“. . . at the feet of a young man named Saul.” Acts 7:58
A crisis is like getting hit by a car. You never see it coming. There’s no announcement, no warning, it just happens. There’s a convergence of vehicles followed by a collision. Crises always reveal the true state of our character. A crisis shows us and others who we really are.
It’s hard to imagine Stephen as a hardened, bitter young man a week before he was stoned by the wild, rioting mob. If he had been a fraud, the stoning would have ruined him. But when anyone faces a crisis, the best and worst are revealed to both ourselves and those around us.
The sight of Stephen being stoned to death, not losing faith or courage, and multiplying in power, was one of the strongest influences that changed Saul into Paul. While the angry mob laid their garments at Saul’s feet, the impact of watching Stephen watch Jesus would forever be lodged in his heart.
So the influences of one person spreads to another like a spark leaping from life to life, from generation to generation. Stephen caught the spark from Jesus and passed it on to Paul, from Paul it has spread to every corner of the world.
Stephen died thinking he was a failure. As far as he knew, he lost his life for nothing and that his memory would disappear with his generation. Not so! He had no idea of the influence his brave death would have on the future of the world. He never imagined it would impact the success of the church throughout history.
His influence teaches us the willingness to suffer without the hope of gain, to witness to the truth in spite of the consequences, to be heroic in the spirit of holiness. The influence of the spirit is the impact of the abundant life which overflows to the lives of others.
The length of our influence will always be greater than the length of our life. We each leave a trail of truth. We each must see to it that it leads those who follow us to Jesus.