Acts 6:15 – All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Acts 7: 55-60 -But 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. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices; they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, there is a joy that comes upon us like no other joy you have ever felt before. It’s hard to explain, but for me it was like the weight of the world left me, and I had complete peace and felt nothing but love from the Father. That’s the best way I can explain it, it’s much deeper than that and difficult to put into words.
All of us followers of Jesus have a problem though. After accepting Christ as our Savior, we lose that initial feeling of joy to some degree. It may be that between work, spouses, children, church activities, and the busyness of life, we get caught up again in worldly things and put that joy on the back burner. We shouldn’t, but it is human nature that sometimes we shelve that joy. But we need to learn how to put that joy first in our lives.
Why? Because no matter what happens; stock market crashes, foreclosures, death of family and friends, accidents, bills there is one thing will never change. If you are truly a Christ follower, you have been accepted and adopted into God’s family. You have a spot at the family table, being prepared for you. You have a mansion being built, designed by Jesus Himself. We need to carry this joy with us 24/7, and put it first before everything each day, and not let the negatives get to us.
Acts 6 through 7 describes Stephen, a Godly Christ follower, full of the Holy Spirit. He was so full of the Holy Spirit, it showed on his face to all. Stephen was letting that joy from God the Father shine through him. Stephen, when he called the Pharisees out with the truth, received the biggest negative a person could receive; they turned on him and started stoning him. He looked up at heaven and his joy got even more intense. Acts 7 55-60, at the top of this page, tells of how Stephen looks up and sees heaven opening up. He describes it to the Pharisees, who cover their ears (just like some people today, they are so caught up in their misery, they feel they have to hold on to it and refuse to listen to the truth) and continue the stoning of Stephen. He’s describing what heaven looks like. For me, I would have dropped the stone and listened, but they continued on.
Stephen, not only blessed them with that description, but also after asking Jesus to receive his spirit, Stephen asks that they be forgiven. Imagine, being pelted with stones, large ones that hurt, hurt like crazy. Stephen who knows his destiny (eternity with Jesus) chooses to forgive them as he is dying. Why would he do this? One could get into all of the theology of forgiveness and obedience, but simply put, Stephen’s joy was so great that he chose his last moments to describe heaven to his killers then forgive them. So where is your joy today?
Father God, please fill us with the joy that you gave Stephen. Keep us grounded in putting You first and remind us every minute of every day that we will spend eternity with you. So when we are pelted with spiritual stones of everyday life, we will look up, see heaven, forgive those who trespass against us and praise your name.
In Jesus name, Amen.