This year, Christians around the world will take time on June 29 and throughout the weekend to honor the legacy of those who have sacrificed their lives for the advancement of the gospel. The Day of the Christian Martyr will help keep us aware of what God has done in the past through His faithful servants. (See the previous post about the Apostle Paul.) Stephen, whose story is told in Chapters 6 and 7 of the Book of Acts, is considered to be the first Christian martyr.
Elise Wixtrom writes reviews of VOM resources for readers of kidsofcourage.com. Read below her review of Stephen: God’s Courageous Witness, a book from The Voice of the Martyrs’ Courageous Series. The six books in the series are available at vombooks.com.
Stephen is the first recorded martyr of the early Christian church. As a young man, he heard about the gospel of Jesus Christ through the first disciples. He became a leader in the church, and he taught the words of Christ among the congregation and in the streets. He went about the city of Jerusalem, proclaiming the good news that he had heard.
However, not everyone appreciated his efforts to tell them the story of Christ. They were, in the end, hostile to his attempts. Stephen was brought in front of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, and charged with blasphemy against the law of Moses. Stephen was then taken out of the court and stoned at the place now called Stephen’s Wall. Paul, then Saul, stood by and held the coats of Stephen’s executioners, unaware that he would one day be in a similar position. The account of Stephen’s argument with the Jewish leaders, as well as the events of his death, were recorded in the book of Acts.
What can we learn from this story? When asked to defend your faith, as Stephen was asked, don’t back down, even if you don’t have all the answers, or if you are scared. Sometimes being scared or uncertain is all right, because in that moment you can be brave. Stephen was brave in the face of the people who killed him. He did not back down. If you believe in God, there might be consequences, but God will give you strength to stand upright and speak what you know to be true.