Stephen: Courage to Preach
Courage to Preach
Preach the Gospel at all times, and use words when necessary--Francis of Assissi
Top Fears of Americans:
- Snakes. 51% of us are afraid of them to some degree.
- Heights, 38%.
- The dentist, 23%.
- Confined spaces, a.k.a. claustrophobia, 21%.
- Needles, also 21%.
- Clowns, 18%.
- Public speaking, 17%.
- The dark, 15%.
- Flying, 14%.
- Birds, 5%.
Now, most of this makes sense
- Snakes--this is one of the oldest fight/flight reflexes we have. If you're not afraid of snakes today its because it's been trained out of you, you're an exceptional human being, or you're a monster. You choose
- Heights--again, a genetically trained response. You fall, you hurt yourself or die
- The dentist--probably a new fear, but understandable...someone is literally going to drill into your skeleton and then you have to pay them cash for it because your insurance doesn't cover it. Terrifying
- Confined spaces--anyone ever see the Bob Newhart skit of being buried alive in a box?
- Needles--our blood is supposed to stay in our skin...not come out
- Clowns--I don't get it but my sister in law is deathly terrified of clowns, so I believe its a thing
- The dark--what you don't see CAN hurt you
- Flying--If God had wanted mankind to fly we'd have wings
One of America's favorite authors is Edgar Allen Poe because he gives us a view into a whole realm of human emotion...loss, grief, unrequited love, burying your enemy alive in a cellar and being scared out of your mind by a bird.
So...most of those things make a ton of sense--but why public speaking?
I think it comes down to the fear of not knowing the right words, stumbling over them, being judged for your appearance or eloquence or intelligence or whatever. You see, as most of us realize by the time we're in second grade...people are mean.
And yet, with all of these things there comes a time when we need to conquer our fears to move forward. I don't know what that scenario is...maybe you're hiking with your family and a snake is endangering your family...maybe the power goes out in your house and you need to go searching for a candle to light...or maybe you just have tooth pain that you can't get past. There are all sorts of situations that force us to confront our fears and then lead us past them--maybe not eternally, but certainly temporarily.
I don't know if Stephen experienced any fear about public speaking, but I'd like to explore his story today.
- Appointed as one of the seven servants to wait on the Hellenistic Jews
- Noted as being full of faith and the Holy Spirit among the seven
- Later, when noted for performing signs and miracles was noted as being full of grace and power
- Jews began to argue with Stephen but couldn't best him in arguments
- So they start to plan a way to arrest him and bring accusations against him
- So Stephen begins to preach, and explain the story of God in a way that explains Jesus.
- At the end of this sermon, Stephen is stoned and dies
So what was it that led Stephen to preach on this occasion?
Was he not doing the Lord's work by caring for the Hellenistic Jews? Quite the contrary--this was the work that he was specifically gifted and appointed to do...but his gifts clearly didn't stop there. He was not only a servant of the widows and orphans but was also a miracle worker and an explainer of the gospel.
Question: What other giftings do you have from the Lord but refuse to use because "that's not your job"?
Maybe you've spent your whole life working a corporate job but have always had a passion for food and feeding people. Maybe your life's work has been raising your kids as a stay at home mom or dad but have always felt a severe passion for working to build things on mission trips. Maybe you're a school teacher right now and so desperately want to tell your students about Jesus but can't because of rules at your job.
You fill in the blanks.
It wasn't an issue of calling--it was an issue of opportunity. Stephen had the opportunity and was compelled to speak. The Holy Spirit inside of him led him to speak the truth about the whole narrative of Scripture. Some circles would call this a special anointing...I just call it "getting fed up."
There's something interesting that happens to us when we get fed up and start to use the gifts that have lain dormant for so long--we get empowered. This simple process moves us from a state of fear and hiding to courage and visible engagement.
This is the type of courage that we don't have to find--it just appears when the world around us "happens."
My favorite definition of "calling" in a Christian sense is "where your deepest passions meet the worlds deepest needs"--in these scenarios you will often find God already at work with a "you" shaped hole.
The hole that Stephen filled was one that he easily stepped into, being filled with the Holy Spirit for this task and this function--to explain to the Jews with grace and power the truth of Jesus in the gospel. Now, he likely understood that this would cost him his life--he had already been accused of blasphemy.
The courage needed for your calling most likely won't require your life...but it could well require some friends, coworkers, a job, maybe even some family members. But these courageous events we're talking about today are the ones that get under your skin to the degree that NOT answering the urge will be more painful than the consequences of it.
So--what injustices or areas of brokenness around you today do you see that you are urged to speak? That’s a question only you can answer...but I hope you spend time and answer it.
This week we all heard news of acts of racial injustice. These are things that, for me at least, get under my skin and ask me to speak.
The profiling that Christian Cooper in NYC experienced were unjust. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis was preventable and a horrendous miscarriage of justice. Church, these are things that as followers of Christ we *should* be challenged to stand up and speak about. We say that we follow Jesus and honor the sanctity of life--that has to mean the life of all people regardless of skin color. We can talk about all sorts of things, but this for us should be a starting place. I don't know the answers to this...or even the first step. But I'm asking friends of color what resources I can read to learn...if you're interested in learning with me and having discussions over ZOOM, please send me an email at email@example.com or get ahold of me on facebook.
For now, let's go to God and ask for His courage and prepare ourselves to receive it through the sacrament of communion.
May 24, 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEJO0O-C6F8
May 10, 2020 https://youtu.be/2e_Q4DbJwaA
May 3, 2020 https://youtu.be/QfoQq1UdKnc
April 26, 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9li-V5CC4Jo
April 19, 2020: https://youtu.be/jh9oDljDVko
Easter 2020: https://youtu.be/NzXLtjKBjBY
Good Friday 2020: https://youtu.be/8hpcBMy29ZA
April 5, 2020: https://youtu.be/mFTv1IMWOD0
March 29, 2020: https://youtu.be/oju2cRnHyK0
March 22, 2020: https://youtu.be/sagW6UDFsds
March 15, 2020: https://youtu.be/8dEjc3g1ENY