Stephen - A Very Useful Saint
“I (Jesus) chose you (his disciples) and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” -- John 15:16
”You were created in Christ Jesus for good works." -- Ephesians 2:10
What Made Stephen Useful to God
I. Filled by the Spirit
"Full of the Holy Spirit" is the most prominent trait in describing Stephen.
Eph 5:18 "And do not get drunk with wine...but be filled with the spirit."
3 Keys Ways to Be Spirit-Controlled
1) Understand the Spirit’s Objective and Who He Is
2) Leave Room for God's Word
3) Rid your life of the Things that Compete Against the Holy Spirit’s Control
II. Focused on His Relationship with God, First, Then Results
1) Two Key Lessons in John 15 About Becoming Useful
• Jn 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.
a) First major point. You can't bear fruit by trying to do things on your own
b) Second major point. Bearing lots of fruit doesn't necessarily require a lot more "doing"...You can actually bear much fruit, as a result of "abiding."
2) How Do We “Abide” Better (Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of the Vine)
3) Abiding Leads To Greater Fruit Production
III. Glad to Be a “Support Player” and Fill the Need God Pointed Out
Christianity advances when everyone does his part 1 Cor 12:18 The body working together. "But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. And if they were all one member where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body
A. If we want to be used by God, we need to be ready to meet the need he wants us to meet, and not the one I want to meet.
B. God often prepares us for future work with little jobs...
C. We increase our influence and become more God-dependent when we respond well to the less glamorous roles and more mundane tasks
IV. Stephen Didn't Stop Doing What God Wanted, Even When It Was Difficult
Hall of Perseverance?
• Joseph didn't stop doing what was right when he was falsely accused. He didn't stop believing in God's goodness when he helped save the life of Pharaoh’s baker, but the favor was never returned.
• Moses didn't stop being open to God, even after spending 40 years on the backside of the desert tending Sheep. He didn't stop leading the Israelites, even though they complained, disobeyed and rebelled or when those closest to him, his own sister and brother questioned his God-given authority.
• Noah didn't stop building the ark, for more than 120 years, even though everyone around him ridiculed him.
• David didn't stop trusting that he should honor God's authority in his life, Saul, even when that authority was trying to kill him. Such a belief put him on the run for several years.
• Sarah waited for God's promise of a son...It came at age 90.
V. Stephen Was Wise
A) Wisdom = Knowing God's Instructions (Ways) + Applying God's instructions
Mt 7:24 whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who builds his house on solid rock.
B) How to become wiser...
1. Be constantly aware of the judgement seat
Ps 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom
2. Develop an understanding of underlying principle, not just the action step
3. Walk and talk to the wise
Prov 13:20 He that walks with the wise shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed
VI. Willing to Sacrifice in Order to Follow God
Winston Churchill, in 1940, before the House of Commons as England prepared to fight for something very valuable, their freedom and peace.
”Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey, hardship our garment, constancy and valor our only shield.”
Glorifying God, is the most valuable endeavor ever...it won't happen without great sacrifice
John 15:2 Pruning. Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
14:33 So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
Many turned back, YET THE IMPACT OF THOSE WHO DIDN'T IS STILL SHAKING THE WORLD. (Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of the Vine)
Matthew 19:28 Great reward. “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones...and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or family for My name’s sake, shall receive many times as much...”
1. Sacrifice - What are some of the things God has cut away in your life to make you of greater use to Him?
2. Perseverance - What tempts you (or what situations or times) to stop following God?
3. Perseverance - How can we recognize when we should persevere and when we should stop and change direction (beating our head against the wall)?
4. Wisdom - What's the underlying principle behind these really great tools/actions...TOYL, Discipleship materials, Accountability, Disciplining children. How does understanding the underlying principle make you better at helping others to use these tools?
5. Wisdom - In the example above, what would have been a wiser approach to helping this couple who needed income and better spiritual direction?
6. What does the name “Stephen” mean?