Some years ago, I read a book called Jesus Freaks. The book is a lengthy record of Christian martyrs to the present day and the torture that these men, women and children endured before their murders is staggering.
I remember sobbing my way through the book wondering if I would ever have the courage to stand for Christ without flinching if I were facing similar situations. Of course, I hoped I would, but I’ve never had to endure that king of trauma, so how could I know for sure? What if I wasn’t committed enough to Christ? What if I wasn’t strong enough?
Have you ever wondered the same thing?
In the book of Acts, scripture records the very first Christian martyr, Stephen. I’ve always been impressed with Stephen, haven’t you? After he was physically dragged out of Jerusalem and while literally being stoned to death, he cried out to God to forgive the people stoning him. What a hero!
But if we read the story a little closer, we begin to realize that Stephen had the strength to endure what he endured, not because of his own heroic nature, but because the Holy Spirit was giving him what he needed when he needed it.
The Holy Spirit filled Stephen with grace and power and enabled him to perform signs and wonders (6:8), the Holy Spirit allowed him to speak boldly and truthfully to the powerful religious leaders (6:10), and the Holy Spirit allowed Stephen to look into heaven and see Jesus just before he was killed (7:56).
Without the Holy Spirit, Stephen would not have had the power to do anything that he did.
I realized that by worrying about my own ability to stand for Christ that I was making the question all about me. And do you know what? It’s not about me at all. If it were up to me and my own strength I would fail every time. Thank you Jesus that it is not up to me!
You and I don’t have to worry about what we will say or do in the future. We can trust that when we need courage or wisdom or even supernatural strength, that the Holy Spirit will give it to us because He is the true hero of our stories.