August 20, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture—Acts 7:55 (NASB)
But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
As we near the end of Stephen’s life, we see that God has been with him in his every beginning, every middle, and every ending. With gritty grace, Stephen tells the truth about their hearts. To those that cannot stand God’s grace and good news spreading, he calls them “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart” and recalls how their ancestors always resisted the Holy Spirit. The Spirit always grants this grace whenever we are missing the mark and miss another’s heart.
Stephen preaches a mighty sermon in Acts chapter seven, where he recalls the great history of God’s presence and promises in the life of Israel. He recalls the presence of God in and through the great ancestors of the faith: patriarchs and matriarchs that hold stories of identity, the trauma of exile, belonging, and pain. God’s presence traveled through time through specific people in specific places. Stephen knows where he is situated in the great story of God and God’s faithfulness to God’s own people. God’s grace has abounded time and time again.
As we near the end of Stephen’s life, we see that God has been with him in his every beginning, every middle and every ending. With gritty grace, Stephen tells the truth about their hearts. To those that cannot stand God’s grace and good news spreading, he calls them “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart” and recalls how their ancestors always resisted the Holy Spirit. The Spirit always grants this grace whenever we are missing the mark and miss another’s heart.
They drag Stephen a second time and they’re about to stone him. Some of us may know Stephen as the first (recorded) martyr in the book of Acts. It’s a beautiful and brutal scene—brutal because this mob has the traces of an angry and aggressive lynching mob; but beautiful because in the midst of this chaos, Stephen gazes at heaven and the Trinity is present right there, in and around him. He beholds God the Father. The Son is standing at the right hand of the Father, witnessing Stephen’s suffering. The Spirit is within Stephen to help him see the glory of God. The gaze of grace is beholding Jesus’ face.
Don’t let the sensational and supernatural aspect of this story intimidate you about your own story. God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit know their place in the story of your life and are actively working in and through you. Your story is no less meaningful and it’s made up of one thousand moments where Christ comes after you in the chaos that is your life—be it the carpool line before heading to work, rush hour traffic, a deadline to meet, a therapy session to attend, a wayward child or friend. Grace in the ordinary.
My spiritual director, Tongua Williams, recently quoted Paul D’Arcy and I have been clinging to this truth recently: God comes to you disguised as your life. This story was the end of Stephen’s life, but don’t miss this legacy of grace in everyday life. Tongua gave me this benediction at the end of our time recently, and I give it to you as well: Where you are in your life is where God is and where God is, is where you are.
I will leave you with yesterday’s reflection question again, because we can’t soak in enough the places where we need God to witness our trials and troubles and where we need God’s grace. Where do you need God’s grace in your life at the moment?
Pray this breath prayer as you need throughout your ordinary life: I have all the grace I need.
God of grace, help me behold your face. Hold my eyes and look within to all the things and relationships and circumstances that concern me. Thank you, Jesus, that you are always witnessing my joys and my suffering. Thank you that you stand at the right hand of God, always interceding for me. Holy Spirit, may your grace abound to me and through me. You have all the grace I need. I have all the grace I need available to me today. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: A Martyr’s Daily Work
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