Monday, April 30, 2012

Big Enough to Save

Big Enough to Save

"Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people." Acts 6:8 (ESV)

In our modern, commercialized minds, Stephen does not fit the image of "Table Server". Rather than function as a mild committee member, helping to make food distribution fair, he lives a life "full of grace and power", "doing great wonders and signs among the people." The apostles were right to view ministry leaders, leaders of any Christian ministry, as reflectors of Christ Himself, requiring hearts of honesty, full of God's Spirit and wisdom.

GRACE: pistis (persuasion, credence, conviction, reliance, constancy and truth); from peitho (to convince, pacify, conciliate, assent or rely)

The ESV translation uses "grace", but the original word is better translated as faith. Stephen was full of faith. Faith in Christ provided the motivation for all that Stephen wanted and all that he did. Stephen was completely convinced of the truth that Jesus was Lord and Savior, all-powerful and all-wise and all-good.

The faith that filled the heart of Stephen moved him to act with power.

POWER: dynamis (force); from dynamai (to be able or possible)

Faith convinced Stephen that all things were possible with Christ. God orchestrated people, places and things in such a way that His power was seen and felt in wonderful, miraculous ways in and through Stephen.

GREAT: megas (big); related to megistos (greatest or very great) and meizon (larger)

The miracles were big. The power of God was unmistakeable, huge and undeniable.

WONDERS: teras (a prodigy or omen); "prodigy" refers to someone endowed with exceptional qualities or abilities, from the Latin word, prodigium, "portent", something considered to be an omen.

Wonders provided authenticity or fulfilment of prophecy.

"You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Joel 2:27-32 (ESV)

Confidence in God's willingness and power to save people in trouble comes through seeing God controlling dreams, visions, sky, earth, sun, moon and more. When God's power exceeds human ability, we gain trust in Him as all-sufficient.

Peter quoted this prophecy from Joel and immediately connected it to Jesus:

"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know." Acts 2:22 (ESV)

The immediate result of seeing wonders is fear, followed quickly by faith, joy, generosity, worship and community:

"Awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." Acts 2:43-47 (ESV)

Stephen's faith and power resulted in wonders and miracles, fulfilling the prophecy that God would save His people.

Being named as a committee member, one of several people assigned to lead the Table Serving Ministry, was the launch-pad for a larger ministry that made God's mega-power obvious to all.

And it began with simple prayer:

"These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them." Acts 6:6 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What simple prayer would express your desire to be completely convinced of the goodness and power of Jesus, convinced to the point of being available to God for whatever would glorify Him as big enough to save people in trouble, even to the point of wonders and miracles?

Image provided by Casey Reed/NASA. An artist depicts the incredibly powerful flare that erupted from the red dwarf star EV Lacertae. Image is in the public domain.