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Empowered Part 10

Empowered: The beginning of the Church in the Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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In Acts 7, we witness Steven being stoned to death. This should cause us to consider the true meaning of success and failure. Would dying for Jesus in our prime be a waste? A failure?

Notes & Transcripts
Acts 7:54–60 ESV
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
What is your view of success? What is failure to you? These questions are two of the most important questions you can ask yourself in your life.
When we see the martyrdom of Stephen Stephen we are faced with the question what is success? What is failure?
In our culture success means everything. And failure is gawked upon with disgust and disdain.
We love to watch success stories. Especially rags to riches stories where Rocky wins in the end. Where kid from the slums of India makes it rich.
We also love to gawk at failure. Look up “fail” or “epic fail” on Youtube and you will find thousands of videos showing the people failing in numerous ways.
My personal favorite is the redneck failures — rednecks trying stupid stuff while inebriated on cheap beer.
Jack Handy’s Deep thoughts— “I once saw an old lady fall on the sidewalk ....”
But when we are faced with Stephen’s death, I think we should pause and ask ourselves … do we have an appropriate view of success and failure? A God view of these things?
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The church is rockin’. It is growing by leaps and bounds. People are experiencing the power and presence of God. People are experiencing community like never before. People are being healed and poor are being fed.
And even in the face of outright opposition and internal resistance and conflict; the church continues to flourish.
It is the picture of church planting, church growth success. It is the text book for church planting seminars and training.
But let’s try to look at this story as if we don’t know the end. See the story from the perspective of those that weren’t just reading it but actually experiencing it.
They didn’t know the church would go on to change the entire world. They didn’t know What God would do in the coming days, months, years.
And here we see the church selecting some new leaders. And Stephen is one of them.
He has amazing promise.
He is a servant—willing to serve the widows.
He is described as being of “good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom.”
He is described as being “full of faith and the Holy Spirit”.
Stephen was also described as “doing great wonders and signs among the people.”
And right away we see him going above and beyond as he attempt to take the message of Jesus to even those who are trying to oppose him.
This guy is the future of the church. This guy has serious promise.
Then he is killed. --- CAN YOU IMAGINE?
What did this mean for the early church?
Though in the moment it may have seemed like a terrible set-back. A tragedy.
Many see this martyrdom as a speed bump or hiccup as the church continues towards the success and growth of the church.
But many fail to realize that this wasn't just a hiccup. It was pivotal to the spreading of the gospel and new church throughout the world. It was the beginning of a persecution (led by Paul) that would push Christians out of their comfortable community into the outer reaches of the known world.
Many see this martyrdom as a speed bump or hiccup as the church continues towards the success and growth of the church. But many fail to realize that this wasn't just a hiccup. It was pivotal to the spreading of the gospel and new church throughout the world. It was the beginning of a persecution (led by Paul) that would push Christians out of their comfortable community into the outer reaches of the known world.
--”And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
Acts 8:1 ESV
And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
What is success for you? Failure?
Most of us have had “failures”, disappointments, sorrows. Lost children, lost jobs, unattained goals, broken relationships.
What do these things mean?
For us, if you are in Jesus Christ. You have through faith received what he has done for you on the cross—every failure, setback, disappointment, sorrow, and loss is designed by you loving heavenly Father to produce amazing good in and through you.
Romans 8:28–29 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender! Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise; When passing through the gates of pearly splendor, Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days. When passing through the gates of pearly splendor, Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
Is it a waste if God decides to take your life? Are you wiling to give everything for his glory? For his sake?
But here’s a challenging question: Are you living for the “successes” of this life?
Illustration: My Struggle on the 4th.
Illustration: Jim Eliot & Nate Saint — “End of the Spear”
We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender! Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise; When passing through the gates of pearly splendor, Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days. When passing through the gates of pearly splendor, Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
Is it a waste if God decides to take your life? Are you wiling to give everything for his glory? For his sake?
If all we live for is this life, then yes, death is a deadest
Illustration: David pours out the water ()—God is so valuable that it is an honor that our lives would be pour out for God’s glory
But in the greatest "defeat" the world has ever known, God secured the greatest victory. Victory over death itself.
But in the greatest "defeat" the world has ever known, God secured the greatest victory. Victory over death itself.Illustration: David pours out the water ()—God is so valuable that it is an honor that our lives would be pour out for God’s glory
Illustration: George Matheson — “O’ Love that Will Not Let Me Go”
O love that will not let me go I rest my weary soul in thee I give thee back the life I owe That in thine ocean depths its flow My richer, fuller be
O light that followest all my way I yield my flickering torch to thee My heart restores its borrowed ray That in thy sunshines glow its day May brighter, fairer be
O joy you seek me through the pain I cannot close my heart to thee I trace the rainbow through the rain And feel the promise is not vain Then morn shall tearless be
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