Have you ever done things in your past that you now find hard to believe that you did or might have said? I’ve looked back at pictures from the early days of our marriage and I’ll almost get embarrassed with the length of the shorts that I was wearing in the picture! When my kids see those pictures it is difficult to keep them from rolling on the floor with laughter! I can justify some of the clothes as being the style of the eighties… like the shorts that Tom Selleck wore in Magnum PI… but then again, I’m no Tom Selleck either!
I can also remember some personal actions that I am not too proud of. Toward the end of our ministry as Youth Ministers at the Baptist Church we first served at, I was getting pretty full of myself! I was still fairly new at the Christian lifestyle having most likely been placed in leadership more for my enthusiasm and budding skills than for my Christian education and humility! At one point I even went so far as to refuse a request to usher at a special service as I didn’t think it right for the Youth Minister to be seen as an usher! (Can you believe it!)
I’ve told the story of how we left the church after five years of service, only to return after a six month hiatus when the Lord made it clear to us that we (read that “I”) needed to return and mend some fences! After that we stayed another three years and I personally learned A LOT about humility and service unto others! When we left that church with its beautiful and very functional campus and walked into that small new fellowship meeting in a tiny room in a big hotel that was way past its prime, I vowed that I would do ANYTHING and perform ANY service that was requested of me up to and including cleaning restrooms!
It is interesting to note that within a few months my wife and I were leading the Praise and Worship services and eventually became Elders in that church. I must also share that in the ensuing years since then, I have cleaned my share of restrooms, mowed lawns and vacuumed and cleaned various church and student activity centers!
I kind of got this same picture as I looked at the story of Stephen’s service to the growing early church in Jerusalem. It seems that complaints had reached the Apostles that everyone in the congregation was not being treated or served fairly during the mealtimes. I’m sure that the Apostles must have called a board meeting to consider the concerns and to discuss the best course of action. They then told the people to “choose seven men whom the people know to be spiritually wise. (And) We will put them in charge of this problem.” (Acts 6:3 God’s Word ©)
The first individual who was among the seven chosen was a man called Stephen who was said to be “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 6:5 KJV) Now Stephen ended up standing for many things in the early days of the spreading of the New Covenant that Jesus had introduced to the world. What caught my undivided attention this morning though, was the way that he performed the responsibilities that were given to him as he helped to re-organize, direct and most likely wait on tables during the daily meal times.
Acts 6:8 states that “Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” (KJV) In the past I have always pictured Stephen ministering on the streets or in the temple at Jerusalem, but today I saw him strictly in the context of his position as a Deacon ministering to those in the congregation who sat down to partake of their breakfast, lunch and dinner! I caught a glimpse of him full of the grace of God as he served a broken down, dirty, derelict of a man with honor, respect and love. I witnessed him taking the time to sincerely ask someone sitting at the table how they were doing, listening to their story and then asking if he could pray for them and their needs.
I pictured Stephen exercising the GRACE of God to the needy in the place where they gathered for their meals and thereby doing great wonders and miracles among those people! As I looked through some of the many commentaries in my personal library, I discovered that most agree that Acts 6:8 is better translated as the Revised Version states: “Stephen, full of GRACE and power, wrought great wonders and signs among the people.”
I firmly believe that it was his actions based on GRACE that enabled the Holy Spirit to do mighty things in the lives of the people who sat at Stephen’s tables each day. Some of my commentaries infer that Stephen’s knowledge of the Word and the quantity of miracles performed through him rivaled if not surpassed the Apostles, but yet he did not lord it over them but humbly, joyfully, diligently and gracefully pursued his given responsibilities waiting on tables.
In my personal experience, I have learned that this humility is the key to any service that is requested of you and is also the key factor that leads to promotion within the overall service of the Lord. It is like one of the pastors I had the privilege of serving under always told me. He declared and lived the ideal that pastoring is all about serving the people. And in Stephen’s way of thinking it didn’t make any difference if they drove up to the church in a brand new BMW or a fifteen year old, beat up Toyota!
I’d like to think that this is the way I respond to anyone in my daily life. How about you? Have a great day. Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to respond to in GRACE today?”