Unshakable Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Standing Up For What You Believe

It’s so easy for Christians to feel that they cannot really make a difference for the Kingdom of God or even for improving the lives of people around them. When we’re going through difficult trials, the sense that we are useless to God and others is even greater. I know this first-hand, and I imagine that many of you have struggled with this also.

If you’re feeling insignificant, I hope this post encourages you to believe that you matter and to stand up for what you believe.

I’ve been reading through the New Testament, and I’m now in the book of Acts. I’ve read this book many times, but something new stands out to me every time. This time the thing that stood out to me was an ordinary man, someone that served meals to poverty-stricken widows but ended up changing the world.

I don’t think that even most Christians realize how much the early believers changed the world for the better. Not only did they spread the Gospel message, but they fed and clothed the poor, built hospitals and orphanages, and so many other ministries to help the needy and society’s outcasts. It all began with a waiter named Stephen in chapter 6 of the book of Acts.

Stephen and six other men were chosen by the Apostles to feed the widows – to literally serve them meals. First, men serving women in that culture (like many cultures today) was unheard of. At that time, all of the followers of Christ were Jewish (no Gentiles) but they were from many different parts of the known world. Stephen was Greek. The Bible doesn’t say, but I suspect that Stephen’s mother was one of the poor widows that he was serving meals to.

Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles…” (James 1:27)

Many of the Jews that rejected Jesus as the Messiah became frustrated and jealous of the Christians because – “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)

One day, these highly-educated religious men decided to take their frustrations out on the young servant named Stephen. They were going to use him to prove to the gathering crowd that the followers of Christ were misled and finally put an end to this new movement that was then referred to as “The Way.” They began by using scripture to make their case, “but they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he (Stephen) was speaking.” (Acts 6:10)

When the crowd saw that Stephen was winning the debate, the religious leaders became even more frustrated and began falsely accusing Stephen of all kinds of horrible things, including blasphemy. At the peak of their anger, they carried him out of the city and stoned him to death. The young waiter’s last words were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60)

Stephen became the very first Christian martyr. Over the two thousand years since his death, millions of Christians have paid the ultimate price for standing up for their faith.

stand up

It was a Jewish leader by the name of Saul that was urging the crowd to stone Stephen. That day, because of the stance of this faith-filled man and the persecution that followed his death, many Christians fled Jerusalem and began spreading the gospel message and doing good works throughout Asia, Africa and Europe.

With permission from the Jewish authorities, Saul began hunting these Christians down.

As most Christians know, after an incredible encounter with Christ while hunting for Christians, Saul himself became a follower of Christ and was transformed into the man we now know as the Apostle Paul. It was Paul that became the Apostle that would carry the gospel message to the Gentiles, including to the people of Greece, very likely some of Stephen’s relatives. Years later, Paul would also be martyred for defending God’s word.

It all began with a humble waiter standing up for what he believed.

In that day, and still some parts of the world today, defending the Christian message might lead to imprisonment or even martyrdom, but in most places we’ll just be told to shut up. Sadly, many of those who call themselves Christians don’t stand up for Christ even when the only cost is being ridiculed.

Stephen’s story shows us that God works through ordinary people. We don’t need to be a pastor or a theologian to make a difference for Christ. Even if you’re a new Christian or you feel spiritually weak, start small and God will expand your work.

doing good

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84 thoughts on “Standing Up For What You Believe

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  1. Jennifer Stepanski on said:

    Thank you Bill! Love you! God Bless You Always! Appreciate you! God is Good!
    Hello to you and the family! Happy Easter to you all! He is Alive! Mrs. Wonderful

  2. Wow! I had to scroll down through so many positive comments just to get to the bottom to make my own comment! As usual, a very well-written piece, and from the heart.

  3. Thank you for the encouragement that every little step we take is important. Nothing is insignificant in God’s hands.

  4. It all begins with one step…the first one. And I do believe what helps us to lean into that first step is a mish-mash of faith, hope and trust. Sometimes the sprinkling of one is a little heavier than another but all three are necessary…and I do believe with the absence of one the ability to take those next steps & continue forward, one step after another, can be over-shadowed by fear. It’s like a heart-beat…there are 3 beats needed to keep it pumping properly. To skip a beat weakens the body. So too faith, hope, and trust are necessary to sustain us as we step into the will of God. (I’m quite certain it is no coincidence the pattern of 3’s, don’t you agree? Giggles.)
    Thank you for the reminder of what I must take with me throughout this ‘journey of faith’ of mine.
    Always a blessing to read your words of faith…they bring me hope… and help me to trust that much more!
    Hugs & Blessings!

  5. It’s always such a pleasure when I read one of your posts and this one is no different. I admit I do falter at times when sticking up for Christ for that very fear of being ridiculed.

    It’s so stupid, I know I’ve made progress but thanks for the reminder and motivation to do more!

  6. Great post, and great reminder! These are most assuredly days that we must simply stand up, where we are, and in the power of “Who’s” we are!

  7. Amen dear brother. This is not only a beautiful ly written article, but also one that is true. We claim to love Christ, to honoraires God, but just the thought of being ridiculed by standing for God is enough to send most in their comfort zone, away from the Gospel. But thank be to God, that He still has some who will continue to earnestly contend for the truth. Amen brother…and may His peace always be with you!

  8. Thank you, Bill! Because I have struggled with my marriage and just recently divorced, I have often felt like I was useless in the Kingdom. Being in a man’s world, too, with the fire department, and being among many irreligious people in the biker world, my stand is different with them than my stand within the church setting has been. I’m not saying that bikers are irreligious, because many have come from church backgrounds, but they have become disillusioned with the traditional church and religion. Anyway, I know that God still uses me to minister to people, and although I am no angel, many of the people in my new network say that I am. I don’t know what the future holds, but I don’t want to mess it up and diminish His glory in the eyes of others.

    • Thank you, Rene. I’m sorry you’ve been going through difficulties. I know that God uses you because He’s encouraged me through you several times over the last 3+ years that you’ve been my friend. I know many other people feel the same way. You have a gift for encouraging others.
      “I don’t want to mess it up and diminish His glory in the eyes of others.” I’ve always believed this is the key to living right and doing the right thing – it’s not about us. If our motivation is only about protecting our own reputation, we’ll fail. It has to be bigger than that, our righteousness is as filthy rags… Praying for you, Rene.

  9. Hey Bill.

    Wow, you have some insight. The ability to share it and help us all have the bible come alive. A true teacher, thanks so much Bill. Hope it is well with your soul my friend.

  10. Amen! And so good to hear from you again, Bill!

  11. Thank you, Bill, for again encouraging us to walk with Christ, serve Him, and trust He can use “ordinary people” because He’s an extraordinary God.
    Blessings to you & Mary ~ Wendy

  12. Pingback: “Standing Up For What You Believe” 3/07/2016 Written by my friend Bill Sweeney, stricken with ALS 18 years ago !! | God's group

  13. Wonderful to hear from you again Bill! I see a lot of Stephen in you. We’ve never met, but from your writing I know that you put to excellent use what you have. Energy is very precious to you and you spend it loving your family and sharing the hope our Heavenly Father has imparted to you with the world. Truly you are a son that reflects His Father’s glory.

  14. A moving message, Bill. It spoke directly to my heart. I constantly doubt my effectiveness.

    I think Satan uses such doubts to undermine the efforts of many Christians. The temptation to give up is always there. We assume we are having no impact, and stop serving…never realizing what God might have accomplished through us.

    While I was still able to work, it was easier to still that critical inner voice. I could rely on my own efforts; measure externally the impact I was having. I am forced now to rely on God, and trust that He will make use of my efforts — however small. I realize now that much of our impact is internal. We will never see it in this life. But it is real.

    And if we are still here, God still has a purpose for us.

    Blessings,

    Anna

    • Thank you, Anna.
      “…if we are still here, God still has a purpose for us.” I love this quote because it’s so true. I think about this every day – I’m still here so God must have something worthwhile for me to do. If He can use me, He can use every conscious person 🙂

  15. Bill,
    As always, another excellent post! I was so happy to see you back out here encouraging us that we can make a difference. Your life is definitely making a difference! Thank you. May The Lord continue to bless you and your beautiful family.

  16. Great post; I love walking through the scriptures and being encouraged by the early church

  17. God uses us utterly disproportionately to who we are. It’s amazing to me that he thinks us to be worthy to do any work for Him. But I guess He longs for us to get to know Him better and learn to love Him and others more. THANK YOU for letting God use you … for being an amazing witness for Him. So grateful for your obedience, Bill.

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