Published in the Pentecostal Evangel, May 28, 1932.
Jesus saith, “Be not afraid, only believe.” The people in whom God delights are the ones who rest upon His word without wavering. God has nothing for the man who wavers, for “let him that wavereth expect nothing from God.” Therefore I would like us to get this verse deep down into our hearts, until it penetrates every fibre of our being:
“Only believe! Only believe! All things are possible—ONLY BELIEVE.”
God has a plan for this meeting, beyond anything that we have ever known before. He has a plan for every individual life, and if we have any other plan in view, we miss the grandest plan of all! Nothing of the past is equal to the present, and nothing of the present can equal the things of tomorrow, for “tomorrow” should be so filled with holy expectations that we will be “living flames” for Him. God never intended His people to be ordinary, or commonplace; His intentions were that they should be on fire for Him, conscious of His divine power, realizing the glory of the Cross that foreshadows the Crown.
God has given us a very special scripture for this service:
“And in those days when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint unto this business ... and the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip...”
During the time of the inauguration of the Church the disciples were hard pressed on all lines; the things of natural order could not be attended to, and many were complaining concerning the neglect of their widows. The disciples therefore decided upon a plan, which was to choose seven men to do the work—men who were “full of the Holy Ghost.” What a divine thought! No matter what kind of work was to be done, however menial it may have been, the person chosen must be filled with the Holy Ghost. The plan of the Church was that everything, even of natural order, must be sanctified unto God, for the Church had to be a Holy Ghost Church. Beloved, God has never ordained anything less! There is one thing that I want to stress in these meetings; that is, no mater what else may happen, first and foremost I would emphasize the question—
“Have you received the Holy Ghost since you belived?” “Are you filled with divine power?”
This is the heritage of the Church, to be so endued with power that God can lay His hand upon any member at any time to do His perfect will. There is no stop in the Spirit-filled life: we begin at the Cross, the place of ignominy, shame, and death, and that very death brings the power of resurrection life; and, being filled with the Holy Spirit, we go on “from glory to glory.” Let us not forget that possessing the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, means there must be an “ever-increasing” holiness. How the Church needs divine unction—God’s presence and power so manifest that the world will know it. The people know when the tide is flowing; they also know when it is ebbing.
The necessity that seven men be chosen for the position of “serving tables” was very evident. The disciples knew that these seven men were men ready for active service, and so they chose them. In the 5th verse, we read: “And the saying pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip...” There were others, of course, but Stephen and Philip stand out most prominently in the Scriptures. Philip was a man so filled with the Holy Ghost that a revival always followed wherever he went. Stephen was a man so filled with divine power, that although serving tables might have been all right in the minds of the other disciples, yet, God had a greater vision for him—a baptism of fire, of power and divine unction, that took him on and on to the climax of his life, until he saw right into the open heavens.
Had we been there with the disciples at that time, I believe we should have heard them saying to each other, “Look here! neither Stephen nor Philip are doing the work we called them to. If they do not attend to business, we shall have to get someone else!” That was the natural way of thinking, but divine order is far above our finite planning. When we please God in our daily ministration, we shall always find in operation the fact “that everyone who is faithful in little, God will make faithful in much.” We have such an example right here—a man chosen to “serve tables,” having such a revelation of the mind of Christ and of the depth and height of God, that there was no stop in his experience, but a going forward with leaps and bounds. Beloved, there is a race to be run, there is a crown to be won; we cannot stand still! I say unto you, Be vigilant! Be vigilant! “Let no man take thy crown!”
God has privileged us in Christ Jesus to live above the ordinary human plane of life. Those who want to be ordinary, and live on a lower plane, can do so; but as for me, I will not! for the same unction, the same zeal, the same Holy Ghost power is at our command as was at the command of Stephen and the apostles. We have the same God that Abraham had, that Elijah had, and we need not come behind in any gift or grace. We may not possess the gifts, as abiding gifts, but as we are full of the Holy Ghost and divine unction, it is possible, when there is need, for God to manifest every gift of the Spirit through us. As I have already said, I do not mean by this that we should necessarily possess the gifts permanently, but there should be a manifestation of the gifts as God may choose to use us.
This ordinary man Stephen became mighty under the Holy Ghost anointing, until he stands supreme, in many ways, among the Apostles—“And Stephen full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” As we go deeper in God, He enlarges our conception and places before us a wide-open door; and I am not surprised that this man chosen to “serve tables” was afterwards caIled to a higher plane. “What do you mean?” you may ask. “Did he quit this service?” No! but he was lost in the power of God. He lost sight of everything in the natural, and steadfastly fixed his gaze upon Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith,” until he was transformed into a shining light in the kingdom of God, Oh that we might be awakened to believe His word, to understand the mind of the Spirit, for there is an inner place of whiteness and purity where we can “see God.” Stephen was just as ordinary a man as you and I, but he was in the place where God could so move upon him that he, in turn, could move all before him. He began in a most humble place, and ended in a blaze of glory. Beloved, dare to believe Christ!
As you go on in this life of the Spirit, you will find that the devil will begin to get restless and there will be a stir in the synagogue; it was so with Stephen. Any amount of people may be found in the “synagogue,” who are very proper in a worldly sense—always correctly dressed, the elite of the land, welcoming into the church everything but the power of God. Let us read what God says about them:
“Then there arose certain in the synagogue, which is called the Synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians ... disputing with Stephen, and they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.”
“The Libertines” could not stand the truth of God. With these opponents, Stephen found himself in the same predicament as the blind man whom Jesus healed. As soon as the blind man’s eyes were opened they shut him out of the synagogue. They will not have anybody in the “synagogue” with their eyes open; as soon as you receive spiritual eyesight, out you go! These Libertines, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, rose up full of wrath in the very place where they should have been full of the power of God, full of love divine, and reverence for the Holy Ghost; they rose up against Stephen, this man “full of the Holy Ghost.” Beloved, if there is anything in your life that in any way resists the power of the Holy Ghost and the entrance of His word into your heart and life, drop on your knees and CRY ALOUD for mercy! When the Spirit of God is brooding over your heart’s door, do not resist Him but open your heart to the touch of God, There is a resisting “unto blood” striving against sin, and there is a resisting of the Holy Ghost that will drive you into sin.
Stephen spoke with marked wisdom; where he was, things began to move. You will find that there is always a moving when the Holy Spirit has control. These people were brought under conviction by the message of Stephen, but they resisted, they did anything and everything to stifle that conviction. Not only did they lie, but they got others to lie against this man, who would have laid down his life for any one of them. Stephen was used to heal the sick, perform miracles, and yet they brought false accusations against him. What effect did it have on Stephen?
“And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”
Something had happened in the life of this man, chosen for menial service, and he became mighty for God. How was it accomplished in him? It was because his aim was high; faithful in little, God brought him to full fruition. Under the inspiration of divine power by which he spoke, they could not but listen,—even the angels listened, as with holy prophetic utterance he spoke before that council. Beginning with Abraham and Moses, he continued unfolding the truth. What a marvelous exhortation! take your Bibles and read it, “listen in” as the angels listened in. As light upon light, truth upon truth, revelation upon revelation, found its way into their calloused hearts, they gazed at him in astonishment; their hearts perhaps became warm at times, and they may have said, “Truly, this man is sent of God,”—but when he hurled at them the truth:
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers; who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”—then what happened? These men were moved; they were “pricked to the heart, and gnashed upon him with their teeth.”
There are two marvelous occasions* in the Scriptures where the people were “pricked to the heart.” In the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, 37th verse, after Peter had delivered that inspired sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the people were “pricked to the heart” with conviction, and there were added to the Church three thousand souls. Here is Stephen, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and the men of this council being “pricked to the heart” rise up as one man to slay him. As you go down through this chapter, from the 55th verse, what a picture you have before you. As I close my eyes, I can get a vision of this scene in every detail—the howling mob with their vengeful, murderous spirit, ready to devour this holy man, and he “being full of the Holy Ghost,” gazed steadfastly into heaven. What did he see there? From his place of helplessness, he looked up and said:
“Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
Is that the position that Jesus went to take? No! He went to “sit” at the right hand of the Father; but in behalf of the first martyr, in behalf of the man with that burning flame of Holy Ghost power, God’s Son stood up in honorary testimony of him who, called to serve tables, was faithful unto death. But is that all? No! I am so glad that it is not all. As the stones came flying at him, pounding his body, crashing into his bones, striking his temple, mangling his beautiful face, what happened? How did this scene end? With that sublime, upward look, this man chosen for an ordinary task but filled with the Holy Ghost, was so moved upon by God that he finished his earthly work in a blaze of glory, magnifying God with his latest breath. Looking up into the face of the Master, he said:
“Lord Jesus, forgive them! Lay not this sin to their charge!” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Friends, it is worth dying a thousand deaths to gain that spirit. My God! what a divine ending to the life and testimony of a man that was “chosen to serve tables.”
*Actually one. Wigglesworth misquotes Acts 7:54.
Labels: 1932, Pentecostal Evangel