INTRODUCTION TO OUR SCRIPTURE:
Plutarch told the story of two men who had a mutual friend and they received word that their friend had died. They rushed to his home and saw the body lying on the couch as if in sleep. As they looked upon their friend, they observed that every part of the body seemed to be intact. He appeared so lifelike that they could not believe that he was dead. With one on either side, they lifted up their friends body and urged him to stand. The body crumpled on the floor. A second time they shook him gently and lifted him to his feet. Again the body crumpled on the floor. As they laid him gently again upon the couch one of the men remarked, “There must be something missing on the inside.”
In the lives of many people today, the external things all seem to be perfectly in place and functioning properly, yet something supremely important is missing inside. Whether the application is made to an individual or to society in general, as the sacred writer James put it, “the body apart from the spirit is dead…” (James 2:26).
The thing that is missing in individuals, congregations, and society is Christ. When the heart of man is joined with the mind of Christ it provides the 3 cardinal virtues of faith, hope, and love which promote and provide a quality life for the individual, the congregation, and the society.
Acts chapter 7 records Stephen’s sermon which gave Stephen the right to become the first martyr for the faith. From the outside this sermon may appear to bring an end to Stephen’s life and usefulness. However, from inside the body of Christ, the sermon and the events following form a beautiful display of what faith, hope, and love mean to you.
DISCUSSION OF OUR SCRIPTURE:
Stephen preached the faith of Abraham–Acts 7:2-8. Abraham’s faith was characterized by a willingness to sacrifice–7:3. Faith, by definition, refers to the child of God’s expectation of better things: Hebrews 11:1; Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:13-16. Faith is the sacred intellectual conviction of God’s people: Hebrews 11:6, Romans 10:17. Faith is the foundation of the bridge of life which transports God’s faithful to the land where faith is superseded by sight: 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Are you living by faith (Hab. 2:4)?
Stephen preached the hope of Joseph–Acts 7:9-22. Joseph hoped for better things when his brothers hated him and sold him into Egypt–7:9. Joseph continued to hope for better things as God was with him and twice raised him from prison to exalted positions–7:10. Joseph hoped for better days to come as he prepared the nation of Egypt for a famine and consequently was able to provide for his own family–7:11-14. Joseph’s hope led him to understand God was working in his life to make better things come to pass: Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28. Joseph’s hope caused conviction to spring up in his mind concerning the promised land which would become the place his bones would rest as he waited for the resurrection: Genesis 50:24-2, Exodus 13:14. So we have the hope of Christianity today: We have hope as the anchor of the soul–Hebrews 6:19. But we are also “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
Stephen preached the love of Moses–Acts 7:20-50. God loved Moses and therefore, Moses loved God–Acts 7:20 (1 John 4:19). Because Moses loved God, Moses loved his brethren–Acts 7:23-29.
Because Moses loved God, God utilized Moses–Acts 7:30-34. Because Moses loved God, his brethren rejected him as a leader–Acts 7:35. Because Moses loved God, he was able to do great wonders–Acts 7:36. Because Moses loved God, he spoke of the Prophet greater than himself–Acts 7:37. Because Moses loved God, he delivered living oracles to the people only to be thrust aside for idolatry–Acts 7:38-39. Because Moses loved God, he delivered the plan for God’s dwelling place–Acts 7:44-50. However, they looked for the Heavenly home.
Stephen preached a sermon that demanded people make a decision–Acts 7:51-60. The crowd listened the to the sermon, rejected it, and killed the messenger–Acts 7:51-54. The man of God looked to better things and had his faith rewarded–Acts 7:55-60. The man of God was rewarded by and because of his faith, his hope, and his love.
CONCLUDING APPLICATION FOR OUR SCRIPTURE:
The futility of this world is demonstrated by a discussion between Batsell Barrett Baxter and one of his former students. The student had demonstrated great promise while in Dr. Baxter’s class. He was sure to be the future of the church and of his community. However, 4 years of graduate school had changed all that. His faith in our personal God, the Savior of the world, and the Bible was replaced by the emptiness of nothing. Brother Baxter asked the young man what he was going to do with his life, would he teach or serve the community in some great way? The young man said he had nothing he wanted to teach and he had tried community service by all the work just left the community with the same problems they had before. Brother Baxter asked, “What then do you see for your future?” A longer pause followed and then the reply, “Nothing”. There was nothing left for that young man.
It would have been a different life if the young man had faith, if he had hope, and if he had love. He had given up on God, but God hadn’t given up on him. God hasn’t given up on you either. He wants you to enjoy the temporary and eternal blessings found only with faith, hope, and love.