Day Five: In Death and Suffering

Acts 7:59-60 (NIV)
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

“Stephen’s last words are surprisingly close to two of the last words of Jesus just before he died. He asks God to receive his spirit (7:59; cf. Luke 23:46) and not to ‘hold this sin against’ his killers (Acts 7:60; cf. Luke 23:34) … Not only has Jesus come close to Stephen, Stephen has, in the process, become like Jesus. Paul speaks of desiring these same two things: ‘the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings [and] becoming like him in his death’ (Phil. 3:10). Stephen has, in effect, entered into the fellowship of sharing in Christ’s sufferings.” [A. Fernando, Acts – NIVAC, 262, 264]

We’re willing to go through difficulties and endure for things that we love or consider to be worth it. Christ went through suffering and the cross because he loves us. For Stephen, to suffer for Christ was to participate in his sufferings – in his love. This is evident in his prayer of forgiveness for those killing him. His focus was not on suffering but Christ.

Prayer: Lord, we want to know you. We ask for your grace and power to follow you, so that when we take our last breath we might pray, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Let’s worship with “Alive in You” by Jesus Culture (click here).

– JH



Day Four: Heaven Open

Acts 7:55-56 (NIV)
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

“Stephen’s words in 7:56 are significant. ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ ‘Open’ is a perfect participle (diēnoigmenous), stressing a state of being, ‘standing open,’ meaning the last days have truly begun and God in Jesus is acting to bring an end to this evil world. In this, his transcendent glory as Lord of all is powerfully evident.” [G. Osborne, Acts Verse by Verse, 147]

Heaven standing open remains the current state for us today. It means we can experience God’s presence, authority, truth, power, and love right here and now through the Spirit. Amid everything that’s happening around us or in our lives, heaven is open, and Jesus’ transcendent glory is powerfully evident as Lord over everything.

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to see heaven open and how you are in control. There is nothing more powerful than you – not my circumstances, not my past, not my personality… I give every area of my life to you. I worship you as Lord of all. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Let’s worship with “There’s Nothing That Our God Can’t Do” by Passion (click here).

– JH


Day Three: Martyr of Jesus

Acts 7:55-56 (NIV)
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

“What is a ‘martyr’? As is now widely known, the word technically means ‘witness’. A ‘martyr’ is someone who gives evidence. Why then do we call people who die for their faith ‘martyrs’? Well, at one level at least, because in being prepared to die for their faith they are showing that they, at least, reckon that this faith is not just a set of ideas, not merely a nice religious glow, but the very living truth itself, worth more than one’s own life. That is no doubt true. But in this story, and in several others like it, there are other levels of ‘witness’ as well, which we ought to ponder.” [N.T. Wright, Acts for Everyone, 121]

Stephen was a martyr in dying for Jesus, but he was also a martyr in the sense that he witnessed. What are we witnessing in our lives? Stephen saw and spoke to what he was seeing – the glory of God with Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. He was caught up with this intimate closeness to God amidst opposition.

Prayer: Lord, open my life to witness your glory in every sense – to see, to hear, to live, to speak, and to die in you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Let’s worship with “Fall Afresh” by The Belonging Co. (click here)

– JH


Day Two: Full of the Spirit

Acts 6:2-3 (NIV)
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them…”

Acts 7:55 (NIV)
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

“We usually relate that [Spirit’s] fullness to some ministry activity, such as preaching, healing, or prophesying, or to an ecstatic personal spiritual experience, such as speaking in tongues. While that is certainly valid, we must not forget that the Spirit’s fullness is also given to prepare us for suffering, which is such an important part of the life of obedience.” [A. Fernando, Acts – NIVAC, 265]

Isn’t it interesting that one qualification for food distribution and waiting on tables was to be full of the Spirit? Anyone can pass out food but that doesn’t mean they’re full of the Spirit. Whatever task God gives us is an opportunity to be full of the Spirit. Stephen was full of the Spirit in living for Christ in small and big ways (e.g., food delivery, suffering) until the very end when he saw Jesus at the right hand of God.

Prayer: God, help me to do all things in the fullness of the Spirit rather than out of my strength or ability. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Let’s worship with “Spirit of God” by New Life Worship (click here).

– JH


Day One: Surpassing Worth of Christ

Let’s read aloud together the following Scripture, declaration and prayer:

Philippians 3:7-11 (NIV)
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

“Discipleship is being bound to the suffering Christ. That is why Christian suffering is not disconcerting. Instead, it is nothing but grace and joy. The acts of the church’s first martyrs give witness that Christ transfigures the moment of greatest suffering for his followers through the indescribable certainty of his nearness and communion.” [D. Bonhoeffer, Discipleship]

Lord Jesus, your surpassing worth is beyond us yet near to us. We are bound to you because of your suffering. We want to know you and give witness that your cross has brought about indescribable certainty of your nearness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Let’s worship to “King Jesus” by Matt Redman (click here).

– JH