The story of Steven is amazing. Scripture says when he ended praying he fell asleep. Act 6:8 – 15 Stephen didn’t die a horrible death through stoning. Rather he was rocked to sleep in the arms of Jesus! And so it was with all the Martyrs. Fox reports in his books of martyrs that this experience is the same with all the Saints for God has promised never to leave or forsake us and his grace is sufficient to all our needs. PTL!
Let’s look more closely and see who was really being tortured here –Verse 54 says, “they were cut to the heart, and gnashed on him with their teeth.”This “gnashing of teeth” is a term used in the NT to describe the horrible pains of the dammed burning in Hell fire. Apparently his persecutors were the ones suffering the most!
His enemies were in a storm, Steven was calm
They were howling, He was smiling
They were tormented, He was tranquil
They were vexed, He was composed
They were full of madness, He was full of gladness
They were enraged, He was enraptured
They were full of fury, He was full of glory
They were quivering, He was rejoicing
They were exasperated, He was rejuvenated
They were constipated, He was vindicated
Their fury imprisoned them, His faith freed him
THE QUESTION FOR TODAY IS WHAT MADE STEPHEN’S FACE SHINE AND HOW CAN WE GET OUR FACES TO SHINE?
Whatever made Steven’s face to shine so? Because he stood amazed at God!
It was his KNOWLEDGE OF GOD THAT LED TO HIS CONTEMPLATION OF GOD. A lot of people have a great knowledge of God but never meditate on that knowledge. They never ruminate and relish that knowledge. As soon as we hear or read a sermon we are off to other things. The birds of the air come and snatch away the seed before it takes root. There is no waiting on God! It’s contemplation of God, not knowledge of God that makes hearts burn and faces shine.
A face shining with the glory of God is the greatest sight on earth you can ever hope to see! The very word “Grace” comes from a Hebrew expression of a smiling face. When you receive grace from God it is because he is smiling at you. When you smile at others you are giving them grace. When you don’t you are withholding it.
If there was one sight that I wish you could all see it was the sight I had in Africa of the shining face of a preacher friend of mine who had a face to face encounter with Jesus. His name was Gerishim Milimu. As he told the story his face shone with a radiant smile and his entire body exuded such energy and enthusiasm that he was drenched with sweat.
Steven’s face began to shine when he saw Jesus as the “Son of Man” standing. Oh, that we could get this vision! By faith, Stephen looked up and snapped the chains that bind men to the world of flesh. Piercing through the veil separating time and eternity he saw Jesus, the son of Mary, now exalted to his original and eternal position as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
He now stood infinitely high above all the power of Roman legions, above all the authority of Jewish Sanhedrin, above all the influence of demon forces, above all the clout of angels and archangels. However desperate things looked in the present, however dark and discouraging, the future looked brighter than a billion suns. Suddenly nothing on earth mattered anymore. All the trials he faced as well as the temptations of a thousand kingdoms couldn’t compare with the ravishing beauty of Heaven. Earth’s fatal attraction dissolved the instant Steven caught a glimpse of Jesus standing and waiting to receive him to his eternal home in glory.