I want to die having lived well. I want to die knowing I gave life everything I had. I want to die knowing my life on this planet mattered for something. When I die, will I receive the proverbial “standing ovation?" Who do I want to stand and applaud?
I was recently moved again with a quote by C.T. Studd that says, “I pray that when I die, all of hell will rejoice that I am out of the fight.” So, I don’t want hell to give me a standing ovation, cause that infers they stand in approval and acceptance of my life. However, I do want them to rejoice (if they can) because I’m not in the fight.
Who do you want standing in approval? Who should we want standing in approval, and who will actually be standing in approval? Is the answer the same?
I was reading a book this morning called “Follow Me” by David Platt (recommended). He brought up the life of Stephen. He spoke about how the church grew out of a place of persecution, hardship, and discomfort. He spoke about preaching the gospel and challenged the reader that there are people doing far more for the kingdom with far less as opposed to what Americans are doing with plenty. We don’t want to face the discomfort of someone thinking differently of us when speaking the gospel, yet there are men and women who literally face the possibility of death on a daily basis for the gospel. I'm not saying we should go looking to die for the gospel, but are we willing? And the way we define discomfort and the excuses we make for not loving or sharing the gospel, would it be an insult to some around the world? To God?
So let me share some specific thoughts about Stephen because I think his life applies greatly to the above sentiments.
First, consider this about him. The disciples have a great need before them. It’s a need that they can’t get to but is nonetheless important. So they need to delegate. Delegation is not a result of placing a lack of importance on something. In this regard they find it very important so they delegate to accomplish what they are unable to accomplish themselves. Many words, I get it. So what are we talking about? Widows. They are unable to meet the needs of local widows. It was so important they wanted to find the best individuals they could to meet this need.
Here is how it played out: Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. Acts 6:3-5
Stephen is a man full of faith, full of the Holy Spirit, and he is now called upon to serve widows; yet he sounds like a man we’d be inclined to have start a church. What does this mean to me? If I want my life to count for anything, I shouldn’t be able to find anything beneath me. Great people display greatness in the “small” things.
Secondly, and this is what truly gripped me, Stephen is seized by the religious leaders. They are a group of people that many from that culture valued acceptance from. To have their approval and acceptance meant everything. However, Stephen didn’t view it like that and spends a good bit of time pointing out how flawed their thinking and actions are. The result?
54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:54-60.
There is a lot here but let me narrow in on two different groups of people giving a standing ovation (of sorts). You have a group of men standing in disapproval as they approve Stephen’s death. What is the stance of Jesus? He’s STANDING. He’s welcoming Stephen home. He’s pleased with Stephen.
To live for God most often means we will not experience the approval of man. When I die, His approval ultimately matters. Will God find Jesus in us? (www.thewhy.one). Will He be pleased with us because He is pleased with Jesus in us?
I want my life to count. I want my life to have impact. To me it’s not so much dying and receiving a standing ovation. My standing ovation comes in the form of comment from my Messiah; “Well done good and faithful servant.”
If I look to live a life of comfort, I’ll have plenty of people in this life tell me, “well done.” Truly, I don’t want that. I don’t want to look back and say I wasted it. I don’t want to look back and say all the excuses I made were foolish. I don’t want to look back and wished I loved more, better, and with greater intentionality. I don’t want to think of people spending eternity apart from God and wish I would have said something. No, I want a life of impact, no playing church but being the church. And in the end, I desperately want to hear, WELL DONE MY (I belong to Him) GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT.
Keep praying for one and keep attacking Love ONE Love ALL-
Written by Pastor Jason Coache,
Lead Pastor of Wellspring Church