Other than Jesus, no one else in Scripture illustrates the passion of a person with a kingdom heart more perfectly than Stephen (see Acts 6:5 - 8:1). It doesn't say how old Stephen was, but to me, he is eternally ageless with purity, zeal and passion. When I think of the life of Stephen, I want to cry. He is what I think of when I dream of the church of God in the last days.
Stephen was one of the first men to be chosen as an "elder" in the early church. Out of the seven men chosen, he was said to be the most anointed and godly. Indeed, God used Stephen to start the great scattering of the Gospel. For when he died, his martyrdom started the great persecution of the early church, which sent Christians everywhere to escape (see Acts 8:1-8).
As they spread across the region, they took their faith to all the nations they fled to, and so began the evangelizing of Christianity. But it wasn't just Stephen's death that makes him unique, but how he died.
Stephen was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and through him, the Word of God prospered. When Stephen spoke, you knew God was present, and God performed many miraculous works through him as well.
Although many loved him, he had enemies too. Some men from the synagogue found fault with him and attempted to argue with him. Of course, they could not equal his wisdom or anointing. So, behind his back, they stirred up trouble for him; they hired men to lie about him, saying he cursed God and Moses.
The religious leaders of the day heard the rumors about Stephen and had him brought before the High Council. But, even before the council, he radiated the glorious presence of God.
He delivered one of the most glowing sermons in Scripture about the history of their people. He also spoke of the importance of the temple not made by human hands. He taught that the temple, which many Pharisees seemed to love more than God Himself, was not where God's spirit dwelt, but that He dwelt in the hearts of the people who loved Him. He chastised them for putting the importance of the temple building above the people for whom the temple was created. He called them traitors and murders. He said, "You had God's law handed to you by angels - gift wrapped! - and you squandered it!" (Acts 7:53 The Message Bible).
Through his teaching, Stephen took God out of the hands of the Pharisees and gave Him to the common man. He fought to liberate their minds from the traditions of men and from the power-hungry, vindictive "holy" men and made God accessible to them through Christ.
The crowd, of course, became enraged and began to hiss and curse at Stephen. They drug him through the town to kill him. Yet, Stephen was so ready to die for the Lord that, as they stoned him, he prayed, "'Master Jesus, take my life.' Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, 'Master, don't blame them for this sin'" (Acts 7:59 The Message Bible). Those were the last words he uttered.
Stephen was so happy to be doing God's work on this Earth. His life was defined by the kingdom of God, not the kingdoms of this world. He spoke fearlessly with no regard for himself. He refused to cower back when faced with the religious authority of the day.
He was filled with love for God and His kingdom. Stephen would deny Christ nothing, not even his own life. He had so let go of this world; he lived only for the next.
Now he lives with Christ in eternity rejoicing in every soul he's helped bring into the kingdom. For eternity, he will reap an amazing harvest from the seeds he had sown for the kingdom while he was alive on the Earth.
Can you imagine what his life is like now? How glorious it must be. He will live for all eternity with the Lord, praising Him and spending time with Him. And every time a soul enters eternity, he can rejoice in knowing his death was not wasted, but has helped to bring them to heaven. What an inexpressible, joyous way to spend eternal life!
Sadly, our burden for the lost has dwindled since the early church and other things seem to matter much more to most Christians. But when we reach eternity, it will matter to us very much. Just
think of all the preachers, teachers, missionaries and lay people who will wish they could have one more day to share Jesus with the world - one more day to see sorrow turned to joy for a mama whose child was brought to
God made us to be connected to each other. And whether we like it or not we need each other. So, in eternity when we embrace the heart of a brother and sister we cherished on Earth, it is like having
another piece of our heart restored to us. It will be like having a part of an inheritance given back to us. One soul at a time, we will reap a mighty harvest of all we have sown in faith down here.
Every prayer and
every act of kindness on Earth will reap a harvest of treasure in heaven - a treasure of souls. For in eternity, there is no greater treasure presented to God. There's no mansion or throne or crown that can measure the
treasure we have in the souls of people coming to join God in eternity. Truly, there's no greater treasure we could give Him or ourselves or the kingdom of heaven.
Just think of it, some grandma is in
heaven praying for her grandson on Earth who's lost in homosexuality. Her only hope is the kingdom of God on Earth - that's you my friend. Heaven's hope is in your hands (see Colossians 1:27).
reach out in simple ways or great to that lost grandson, you become the answer to her prayers. And your sacrifice brings joy to all heaven. You bring immeasurable joy to God's heart. There is no greater treasure than
that. I could live a lifetime reaping that kind of treasure for sure!
As we win our neighbors on Earth to Christ, we make them our neighbors in eternity - our neighbors become our eternal treasures. They are our
inheritance from our Father. He says, "Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as your inheritance" (Psalm 2:8 NASB).
Our Eternal Goal
My mom spent her short thirty years here on this Earth
loving people and preparing me. As mother and daughter, we were exceptionally close - best friends. But I don't think she thought much in terms of preparing me for ministry, she just loved me, and through her love she
prepared me for my calling. Her "ministry" to me was foundational and I've tried to not deviate from what she taught me. She died in 1984 when I was sixteen and it's taken me years to fully understand how
and why she lived the way she did. But it was there all the time as a seed growing inside of me.
She's been in heaven for almost 30 years now and is reaping the treasure from what she's sowed into me on
Earth. I pray she will reap a great harvest from all the love she's poured into me - all for God's glory and all for the sake of the Lamb.
Truly, is their any greater goal - any greater purpose than to bring
glory to the Lamb? To bring His lost ones back to Him? No. No, indeed!
Your life-long goal could be to spend your entire life making money. The world would love you, fear you, respect you, and even worship you. But
what would it matter? It would be pointless to eternity, even worse than pointless - sinful. Yes, I said sinful. I think the Bible calls it the vanities of vanities (life) (see Ecclesiastes 12:8), things that bear no
lasting or eternal fruit for His kingdom.
If your ministry were the largest in the history of the world, it would still only be as big (in heaven) as it's effectiveness for God's eternal kingdom. If you were
smarter than anyone else in the world, it would not matter to eternity; God does not judge us by the size of our brain, but by our heart.
Indeed, we have to be careful whose kingdom we are spending our time building,
God's or ours. The enemy is sneaky, but God is faithful. If we stay close to Him, He will be faithful to keep us on course.
What is life about really? Stephen knew. His eternal goal was to build for tomorrow,
not for today. His goal was love - love for the Lamb, for God and for His people. His goal led him to an eternal harvest. Where is yours leading you?