By Sheila S. Hudson
Sports enthusiasts are familiar with the phrase, “The best defense is a good offense.” Jack Dempsey, a famous pugilist, recoined the quote to mean, “Take your opponent out before he takes you out.” Mr. Dempsey made it a practice to study and know his opponent.
Know Your Audience
Often when we are called upon to defend our beliefs, our spirits wilt because we are doing it on our own. Not so with Stephen. He relied on God’s Spirit and his relationship with the divine. Unlike the crowds at Pentecost, there were no repentant believers—only anger and a rush to judgment. Stephen declared the truth regardless of the consequences. In the workplace we are often tempted to skirt issues for fear of ridicule or exclusion. We must know our audience and be willing to defend our beliefs.
Know Your Message
Stephen’s message was simple. He began with the patriarchs and illustrated how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and was God’s Messiah. He knew Scripture. He backed up Jesus’ claims with miracles of his own. Confidence in the Savior gave Stephen heavenly authority.
When God calls us to a task where we feel inadequate, remember John’s words: “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). God promised to equip you for the divine assignment.
Know the Opposition
Stephen was the first of many martyrs of the faith. Dietrich Bonhoffer, Jim Elliot, Betsie Ten Boom, and thousands of others surround the throne in Heaven. Tertullian was correct: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” No amount of false witnesses, bribes, lies, beatings, or accusations can quell God’s mission for his church.
Being a witness for the truth is risky, but people will always need a Savior and God remains steadfast. Stephen was the church’s first martyr, and he wasn’t the last. Persecution in the name of religion goes on. Many are jailed, harassed, separated from family, and even murdered for the cause of Christ.
Are you a catalyst for the faith? Are you a Stephen?
Author and speaker Sheila Hudson lives with her husband, Tim, in Athens, Georgia.