They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit… Acts 6:5
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power… Acts 6:8
Who was this man Stephen? It might be good to start by saying what he wasn’t. Stephen was not an Apostle, a prophet, and evangelist, a pastor, or a teacher. He was not one of the Twelve original Apostles. He was not called to the ministry of prayer and word.
So who was Stephen? He was one of the original seven servant leaders, later known as Deacons, who were chosen to lead in areas such as administration and hospitality.
Stephen was also a man, as the Scriptures make clear above, who was full of faith, the Holy Spirit, grace, and power. Stephen was FULL! Stephen was full of the FIRE of God!!
And yet, Stephen was not a pastor. Stephen was not an apostle. But Stephen WAS called to leadership. Stephen was representative of what some if not many church folks are called to be—Servant leaders (Deacons) focused on administration and service rather than word and prayer (as in Eph. 4:11-13).
Deacons flow in the same anointing of the Spirit, grace, power, and faith as the Apostle/prophet/evangelist/pastor/teacher leaders yet are called to a different realm of servant leadership.
Stephen was an amazing man who wildly loved Jesus and gracefully served the Body, even while he shared the gospel powerfully with those outside the body. SO,
Stephen was highly blessed and favored and died at a ripe old age, right?
Stephen became a highly respected leader and spokesperson in the church, right?
Stephen became a wealthy and healthy example of how God blesses the obedient with prosperity, right?
Stephen became a great leader in the Deacon movement, and went on to write a book about it, right?
NO! Stephen was stoned to death in the prime of his life because his obedience to God enraged religious people. He saw Jesus standing at the Father’s side, forgave his attackers, and… died.
WHAT? Obedient, Spirit-filled, graceful, powerful lovers of Jesus end up dead rather than rich or famous or joyful or exalted on earth or healthy until they die at 110?
Yes. The Fire of God does not mean our life on earth will be a breeze. Usually, it means just the opposite. The Fire of God in us irritates the flesh which can even manifest in murderous jealousy.
THAT IS NOT FAIR! Fair? What’s that? It seems wrong, to our flesh and to our less mature spiritual selves that someone as amazing as Stephen should die young, poor, and violently. But he did. And many do to this day. The Fire of God flows strangely sometimes, from our viewpoint, so our viewpoint must be refined and transformed by the Fire of God!