July 21

Acts 7:55-56, 60 55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56"Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

One of the first deacons was a man named Stephen. He had such a powerful witness that no one could resist the wisdom with which he presented Jesus as the Messiah. That made a group of Jews very angry. They hired some false witnesses to testify against him, accusing him of speaking against the law and the temple.

Stephen began to recount their history. He reminded them that God had spoken through the prophets saying God did not live in buildings. Then he reminded them that their forefathers had always killed God's messengers just as they had killed the One that Moses had predicted would come to them.

In a rage they dragged Stephen out to stone him. Stephen had a vision of Jesus standing to receive him. He is seated at the right hand of God, the place of power and authority. He stands to receive His martyrs. Stephen's last words were to the One in the vision. He asked that He not hold the sin they were committing against them. That is what Jesus had requested of the Father on the cross. The first of many martyrs for the cause of Christ fell asleep, the Lord sparing his body the pain of the rocks that were to pummel his body.

Stephen had the boldness that the apostles prayed for. He did not back down when threatened, but used it as an opportunity to speak the truth. We need such an example today. Many we meet are living in careless disregard for the God that made them. They ignore His sacrifice as if it were nothing. Someone needs to tell them. We need the boldness that Stephen had to speak the truth in love. His words fell on the ears of Saul, who would later become the apostle to the Gentiles.

Remember: If we will boldly speak, God's word will do the work.