By Mike Kasdorf
I've always had a love for stories of people who are able to stay calm, cool, and collected while facing immense trials or opposition. I'd venture a guess that many of us do. Examples of fortitude and perseverance can instill in us inspiration, power, and sometimes, even a bit of a swagger or rebellious edge. Just read about Stephen in Acts 6 – 7. Here's a guy who, as a newly-appointed apostle, doesn't seem to waste any time standing up to the powers of his day. And he's really good at it! So good, in fact, that when his opponents can't beat him in an argument, they drag him to court and trump up a bunch of false charges against him.
Now at this point, as a guy who has been described as consistent, level-headed, and reliable, if I were in Stephen's place I couldn't help but think I'd be a wreck. Most likely, I could see myself being a combination of aggressively defensive and “snarkily” offensive. And the adrenaline...heart rate through the roof!
Acts 6:15 tells us that in the heat of this, the members of the Sanhedrin “looked intently at Stephen and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” Biblical scholars interpret this description in terms like “superhuman and angel-like” with “a simple definiteness, serene calm, holy joyfulness, and divine brightness (Meyer's NT Commentary, Expositor's Greek Testament).”
I'm often tempted to believe that fortitude, perseverance, and calm in the storms of life comes from within. From a place of will and confidence. From digging down deep and putting my game face on...not my angel face.
But Stephen's superhuman likeness in this situation has nothing to do with his will, his grit, or how wicked-awesome his game face is. In fact, it has nothing to do with him at all. Acts 6 tells us that long before he was falsely accused and eventually martyred, he was “a man full of God's grace and power (vs 8)” and “full of the spirit and wisdom (vs 3).”
The Holy Spirit = power, grace, wisdom.
For Stephen – and others who have done amazing things in the name of Christ through the ages – being filled by the Spirit was a way of life. A daily pursuit and habit. He didn't wait until he was in a tough spot to ask the Spirit to come fill him.
At any given moment we have the choice of what we'll fill ourselves with. Will we choose aspiration? Drive and achievement? Anxiety and fear? Or greed, lust, envy, or the host of endless pursuits? Or will we choose Christ who fills us with His Spirit?
What are you filling yourself with?