Mei Lan Thallman is originally from Taiwan and a graduate of Asbury College and Asbury Theological Seminary (M.A.) in Kentucky. She is the wife of Pastor Kirt, who serves at Grace Covenant Church (Philadelphia). They have two children, Nate (14) and Naomi (12).
Pastor Ryun’s series returns on Monday.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
Be Bold for Christ
Acts 6:8-15; 7:54-60
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
We saw yesterday how the early church grew rapidly, but so did the challenges, obstacles, and oppositions from both inside and out. From within, the church struggled with disunity due to conflicts and complains about unequal food distribution among the widows. God’s solution was to appoint Spirit filled leaders to meet practical needs while modeling and teaching godly principles and attitudes. In instructing the young flock to follow Christ, their objective was looking not only to their own interests, but also to the welfare of others in the church.
Today’s texts offer us a few snap shots of how the same Holy Spirit strengthened Stephen while facing fierce opposition from outside the church. Perhaps what was an amicable conversation about faith quickly turned into a heated debate. Then, those opposing Stephen quickly unleashed vendetta against him, trying to prove him wrong at any cost, but Stephen did not flinch from his conviction even as escalating condemnation and accusation led to his stoning. Subsequently, Stephen, facing the opposition in the fullness of the Holy Spirt, grace and power (Acts 6:15; 7:1-60), became the first martyr of NT era.
In our postmodern age of relativism and political correctness, we, as followers of Christ Jesus, must prepare and brace ourselves for increasing opposition and persecution against our core belief and conviction; the obedience to the gospel in all areas of our lives must be sustained. As we have just started the New Year to follow and serve Jesus wholeheartedly, we must seek and rely on God’s supernatural anointing and empowerment to deal with hostility against our faith in His love and grace.
May we be reminded that apart from Him we can do nothing; but with Him we can do all things through His love, grace and strength. May we aspire to embody the humble heart of Stephen to serve and love the family of Christ, addressing their needs, both visible and unspoken, as unto the Lord. May we have the courage to speak up for Jesus and defend our faith even at the risk of being ridiculed and rejected by those who hold Christianity in contempt. May we extend God’s unconditional love and forgiveness to those who are hostile toward us like Stephen did (Acts7:60).
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, as we ponder on the outcome of Stephen’s life, there is no logical reason other than he was a man completely captured by the fullness of Christ. He was so filled with You that there was nothing he wasn’t willing to do, from serving tables to defend the gospel to dying for His beloved Jesus; he lived his life with such reckless devotion, grace and humility. May You captivate our generation and fill us as You did for Stephen, so that we may truly make an impact in this world for your glory. In your matchless name, Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 16