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Get Motivated

For the Kingdom of God

The Bible Teacher's Commentary

Acts 6:8-7:60

Paul J. Bucknell

Get Motivated! (6:8-7:60) | Mp3 Podcast
A. Understanding Motivation (Acts 6:5,8) |
B. Uncompromising Motivation (Acts 6:9-15)
C. Affirming Motivation (Acts 7:1-60)

B. Uncompromising Motivation (Acts 6:9-15)

Purpose: Acts 6:9-15 Uncompromising Motivation is part 3/4 of the Bible exposition Get Motivated for the Kingdom of God and provides for us Stephen's brave example on how his motivation to serve the Lord was not at all lessened by intense opposition or threats of martyrdom.

The believer’s heart or motivation will always be tested. There are two reasons for this. The Lord tests us to strengthen our faith so that He could work greater things in and through our lives, just as the blowing of the wind strengthens the plant or tree that constantly endures it. But the text here speaks of another testing. This is when the evil one comes in and counters God’s work. Nothing, however, can frustrate God’s work.

“But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. And yet they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”

And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and dragged him away, and brought him before the Council. And they put forward false witnesses who said, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:9-15).

Responding to Setbacks

Stephen who was doing God’s will faced a huge setback. If he was placing his hope on God using him, he would have completely lost his focus for his life, lack motivation and then made compromises. If we reject the faith, then we will adopt fear from which compromise comes.

What do we find? Stephen was busy doing God’s will. People were being healed. Many were coming to know the Lord. But the Jewish leaders began to contend with him. They ‘rose up and argued’ with Stephen (6:9).

The evil one seeks our failure.When they could not out argue Stephen, they brought forward people who would slander Stephen and twist what he had said. Then, wanting to get rid of him, they brought forward false witnesses through which they could bring judgment against him.

Interestingly, even a Spirit-powered defense did not help Stephen escape. These self-appointed enemies were more determined to eliminate him than ever. Do not think that merely ‘convincing’ someone is the whole solution. They had heart biases and jealousies.

If Stephen had focused his life on getting a lot done through his life, having a big large family, etc., then he would truly have despaired. This is not what he was thinking. His focus was on doing God’s will for his life.

What do we see in Acts 9:15? No sign of despair, desperation or dejection. Instead Stephen’s face looked like the face of an angel! (I wonder who had earlier seen the face of an angel to know!) Stephen had an uncompromising motivation. His hope was in being faithful and not having a great or long successful ministry.

Promise and hope

The third integral part Old Testament motivation is promise or hope. Our hope must go beyond what we see in our time.

Jesus the True Prophet

Shall raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren (Acts 7:37).

Jesus was this prophet raised up by God who was rejected by His people. When the Jewish leaders rejected Christ, they rejected God who sent Him. Those who persecute the righteous ones that God sends are the disobedient ones who keep not the Law (not Stephen). It is at this point the Jewish leaders through perjury stoned Stephen (illegal act) and again proved their rejection of God and His Law.

It is not that Stephen did not see many things in his short ministry, but that he had a greater hope in what God was going to do. The hope was in doing what God told him and that God would care for the rest. When we insist on instant success or even try to predetermine what that success suppose to look like, then we will find very disappointing times.

Stephen’s hope was not that he argued better by the Spirit because in the end they would not listen. His confidence was in that he was being faithful to the task at hand. He could trust the results to the Lord.

Let me give you an example. A wife had an older child and happily involved in her career. But then she got pregnant. She went into extreme depression. She had her life planned out to serve God through her career, but now the gift of a little life threatened all that she valued and planned for. ActsIn a similar way events in life will interrupt our planned-out lives with all sorts of things. We need to focus not on those things that we are doing but on God’s will.

I remember when my back went bad. Two weeks in bed. I could manage some computer work but got comparatively little done even when I had big plans for a project (I never did get it done). Did I get frustrated. Actually no. Let me share I how by God’s grace and truth I fought off temptation.

Although I could not get done what I wanted or planned when I wanted, I again focused on my life’s purpose to accomplish His works that He has planned. If He takes some measure of health away, then I need to reckon that the works He wants to do will change. He will not expect the same work done. I need to readjust my own expectations. This is the way I thought through this then and at other times.

My greatest meaning in life is dependent on accomplishing what He desires for my life, not what I esteem as important. If being laid up is my ‘work,’ then I will delight in my calling. I considered the worse - be laid up for the rest of my life. I told the Lord that I was willing. He was in charge of my life and purpose. Only He knows whether I need to be in bed to accomplish what He has for me. I am sure I was more happy out of commission than many people attending their normal routines of life. The Lord used the time to deepen my commitment to do all His will for my life.

Although Stephen was being mightily used of the Spirit, he saw that going through this trial was one task the Lord had set for him. He was being faithful.

When our vision is clear and our hope is bright (because we are doing God’s will), then our faces will glow in the joy of the Lord. Nothing can take this from His people! All their evil plotting could not take Stephen’s joy from him.


Satan does not like God’s people full of God’s grace. God’s presence is too much for him, and he tries his best to hinder God’s work. We see this in the Book of Acts and throughout the history of the Christian church. Who needs to bother with the harmless lukewarm church? But when the church becomes alive, then they will be tested.

In this case certain men tried to argue with Stephen. Notice how the Spirit of God was giving grace and wisdom so that “they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” The story goes on revealing the lie formed against Stephen. He was brought before the Sanhedrin, the top ruling body in Jerusalem (they had no king).

From the outside, we might not know they lied. We might think it was just some problem with this one group that hated being defeated. But those who understand know that the evil one was working through these people, their shame, hatred and bitterness to accomplish even more wicked plans. At times God’s people will be persecuted.

God allows trials to come upon God’s people, and even martyrdom, so that they might share in Christ’s suffering and thus share in Christ’s glorious rewards. The Thessalonians faced persecution when they came to know the Lord and actively shared their faith. Paul says this,

“Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.” (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5).

Motivation factor

Do you get demotivated? Why? Is it because something comes along threatening how good your work might come out? Maybe our children will not comply or perform to a certain standard. Maybe we wanted to get married but never was able.

Do not focus on your circumstances but on what God wants. When you are faithful, then trust Him with the results. Satan uses this and that to get our hopes down and then keep us from accomplishing God’s purpose. Hope is like a nose in the airplane. Keep it pointed up and you will go up. But if it turns downward, then the plane will go down.

What size of testing does it take in your life to throw you off course? Your answer will show the root of your motivation. If you prize earthly rewards, then a little opposition, loss of riches, health, threat of life, will make you capitulate to the evil one. What if you lost your job or house? What if your parents heard of that? We should remember who our real Father is and think about what He wants rather living to please man.

The evil one is moving into our society. He is increasing the hostility toward believers. I found that it is best to simply give all to the Lord, including my life, family, fame, riches and possessions. If the Lord wants me to retain them, then I will have them.

If He wants to take them, then it will be fine. SuccessWhen I give them to the Lord, then they belong to the Lord. I enjoy my health, family, work, riches, when I have them. With this approach, it is much easier to face temptation; it is not so hard. I will accept what the Lord gives or takes. It is all His. I am His. Hannah learned,

“The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts” (1 Samuel 2:7).

So my purpose is not dwindled due to opposition. Instead my purpose to do God’s appointed works is strengthened as my faith is tested. I go on more devoted and convinced (believing) that He is great, and I need not fear anything if I would purpose to carry out the works for which I was appointed. Again listen to Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians during their difficult times.

“And that we may be delivered from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:2-3).

Stand strong. Let not your motivation be changed by pressure. We have an enemy who will do his best to shut us down. God intends to lead us to victory.

A question on martyrdom

Stephen was martyred. They took him out and stoned him. We will look at this shortly. Some might ask about the rightness of allowing his people to die for God’s glory. We should first understand that if the Father saw fit to have His sinless Son to die for a good purpose, then he just might ask the same from His other adopted children (see Revelation 6:11).

Second remember that the Lord wants us to completely fill the good works that He has given to us. He has assigned some to die the death of a martyr while others to lose their houses, etc. This is an honor from the Lord. We can see it by Stephen’s expression, ‘the face of an angel.’ This was no dishonor for Stephen but his coronation (Stephen’s name means ‘crowned’). He was the first of many martyrs.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Notice the response we are to have here. We are blessed if we are persecuted for righteousness. We can certainly trust God with every aspect. We need faith to believe it.

About twelve years ago, there was an Australian missionary family in India. They worked with the poor and did many good works. At night the Dad would go out in the villages and show the Jesus’ film. They slept in the car at night in the village. One night those hostile to the missionary burned his car up while he and his two sons were sleeping in it. His wife continued working there for many more years.

In the same region of Orissa just last year radical Hindu groups were going village to village burning down churches and Christian businesses, raping women, hacking some Christians apart and chasing them out of their home never to return unless they turned back to Hinduism. Over a year’s time, many still now are in refugee camps with meager care. They have no place to go.

We might be sad for them. This is proper in one respect. But on the other hand, they are being honored to share in a special glory of suffering with Jesus.

It always has to do with our personal faith. What do I prize the most? Before the great outbreak happened last year, I visited Orissa three times. Pentecost powerI remember my guide telling me while on the way there that this was the area where a missionary and his sons were martyred. I instantly had a choice of living by fear or faith. I reckoned that I need not fear.

If I needed to die for my faith, then that would be the last work I was appointed to do on earth. I need not remain longer. But if there are other things that God has planned for me, then He will preserve me. God is still in control even in chaotic conditions. I only need to fear if I choose not to live for the Lord. This does not mean we should be imprudent. There is a lot of difference being caught in a circumstance and placing yourself in one.

All of us, in a great many differing circumstances, will face fear. Those are from the evil one to kill your motivation to serve the Lord and carry out the good works for which He has appointed you. Don’t listen to the evil one. Be faithful and the Lord will preserve you until your work is done.

Next -> C. Affirming Motivation (Acts 7:1-60) focuses on the intriguing leadership team at the Antioch church.

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