Connections 05.10.2020: Faithfulness

Acts 7:55–8:8

The story of Stephen reads like a dramatic action movie. It’s dangerous, frightening, and devastating. It’s also heartening, inspiring, and exciting. If it were a movie, some lovely actor would play Stephen—someone serious and determined but also charismatic, physically fit, and endearing. Someone you’d believe in, like Chadwick Boseman or maybe a young Harrison Ford. The lighting would turn golden and the music would swell behind the words of his bold sermon (see Acts 7), making you feel certain that this man was going to change his part of the world forever.

But then the tone would shift, the light becoming darker and the music notes getting lower. You’d notice the expressions on the faces of Stephen’s audience, all those extras frowning and smirking and giving each other knowing looks. They’d cover their ears so they couldn’t hear him speak the truth, and the music would stop suddenly as the camera zoomed in for a closeup of Stephen’s face. Your speakers would grow silent for a short pause. And then the crowd would shout, and Stephen would look to the heavens as the people rushed him, tackled him, and dragged him out of the city. You’d have to close your eyes as the stones began to fly.

The movie might even win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It would be a good candidate. Movies about superheroes usually don’t fare well. When the lead character faces death but prevails because he is superhuman, the audience usually enjoys the film more than critics. But in Stephen’s movie, there would be enough drama and devastation to make it a serious award contender. The lead character is brave and bold and persistent. And he is also murdered, with words of forgiveness on his lips as he loses consciousness from the trauma of stones hitting his body.

It’s a great story. We are thankful for Stephen’s courage and for what his martyrdom meant for the development of the church. He is one of our truest examples of faithfulness. His story makes us ponder our own level of faith and how far we’d be willing to go for Jesus. It scares us because it challenges us. How could we possibly have that much faith? What would it take to be like Stephen, to speak truth even when it costs us everything?

Discussion

• What are some of your favorite movies about the triumph of good over evil? Why do you like them? What qualities do you admire in the lead characters? How do they inspire you to be better?

• The Bible tells us that Stephen was one of the seven men called to help the first disciples and that he was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). With “grace and power, [he] did great wonders and signs among the people” (6:8). Not long after that, he was arrested for false charges of blasphemy, sitting before the council with “the face of an angel” (6:15). He was murdered after preaching a powerful sermon, and his last words were a prayer that God “not hold this sin against them” (7:60). What are the qualities of a person with a story like this?

• Everything we know about Stephen relates to his calling and his sacrificial service to Christ. But there was certainly more to this man. What might he have given up for the cause of Christ?

• Our faith is unlikely to make such difficult demands on us, but it might. How can we be ready? How can we build courage and persistence in our faithfulness to Jesus? How can we be more like Stephen?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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