Acts 7:54-60

A
young English pianist gave his inaugural concert to a full house in a London
hall. His music was brilliant, and when he finished, the crowd gave him a long
standing ovation. Young and shy, he retreated backstage. The stage manager urged
him to return for a bow and an encore, but the young pianist refused. The manager
insisted.

“The
entire audience is standing and clapping for you,” he said, insisting that
the pianist return to the stage.

“Not
everyone is standing,” the young musician replied. “There is a gray-haired
man in the balcony who remains seated.” The manager peeked out.

“You’re
right,” he said. “But everyone else is standing. He makes no difference.
Don’t worry about him. Just go back out there.”

The
young pianist replied, “He is my teacher.” We don’t live for
everyone else’s approval. Living a worthwhile life means that we live for
God’s approval.

Here
are some keys to living a worthwhile life, taken from the life of Stephen.

I.
Know what is worth dying for, then live for it.

What
are you willing to die for?

When
is the last time you thought about the answer to that question? Until you know
what you are willing to die for you’ll never know what you should be living
for. A lot of times when we think about martyrs like Stephen we just focus on
the fact that they died for their faith.

Stephen
just didn’t die for his faith, he lived for it. Twice he is described as
being “full of the Holy Spirit.” When it came time for the apostles
to choose helpers in the early church, Stephen was on the top of the list. He
taught the people, performed miracles, and served the church. He found something
worth dying for (Jesus), then he lived for it.

Are
you willing to die right now for what you have been living for this past week?
Probably not. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to die for
a job, or nice clothes, or a nice car. I am willing to die for the gospel. Living
for the gospel makes my life worth living.

Peter
Drucker said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which
should not be done at all.”

Most
of us spend our lives on things that in the long run don’t really matter.
But if you spend it devoted to the gospel, regardless of when you die your life
will have value.

II.
Remember the Source and the power of the Gospel message. (v. 54-55)

If
you look at the beginning of chapter 7, you’ll see that Stephen was asked
to defend himself. What does he do? Preaches a sermon. Stephen went Old School
on the Sanhedrin. His sermon went all the way back to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,
and Joseph. He explained how all of the Old Testament was leading up to Christ.
The Sanhedrin became the defendants and he became the accuser.

V.
54 says, “When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth
at him.” The faithful always make the faithless furious. When the Christians
stand up for what the word of God teaches, many people get furious. They were
so furious that the Sanhedrin wanted to stone him. Why didn’t he try to
defend himself? He knew that you may kill messenger, but that doesn’t make
the message any less true.

In
v. 55 we read, “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.”

The
fact that Jesus was standing meant that he was honoring Stephen and welcoming
him home. We often stand up when a person walks in. If not, we say, “forgive
me for not standing.” Jesus saw Stephen’s faith, and in the midst
of dying. Jesus stood up and welcomed him home.

III.
Allow the Message to mold your heart into the heart of Christ.

They
dragged him outside the city and stoned him. Jesus was standing up because he
could see that Stephen had the heart of Christ. Notice how similar Stephen’s
reaction to his stoning was to Jesus’ reaction at “is crucifixion.

Stephen:
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Jesus:
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46)

Stephen
and Jesus: “Do not hold this sin against them.”

How
do you do that? How do you forgive your murderers? First of all, you live for
something worth more than your life. Second, remember that forgiveness is not
an emotion; it is a decision based on what Jesus had done for him. Stephen was
willing to die for Jesus, because Jesus had been willing to die for him. (Eph.
5:1)

IV.
If we live a worthwhile life, the message of the Gospel will never be stopped.
(v. 58)

Whenever
the world thinks that they have hushed the gospel message here, it pops up over
there. We know who Saul is. He was a model Jew. When the voice of the gospel
was dying with Stephen, it was coming alive in Saul.

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