During the month of October I’m doing a series titled, Missionaries You Should Know. Last weekend I opened to Acts 6-7 and taught about an interesting character named Stephen. I like him, enough in fact, to have given his name to my son. A lot of things are obvious about Stephen. As a man of good reputation and full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3), he was selected to serve the widows who were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. He was confrontational. If you read his sermon in Acts 7, he doesn’t pull any punches as he preaches the gospel (Acts 7:51-53). Most notably, Stephen was the first martyr of the Christian church (Acts 7:54-60). I don’t suppose his confrontational style had anything to do with that.
I am intrigued by an obscure verse about his face. Acts 6:15 says, “At this point everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s.”
Hmmm. I imagine Stephen to be a guy like me…middle aged…family and kids…job…mortgage…and I’m not stretching the truth one bit to say that no one (especially an enemy) has expressed that I have the face of an angel! So what’s this about?
I got to thinking about some verses like Matthew 18:10, where Jesus said that we should always take care in how we deal with children because “their angels are always in the presence of (the) heavenly Father.”
Then I thought about Moses in Exodus 34. He came down the mountain after being in the presence of God for 40 days and nights with a face so radiant that the people became filled with fear.
And then I thought about Jesus and his transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-2. The Bible reports that Jesus appearance was altered and he became radiant.
I think those clues help us to understand something about Stephen. Though he wasn’t an apostle, he did know how to live in the presence of God. When you spend time in the presence of God, you not only reflect God’s countenance, you also reflect his heart and his passion. No wonder Stephen stepped up and preached the gospel with such clarity and passion. He was simply reflecting the heart of the One he has spent time with.
My mother always said that I needed to choose my friends carefully because I would be influenced by them to become like them. It was good advice that Lisa and I have passed down to our own kids. When you spend time with God, it’ll show. You’ll reflect his values and mimic his interests. Our God is a missionary God, and if you spend time in his presence, you’ll become a missionary, too.