A SERMON FROM STEPHEN
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Down through the centuries, Christian heroes have suffered and died while proclaiming their faith. And one of the first ones was Stephen and early deacon in the church of Jerusalem. Shortly after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, he began preaching and teaching about Jesus and serving others with great signs, and wonders. Those who opposed him stirred up the crowd with lies and false witnesses, finally bringing him before the Sanhedrin, the local governing body at that time. After hearing the false accusations, Stephen preached a sermon in his own defense and accusing them of rejecting God and His word. Our scripture for today picks up at the end of his sermon when the enraged crowd began to pick up large stones, pummeling Stephen to death. As he died Stephen trusts in the Lord and even prays for his persecutors. No wonder Stephen was described in the Bible as a man “full of God’s grace and power.”
1. Stephen prayed in verse 59 of our scripture, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” What does this indicate about what Christians will experience after this life is passed?
2. While he was being martyred for his faith, Stephen cried out in verse 60, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” Why do you think Stephen was able to forgive his persecutors and even pray for their salvation?
3. The Bible refers to Stephens death by stoning in this way: “He fell asleep.” Why is death for believers in Jesus referred to as “falling asleep” in scripture?
1. SERVE – Stephen served others in the name of Jesus. We can follow his example today because there are people around us who need help, healing, prayers, and an encouraging word.
2. SPEAK – Stephen was not afraid to speak up for Jesus. Let people know that you trust in Jesus. Let them know how He has helped you. And tell them how they can be saved by trusting Christ!
3.STAND – Take your stand for the Lord. Be brave. After all, Stephen’s martyrdom led to the conversion of Paul who took the Gospel of Jesus around the world!
When evil darkens our world, give us light. When despair numbs our souls, give us hope. When we stumble and fall, lift us up. When doubts assail us, give us faith. When nothing seems sure, give us trust. When ideals fade, give us vision. When we lose our way, be our guide! That we may find serenity in Your presence, and purpose in doing Your will. — John D. Rayner