we get a real sense of what made the early church tick. And it's clear that what they were passionate about was prayer, Bible study and evangelism. What did the apostles say? Look, we can't run this food program.
We can't be involved in these things right now. Our calling is to teach the Bible and to pray. And as they got their priorities in order and got everybody pitching in and helping out, they were able to see more people come into the kingdom. The focus of the early church was to see more people coming into the kingdom. And the focus of the church today should also be seeing more people coming into the kingdom.
We're passionate about this here at Harvest. I've told you recently that we have seen thousands and thousands of people come to faith watching what you're watching right now, Harvest at Home. So this newly minted church is experiencing explosive growth.
Everywhere they turn, great things are happening. Peter preaches on Pentecost, 3,000 people come to faith. Then in Acts chapter four, another 4,000 believe. So their numbers are in the thousands. So now the devil is attacking through what?
Through division. Go back to verse one again. The believers rapidly multiplied, but there were rumblings of discontent. You know, it's not even really that important what the discontent was over. In this case, it was about the feeling that there was a bias among the apostles. They were favoring one group over the other. Here's what it comes down to. This was about selfishness, not selflessness. They should have been rejoicing that thousands of people are coming into the kingdom of God. And instead, they're griping about what I would classify as secondary issues.
When are we going to discover as Christians? It's not about me. It's about we. We're so focused on my needs, and my needs aren't met here. And my needs seem to be met in this other area.
Me, me, me. And we need to instead mature and grow up. And when we come to church, say, how can I help others? How can I serve others? Jesus says, hey, you want to find your life, lose your life.
What does that mean? It means invest your life in the work of the kingdom of God. In God's kingdom, everything is upside down, in a way.
That's what we've called this series, the upside down life. In God's kingdom, the way to up is to go down, to be a servant leader. Happiness is found in serving, not being served. Happiness is not looking for self-fulfillment.
It's actually found in self-denial. So the next time you feel like throwing in the towel, try taking up the towel instead, and washing the feet of other people, so to speak, because Jesus said it's more blessed to give than it is to receive. So they needed a plan. The apostles are saying, look, we've got to focus on Bible study and prayer. This is our calling.
And we need some other people to help us. But this is not in any way to say what the apostle did was more important. For instance, someone who's called to preach the Word or teach the Bible is not more important than someone who's working behind the scenes. It's just different callings. So we have to find our calling.
We need to get the round peg and the round hole and get everyone finding their gifts and developing their gifts and using them. So they say, hey, we need seven men who are full of the Holy Spirit who can do this. And as this list comes out, one of the men that stands out above all of them is named Stephen. And as our story unfolds, we're going to find that Stephen not only served behind the scenes well, but then God used him to help bring miracles about, and then he preached a great sermon. And tragically, his life, as some would describe it, was cut short. But was it really cut short, or did he fulfill his purpose in his generation? I don't know if you've ever heard of Jim Elliot. He was a missionary along with Nate Saint and others who went to bring the gospel to a tribe of people who had never heard it before. Tragically, Nate and his missionary friends were all martyred for their efforts to bring the gospel to the Alka tribe.
But Jim Elliot wrote in a little diary, and by the way, he was only 28 years old, but he wrote these words in his diary, and I quote, he is no fool to give up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose, end quote. So when we think of the name of Stephen, it's important to note that the name Stephen means crown, crown. And basically, as you look at his life, you discover an early death means an early crown. Let me illustrate. Let's say you were going to Disneyland, and you were waiting in line, and it was a super hot day, and you're standing in the blazing sun, and you don't have any water to drink, and you're thinking, it's gonna be 45 minutes before I even get in the park, and suddenly the CEO of Disneyland comes to you standing in the line, and next to him is Donald Duck, and the CEO of Disneyland says, you know, I notice you're standing in this line, and you're sweating, and you look miserable. Let me escort you to the very front, and Donald Duck affirms this by saying, and so you walk with the CEO of Disney and Donald Duck, and you go right to the front of the line. What is everyone else on the line gonna say? Ah, lucky dog.
Why didn't that happen to me? Now let's apply this to life. Someone is called home to heaven sooner than expected. They're a young man.
They're a young woman. We say that's a tragedy. In one sense, it is. In another sense, they are getting a blessing as they're being called to heaven before us. Paul said, I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, and in the original language, that can be translated far, far better. Because he had actually been to heaven, you remember, and he was raised from the dead. He died, went to heaven, came back. He was raised from the dead, and so he knew what was waiting for him, and he goes, oh man, heaven is so much better than earth.
But let's think about Stephen a little bit. Why was he chosen by God? His life was short but impactful. What are some of the qualities in his life, and I bring this up because some of you who are young and you're thinking about your future, I want you to pray that God will instill these qualities inside of you so you can be used by God to reach your generation.
If you're taking notes, here's number one. Stephen was well respected. Verse three tells us he was well respected. We read, select seven men who are well respected. The King James Version translates it, seven men who have a good reputation. This means that he had personal integrity. Integrity and character are what we are in the dark when no one is looking.
Humorous Will Rogers once made this statement, and I quote, so lived that you would not mind selling your pet parrot to the town gossip. So this is the thing that God is looking for. If you wanna be a leader, if you wanna influence others as a Christian, you need to have a good reputation among those who are not even believers. In 1 Timothy 3.7 it says people outside of the church should speak well of him, speaking to someone called a leadership so he won't fall into the devil's trap and be disgraced. Let me ask you, what do you think nonbelievers say about you? It'd be great if they would say, well, look, I don't agree with what he believes, but I have to say he's one of the nicest people I've ever met, he's a great neighbor, he's a hard worker, they seem to be a wonderful, loving husband or wife and family is so important to them and I admire so many things about them and I know if I was in trouble, they would be there for me. See, that's having a good reputation, even if they don't believe what you believe.
Do you have a good reputation? Well, Stephen did. Number two, he was full of faith in the Holy Spirit. He was full of faith in the Holy Spirit. We read in verse five, and by the way, I can't really accomplish anything without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that's not by might nor by power, but by his Spirit says the Lord. There's so many things I cannot do without God's help, but with the power of the Spirit, so much can be accomplished. You know, we talk a lot about the power of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, which were given to the believers in the first century, but let's not also forget the fruit of the Spirit because Galatians 5, 22 says the fruit of the Spirit is love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. So you can talk all day about the power of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, but do you have control of your temper? We can talk all day about God's Holy Spirit moving in people's lives, but are you a gentle person? Are you a kind person?
Are you a loving person? Remember, to be filled with the Spirit means to be controlled by the Spirit. Also, another quality in Stephen's life, he was filled with wisdom. Verse three, find men who are filled with wisdom. Where do you get wisdom? You get wisdom by studying the Word of God, and Stephen was a great student of Scripture, as we'll discover in a moment.
The Bible says if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God who will give it generously, and I've met young people who have wisdom beyond their years. You know, maybe they're in their teens still or their early 20s, but you sit down and talk with them and they know what life is all about. They know what really matters. They know the Word of God. They have a biblical worldview.
I'm so impressed with that. They have great wisdom. We always think wisdom goes to the older people.
Well, it can and it will if the older people walk with God, but let's be honest, we've all met some old fools who haven't learned anything, but then I've met younger people who are filled with wisdom because they've read and understood and followed what the Scripture says. Stephen is filled with wisdom. We see him do this amazing flyover of Old Testament history showing how he had a good working knowledge of Scripture. Another quality in Stephen's life, he was faithful in the little things. So what was his job? Okay, buddy, we want you to wait on tables.
Take care of the distribution of food. Do this menial work and be faithful, and he was faithful. And I think you need to understand that we're never too small for God to use, only too big, and sometimes people think they wanna do big, important things for God, but the reality is you should be willing to do the simple things. I remember years ago, I was probably around 18, and I was a brand new believer, and I wanted to serve the Lord. I knew there was a call of God on my life, so I went down to Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. He said the Jesus movement is in full swing, and Pastor Chuck Smith is in his office, and I sat down in front of him. Pastor Chuck was sitting behind his desk, and I sat down, and I said, Pastor Chuck, I wanna serve God. I was hoping he might say, well, Greg, why don't you teach over at this little Bible study here, or maybe fill in for me on a Sunday morning. I don't know what I was thinking. But he said, well, Greg, you need to go see one of our associate pastors named Romaine.
Well, I met Pastor Romaine, and I know he used to be a drill sergeant in the Marine Corps, and I had long hair and a beard at this point, and he just put me to work doing janitorial work, and I thought, why am I sweeping leaves? There was this one tree. It was a pepper tree, and it constantly dropped its leaves. I thought, why even have a tree like this?
All it does is drop leaves, but I was constantly sweeping under that tree. But what they were doing was giving me simple things to do because if I wasn't willing to be faithful in the little things, why would God give me greater things to do? The Bible says, despise not the days of small things. Maybe I'm talking to somebody right now that feels called to serve God.
I would suggest to you, you start in the simple areas. Go to your church and say to your pastor, I wanna just help out wherever I can. I wanna do whatever I can.
Whatever needs to be done, and I find that when people are faithful in the little things, they'll be faithful in the larger things as well. So here is now the early church functioning well, and we have these men serving God so effectively, and the devil is thinking, I've gotta put a stop to this, so he brings a new attack with a sort of new twist, persecution again, but this time, ending up in martyrdom. Acts 6-11 says they persuaded men to lie about Stephen, saying we heard him blaspheme Moses and even God. What a lie that was.
It's the very opposite. Stephen honored God, but they made up a lie about him. Let me just say this. Let non-believers make up lies about you.
That's not a bad thing. That's what they did to Daniel. Daniel faithfully served the Lord, and there were others that were jealous of his success, and they said we're not going to be able to bring Daniel down unless we find something concerning him and his God. See, the problem for them is there were no skeletons in Daniel's closet. Instead, he was praying in his closet. He was a man of prayer, so they made up lies about them and took them to the king.
Let people lie about you because you're living a godly life. Here's another point about Stephen. Point number five. He looked for opportunities, and he sees them. He looked for opportunities, and he sees them. So Stephen is called before the Sanhedrin. Who were the Sanhedrin? They were like the Supreme Court of the day with this distinction. They were making spiritual decisions as well as legal decisions.
But this was the powerful group of men ruling over Israel. So to even appear before them, not unlike appearing before the Supreme Court today, is a big deal. You're gonna make your case, and Stephen is a young guy. He understands this, but he also sees it as a tremendous opportunity to present the gospel, and that's where our story picks up. I'm back in Acts chapter six. Look at verse 15. At this point, everyone in the high council stared at Stephen because his face became as bright as an angel.
Wow, I wonder what that looked like. He was just radiating God's love. There was something about him that could see it on his face. And then we read, and the high priest asked Stephen, are these accusations true? Stephen replies, brothers and sisters, listen to me. Then he goes on to give an amazing message in Acts chapter seven, a flyover of the history of Israel. Verses nine to 10 of Acts seven deal with the story of Joseph.
Verses 17 to 43 deal with Moses, but everything builds to the main point, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel, has died on the cross for our sins and risen again from the dead, and you've rejected him. You've rebelled against him.
And boy, that did not go over well. Go back to Acts seven. Look at verse 54. The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen's accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. Now you know you're not doing well in your sermon when people are shaking their fists at you in rage. 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 the right hand of God, and he said, look, I see the heavens open and the Son of Man is standing in the place of honor at God's right hand. Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting, and they rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And his accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. He fell to his knees shouting, Lord, don't charge him with this sin.
And with this, he fell asleep. Wow, what a powerful account that is. Look at the blind bias that these men have. Their hatred for Stephen as we read in Acts 7, 57.
They put their hands over their ears and began shouting and rushing at him and dragged him out of the city. It's an amazing thing how irrational people can be when you talk about Jesus. You can be talking about anything else.
And boy, you get on the subject of Jesus Christ and some people can effectively flip out. Their face turns red, their voice gets louder. You know, they just don't wanna hear it. They wanna silence you. That's what's happening in so many ways in our culture today.
We have canceled culture. It's not that they disagree with you. It's that they don't want you to even express that opinion. They wanna silence you. They wanna shut you down. That's what they were doing to Stephen. We want to stop you from saying this.
Why do people act this way? Jesus gives the answer in John 3.20. He says they hate the light because they want to sin in the darkness. They stay away from the light for fear their sins will be exposed and they'll be punished.
You know what it's like. It's early in the morning and the shades are drawn and it's dark and maybe your wife or your husband or your mom or dad say, time to wake up and they open up the shades and flip on the lights. You're like, ah, it's too bright, right? That's how non-believers are. You see Jesus Christ, you see the Bible and they're like, whoa, whoa, too much light, stop. Stop talking. Stop shining so radiantly. I don't want to hear this but he was full of the Holy Spirit, verse 55 says.
Listen to this. When you obey God, you'll be filled with the Holy Spirit. God doesn't pour out his Spirit just for the fun of it. He gives us the power of the Spirit for a reason. It's power with a purpose. You know, you can have power like a fire hose you've lost control of and it's just flailing about but then you can grab hold of that hose and you can aim it into the direction of a burning building and extinguish the fire. The same is true of the Holy Spirit. I think some people just want to have emotional experiences and no, no, it's power with a purpose. Acts 1 eight says, you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you to be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. You know, sometimes people say, you know, I just feel so dry spiritually. Well, let me ask you this question. When is the last time you shared your faith?
When is the last time you spoke up for Jesus Christ? See, the gospel is not meant to be hoarded. It's meant to be shared. You're blessed to be a blessing. Proverbs 11 25 says, the generous soul will be made fat and he that waters others will be watered himself. So don't you want a fat soul?
I mean, we don't want a fat body but a fat soul, that sounds good. When you're generous, when you're giving out, you'll be replenished. Again, if you water others, you yourself will be water. I can think of times, honestly, when I've gotten up to preach where I was sort of depleted. Maybe I was going through some kind of conflict that day. Maybe there were issues that were heavy on my heart that I was aware of.
But whatever it is, I went in to preach and I didn't feel in the mood, if you will, to preach. But I can tell you on so many occasions, I've started my message on empty and I've ended it on full because I found as I give, it's given to me. And with the same measure I give, it's given back to me. You know, sometimes people say, well, I just don't feel joy anymore.
Life is so hard. Hey, maybe you need to get perspective. Maybe you need to talk to someone who's really suffering and see how blessed you really are. He was filled with the Holy Spirit as he was doing the work of God. Well, as he's speaking, these religious leaders, these are experts in theology, listening to this young kid who clearly knows the Bible speak with boldness and with power and he radiates like an angel. And they were angry. They were coming under the conviction of the Spirit. In fact, verse 54 says they were cut to the heart, which means to literally saw the heart in half. This was really hitting them. And Stephen was so heroic in what he did even when he was on his knees.
He stood tall. They say we have to kill him and they stone him. Now, stoning was a horrible process. It took a while, frankly. They would take a person sometimes and bury them up to their waist so they couldn't move and people would pick up rocks and throw them at them and it would take time. It would be painful.
It was horrible. They're stoning young Stephen and God gives to this young man a glimpse of glory. Very few people have been given a glimpse through the portal into the afterlife. We know that some have, like Isaiah, saw the Lord sitting on his own. He was high and lifted up in his glory. Filled the temple, he wrote about it in Isaiah 6. Ezekiel was given a glimpse of glory. So was the Apostle Paul. So God gave Stephen what he need when he needed it.
Know this. Stephen was in extreme adversity, but God gave him what he needed. Sometimes you look at someone who's suffering and you say, oh man, if that happened to me, I would never have the faith that person has.
Oh, I think you would. I think God will give you what you need when you need it because the scripture says he's a very present help in time of trouble. So God gave Stephen this glimpse into glory and what does he see? He sees Jesus standing on the right hand of the Father. Ever ever notice that when you read of Jesus with the Father in heaven, it always says he's sitting at the right hand of God. But in this particular instance, we read that Jesus is standing at the right hand of the Father. We don't read of this any other time in the Bible.
Why do you think that is? Could it be that Christ was standing in honor of this young man who would be the first martyr of the Christian church? Remember the Lord says, if you will confess me before men, I will confess you before the Father.
So as Stephen stood for Jesus on earth, Jesus stood for Stephen in heaven, effectively welcoming him in. And look at the prayer of this young man. He says, Lord, don't charge them with this sin.
Wow. You would have thought he might have called a curse on them. Curse these godless men.
Bring judgment on them all. But was not the prayer of Stephen a reflection of what Jesus prayed on the cross? You remember the first statement of Jesus as he hung on the cross?
He gave seven statements in total. His first statement was, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And what did Stephen pray?
Lord, don't hold this sin against them. And then he said, Lord, receive my spirit. He knew he was going to glory. He knew he was going to heaven. When a Christian dies, they go immediately into the presence of God. 2 Corinthians 5, 8 says we're fully confident and would rather be away from these bodies because then we will be at home with the Lord. Writer John Bunyan once said, quote, death is but a passage out of a prison into a palace, end quote. When death strikes the Christian down, they fall into heaven. The Lord allowed this to happen because Stephen's work was done.
He was faithful to God to fulfill the calling in his generation. Listen, we have no guarantee we will live long lives. To quote Jim Elliot again, he said, I seek not a long life, but a full one like you, Lord Jesus. I don't know how long your life will be.
I don't know how much longer my life will be, but it can be a full life if you live each day for the glory of God. A life is not measured by its duration, but its donation, said Corrie Ten Boom. So it's not just about living long. Some people, all they want to do is live long. That's fine, but what you really want to do is live a meaningful life, live a life that makes a difference.
Stephen certainly did that. The Bible tells us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. Listen, in a broad sense, a Christian never dies.
You say, Greg, you're delusional. Christians die all the time. Well, I know they lay our bodies into the ground, but understand, Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. My soul, your soul, as followers of Jesus, lives on for eternity. Yes, our bodies will cease to function on this planet, but we'll be in the presence of God, and one day, God will resurrect these bodies. So let's make sure we live a life that matters.
Here's a few closing thoughts. Number one, for the Christian walking in the will of God, death will come at the appointed time. Death will come at the appointed time, so don't worry about how long you're going to live. Jesus said, who of you by worrying can extend your life for one moment? People become so obsessed with this, but this is really ultimately in the hands of God. The Bible says there's a time to be born, and there's a time to die.
So here's what I believe. The Christian is indestructible until God is done with him. So when you get up in the morning, you say, well, what if I die today? Well, what if you die today? If you die today and you're a Christian, you'll go to heaven. As Paul said, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Chances are you won't die today, so live this day for God's glory.
It's in his hands. Number two, the Christian does not have to fear death. You don't have to fear death. It doesn't mean we want to die. I don't think Stephen had a death wish.
You know, if you would have played his cards right and given a nice flowery message, you might have been able to go home for dinner. But he knew it was a strategic moment to bring the gospel to a particular group of people so he sees the moment, carpe diem, right? Well, he also knew that he didn't have to be afraid to die. Notice it says in verse 59, Stephen fell asleep.
Isn't that interesting? I mean, here is a man dying a violent death, to be honest. And the Bible says he fell asleep. Did you know this expression falling asleep connected to death is only used of Christians?
It's never used to describe the death of a non-believer. Are you afraid of sleep? You know, I think as you get older, you kind of enjoy sleep. Well, you take more naps than you used to, don't you? When you're older, happy hour is a nap, right? And so he fell asleep.
It's just a beautiful picture of calmness and peace and safety. Number three, in heaven, all of your questions will be answered. Oh, I know we all have questions.
I just met with a family who lost a loved one and he was a young man and they were, of course, asking why did this happen? And I said, I don't know the answer. But one day, we will know the answer.
But then I said, never trade what you do know for what you don't know. There are certain questions we can answer, why did this happen, but there are questions we can answer like this. Does God love me? The answer is yes.
If that person is a believer, and in this case, this young man was, are they in heaven? The answer is yes. The question is, will I see them again? The answer is yes.
These are things I know. So I focus on what I know is true instead of those unanswered questions. The Bible says that one day we will know as we are known. One day, all questions will be answered.
One day, all conflicts will be resolved. But having said that, there is great sadness when a loved one dies, even when a Christian dies. Chapter eight, verse two of Acts says, Godly men buried Stephen and they mourn deeply for him. They mourn deeply for him because they loved him. You know, sometimes Christians who don't understand the Bible will say, well, when a Christian dies, we don't cry, because they're in heaven, no cry. The Bible says there's a time to mourn.
And when I was talking to this family, I already mentioned, I said, you need to cry. You need to mourn, because the depth of your sorrow is an indication of the depth of your love. And the Bible promises, blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. So it's a good thing to mourn and to cry. And these godly men felt sorrow over losing Stephen. He was such a tremendous young man.
But there's another thing that we don't wanna miss that happened here, because a great objective was accomplished, bringing me to my last point. God can bring good out of the worst kind of bad. Who is in charge of this stoning? The Bible says they laid their coats at the feet of Saul.
What does that mean? It means that Saul was in charge, laying their coats at his feet, was showing respect. Saul was a young man at this point, apparently the leader of the Sanhedrin. And of course, if you know your Bible, you know Saul later became Paul the apostle. And we'll get to that later, the amazing story of his conversion. But here's what I wanna bring back to Stephen. Stephen played a role in that conversion because Stephen, because of his courage, because of his faith, impacted Saul. I think Saul came under the conviction of the Spirit when he saw how Stephen died and that played a major role in him coming to Christ.
Listen, Stephen may have not had a lot of converts, but he had one whopper of a convert in the apostles, Paul, who occupies the second half of the book of Acts and was so influential in the early church and of course has given us our epistles and so much more. So here's what it comes down to. Hardship will come in our life.
We can't control it, but we do control how we react to it. Many of you know that our son Christopher went to be with the Lord 13 years ago at the age of 33. We were absolutely devastated by this event. And if I could turn back time, I would bring him back, but I was not given that choice. People came to me with a lot of verses trying to comfort Kathy and myself and our son Jonathan, Christopher's brother. And one of the hardest verses to hear was honestly Romans 8.28, because sometimes it was applied out of context. You know Romans 8.28, right? It says, for we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are they called according to his purpose.
People would say this is gonna work together for good. Well, I had a hard time seeing how the death of my firstborn son could ever work together for good. But yet I have to look back in retrospect and say even though this was a great tragedy, we have seen good come despite it. It impacted our family in a dramatic way. My son Jonathan was going the wrong way in life.
He was using drugs. He was having conversations with his older brother. In fact, the night before Christopher went to be with the Lord, Jonathan and Christopher were talking, and Jonathan would really open his heart to his older brother that he respected and tell him things he wouldn't tell. Kathy and I, Kathy's my wife, and as he was talking to Christopher about a struggle, Christopher said to Jonathan, Jonathan, what's it gonna take for you to get right with God? And the next day when Jonathan found out his brother had died in an automobile accident, that event jolted him, and he recommitted his life to Christ and in fact committed his life to serving the Lord in ministry. Jonathan is a pastor now. He's married. He's a father of three wonderful children, and he's serving the Lord.
You see him here at Harvest at Home. Jonathan's life was changed. Kathy's life was changed. Her heart was enlarged, and she wanted to do things she had not done.
She started a powerful women's ministry that touches women all around the world. My heart was changed. I was willing to do things I wasn't willing to do before because I wanted to make my life count.
I was in my 50s when it happened, and I thought, okay, I don't know how much life I have left, but I wanna make every year count. I want every month to count. I want every week to count.
I want every day to count. So we took bold steps of faith and done things we would not have done otherwise, including doing crusades in unexpected places, taking big, bold steps of faith, which I'm happy to say the Lord has really honored. See, instead of this stopping the spread of the church, this attack against Stephen ended up helping the church to fulfill the very mission Jesus gave to them. He said to the church, they're to go into all the world and preach the gospel, and what did they do?
They stayed in Jerusalem. They were having a nice little holy huddle, but when Stephen was martyred, they spread out, but they spread out with greater courage and greater faith because Stephen was this heroic, inspirational figure, this young man who was fearless before his accusers. Yes, Stephen's life was short, but it was full, and it was meaningful, and he faced something that we all have to face one day, and it's called death, but when that day comes, if you're a believer in Jesus Christ, you don't have to fear it. Revelation 2 10 says, be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life. God will give you what you need when you need it, but here's my question in closing. If this were your last day, would you go to heaven, and are you sure? Some people would say, well, I would hope I would because I'm a good person, and I've lived a good life. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you're not as good as you think you are, and you've not lived as good of a life as you think you've lived because the Bible says we've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
We've all broken God's commandments, and the Bible says if we offend at one point of the law, we're guilty of all of it. See, you are not gonna get to heaven by living a good life. The only way you're gonna get to heaven is through Jesus. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father but through me. So you get to heaven because you've asked God to forgive you of your sins, and you've put your faith in Christ.
That's how Stephen got to heaven. That's how I'm gonna get to heaven, and that's how you can get to heaven as well. Have you asked Jesus to come into your life, and have you asked him to forgive you of your sin, and if you have not, would you like to right here, right now, and say, wait, what do you mean right here, right now? I mean, would you be willing to pray a prayer with me where you would say to God, I'm sorry for my sin, but I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the cross for me and rose again from the dead, and I want Jesus to come into my life. If you will pray that prayer, God will hear it.
God will answer it, and you can know with certainty that you'll go to heaven when you die. If you would like to pray that prayer, if you would like Christ to come into your life, if you would like to fill that big hole in your heart, if you would like to find the meaning and purpose of your life, if you wanna go to heaven when you die, pray with me right now. Just pray this prayer after me. Pray these words, if you would. Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I know that you're the Savior. Who died on the cross for my sin and rose again from the dead. I repent of my sin, and I choose to follow you from this moment forward as my Savior and Lord, as my God and friend.
In Jesus' name I pray, amen. Hey everybody, thanks for listening to this podcast. To learn more about Harvest Ministries, follow this show and consider supporting it. Just go to harvest.org. And to find out how to know God personally, go to harvest.org and click on Know God.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-29 12:14:44 / 2023-07-29 12:33:28 / 19