Stephen was the first Christian martyr. He was chosen to be one of the seven deacons of the early Church, because he was ‘a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit’. The seven were commissioned to tend to the needs of the widows of the Church and release the Apostles for the ministry of the word, but Stephen was soon performing great wonders among the people and preaching the Good News of Christ. This led to his arrest and appearance before the Jewish Council in Jerusalem.

When he was challenged to answer for himself he gave the Council a spiritual history lesson of their nation and challenged them over the crucifixion of Jesus. His words enraged the members of the Council, and they dragged him outside the city and stoned him to death. Stephen commended his spirit to the Lord Jesus and prayed that those who were stoning him be forgiven. It is said that Jesus sat down at the Father’s side in heaven, but rose to greet Stephen.

Tell me, my Lord, my love, the sacrifice you desire from me, whether of my time, my gifts or my money; whether of reputation or security, or even of life itself. Give me the courage and strength to deny myself, take up my cross and follow You; and to You be all the glory. Amen.