What kind of commitment does God desire of us? If we will look at Stephen’s story in Acts chapters 6 to 7, the answer is obvious. To commit to the ministry is to commit with all of our life even if it costs us our lives.
“Wait a minute,” some of you might start saying. “While it is true that that kind of commitment is extraordinary, we must keep in mind that that commitment is only for the apostles.” Well, was Stephen an apostle? No! He was one of the seven men chosen to lead in the administration of food for Greek-speaking Jewish widows (Acts 6:1-7). Why did we find him arguing with several Jewish leaders who, because of their anger against him, eventually stoned him to death? Was he at the wrong place at the wrong time?
He was not one of the apostles. He could have make an excuse to just keep on distributing foods for the widows and not preach the gospel. Or he could have waited for his audience to be ready to accept his message. But he did not make any excuses. He committed himself to serving even if it costs him his life. He knows what the Lord calls him to do. He was a “martyr” for Jesus.
We now define the word “martyr” as “a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion; a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle” (Merriam-Webster’s). This English word came from the Greek “martus,” which is used thirteen times in the Book of Acts and translated simply as “witness ” (NAS Greek Lexicon). So it would be more precise to say (instead of “Stephen was the first martyr”) “Stephen was the first martyr (witness) to die for his faith.”
That’s commitment. That’s Christ-like commitment. Because of the easy-going approach many Christians today have regarding Christianity, church membership, and ministry involvement, we find this kind of commitment radical. But for the church in Acts, it’s a normal part of being a witness for Jesus.