Week of Oct. 7: Let your actions, speech declare your faith


By Vicky and Rev. John Brantley
Lesson for Oct. 7       
Scripture: Acts 6:8-7-2a
 Gracious Lord, give us strength and courage to witness to others about your love and grace.  Amen.
  In a world where evil threatens us all around, where can we see signs of the Spirit among God’s people?
 Witness of the spirit
      They say Stephen’s face was like that of an angel.  We see the witness of the spirit in the lives of people around us.  In the cyber world, a viral video is a short clip that grabs someone’s attention.  They email it to someone else, it gets posted on Facebook, and before you know it, millions of people have seen it.  Lacy Kemp wrote: “How do you make something spread like wildfire?  You can’t.  It has to be awesome enough on its own to get there.”  After Stephen was stoned, Christians told people about him wherever they went and the story of Jesus was told throughout the known world.
      Many years ago some men were panning for gold in Montana, and one of them found an unusual stone. Breaking it open, he was excited to see that it contained gold. Working eagerly, the men soon discovered an abundance of the precious metal. Happily, they began shouting with delight, "We've found it! We've found gold! We're rich!" They had to interrupt their celebrating, though, to go into a nearby town and stock up on supplies. Before they left camp, the men agreed not to tell a soul about their find. Indeed, no one breathed a word about it to anyone while they were in town. Much to their dismay, however, when they were about to return, hundreds of men were prepared to follow them. When they asked the crowd to tell who "squealed," they were told "No one had to. Your faces showed it!"  What does your countenance say about your faith?
 Be prepared for adversity
      Our faith will be tested when we reflect God’s presence.   In the Scriptures, most interactions between people and God result in the world being turned right side up.  This upheaval is disruptive to our status quo.  After hearing invitations, no one wanted to help build an ark, wander in the wilderness, leave their parents, surrender their treasures, or hear Stephen tell of the living Christ.  But for those who did act, serve and speak, God used them as great witnesses.  Many times we are afraid of what the response will be if we speak up for Christ.  We fear discomfort, rejection or judgment by others.
     As a martyr, Stephen stands as the exception with the right to free speech.  So why are we quiet when we have so much goodness to share?  Why do we so freely allow others to speak for us when their voice does not tell the Good News?  Stephen was of ordinary means yet he found God’s words worth his life.  What words do we stand up to promote, defend and teach to the generations that follow?  What message is the world around us hearing about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit because of our witness?
 Speak up
      Comedian Jerry Seinfeld shares an observation about ups and downs.  “Wait up!  That’s what kids say.  They don’t say ‘wait,’ they say ‘wait up.’  ‘Cause when you’re little, your life is up.  The future is up.  Everything you want is up.  They say, ‘hold up; shut up; let me stay up.’  Parents of course are just the opposite.  Everything is down.  “Just calm down; slow down; come down here; sit down; and put that down.’”  Stephen speaks up.
      “Listen to me.” Stephen takes control of the conversation: The conversation of the world can be redirected toward the Spirit if we will speak up to teach, lead and witness. Often we see opportunities to witness to our faith but our fear of what others may think prevents us from speaking.  Stephen was not looking for attention.  He was not insecure.  He didn’t talk because he wanted folks to hear his voice and knowledge.  His heart and mind were filled with the conviction that everyone, especially those who didn’t want to listen, needed to hear the things of God that Stephen knew to be powerful and good.  He is passionate enough to not keep quiet when it is unsafe or inconvenient.  He takes the conversation by the reins and directs the message.  Some people are gifted at this.  Most of us must learn these skills.  In a conversation filled with complaints, ask the speaker to give a dozen examples or alternatives.  They will either discover a solution or give up.  If someone is bold and assertive, be bold and strong in your response.  If someone has no voice, offer him or her your voice and place at the table.
       Wayne McDill in Making Friends for Christ said, “The secret to neutralizing fear is to embrace the threatened disaster and count it as not too high a price to pay for obedience to Christ. This attitude of faith may not totally eliminate the uneasiness and apprehension. It will, however, allow you to go ahead and act in obedience to Christ. The problem of fear is not the fear itself, but the fact that we allow it to immobilize us. Being afraid is no sin. Shrinking back fearfully from obedience is sin...fear can stop you in your tracks as a Christian...but it doesn't have to. You can trust God...(and) move ahead in obedience because you understand fear and know how to deal with it.” 
 Take Action: Being bold in times of threat takes practice. Write out what you could say if you spoke out to teach, correct and reframe the conversation of evil around you.
 “Soldiers of Christ arise, and put your armor on; strong in the strength which God supplies thru his eternal Son; strong in the Lord of Hosts, and in his mighty power who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror. Hymn #513 The United Methodist Hymnal.
 Vicky Brantley and Rev. John Brantley are mother and son.  They can be reached at vicky@brantley.net or  john.brantley@ngumc.net  

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