Ever stop to wonder what motivates you? What drives your actions, directs your steps, inspires your words? Have you ever even thought about it, or do you just “go through the motions”?
I do most of my best thinking in the car during my daily commute. Rolling in to work each morning I’m usually running through the checklist of things to do for the day. Inching along in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the evenings affords me even more time to mull over the bigger questions of life. As the stream of cars slowly crawl up the interstate, I often find myself asking the question, “How did I get here?”
The simple fact is that many of us never give our lives serious thought. We clock in and clock out of each day like the days will go on forever. Time passes and we hardly notice, caught up in the minutia of life.
If each of us took a moment to really consider the motivation behind our daily actions, what would we find? Are we inadvertently living out of fear? Anger? Greed?
Believe it or not, if you have a beating heart in your chest there is some force at work spurring you on. But is that force something that will ultimately push you to live your life with true purpose and meaning?
What if I told you there was another way?
Acts chapters 6–8 tell the story of a man named Stephen. As one of the first deacons of the early church, Stephen had a lot of responsibility. He helped distribute the goods gathered by the Christian community for those in need. He was also deeply convicted by the teachings of Jesus.
Stephen wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, even when the inconvenient truths he shared got him into big trouble. Calling religious leaders in Jerusalem to task on their own hypocrisy, Stephen was dragged before the local governing body where he gave an impassioned speech. He reminded those present of the long history of God sending prophets to instruct and guide. Many of these messengers were rejected by the people. (Some were rejected to the point of death!) And in the end the rejecters paid a heavy price for their disobedience. Jesus had been the latest, and in fact greatest, of the rejected, and the people must recognize their error and repent or miss out on the most wonderful thing God had ever done for humankind since creation!
Stephen made the most of this opportunity and was rewarded with an excruciating death sentence. The stoning of Stephen secured him as the first martyr to die for the cause of Christ, though many more continue to follow that same path to this day. But not even this could deter Stephen from the mission Christ had placed in his heart. With his last breath, Stephen prayed that God would forgive his killers.
How many of us are this committed to faith we claim to hold so dear? So committed to and aware of God’s work around us through the power of the Holy Spirit that we would be willing to put all the rest of our daily ambitions on hold and proceed forward with singular purpose?
I don’t know about you, but I am massively envious of Stephen’s conviction. Of course, I guess that is one essential role of the martyrs of history: They remind us all what’s really at stake here. It’s often said that martyrs are the lifeblood of the church. Through their faithful sacrifices the rest of us are reminded of the precious gift God gave us when He sent His Son.
Keep Stephen in your mind today. Ask God to give you the strength to make the most of the gift He has given us each and every day.
Zachariah Seanor serves as the ministry consultant for Challengers and Youth on Mission and co-editor for Missions Journey: Students at national WMU. Zachariah enjoys seeing people joining together in God’s mission and realizing we are all a valuable part of the kingdom of God.
Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash