Standing Up For What You Believe

It’s so easy for Christians to feel that they cannot really make a difference for the Kingdom of God or even for improving the lives of people around them. When we’re going through difficult trials, the sense that we are useless to God and others is even greater. I know this first-hand, and I imagine that many of you have struggled with this also.

If you’re feeling insignificant, I hope this post encourages you to believe that you matter and to stand up for what you believe.

I’ve been reading through the New Testament, and I’m now in the book of Acts. I’ve read this book many times, but something new stands out to me every time. This time the thing that stood out to me was an ordinary man, someone that served meals to poverty-stricken widows but ended up changing the world.

I don’t think that even most Christians realize how much the early believers changed the world for the better. Not only did they spread the Gospel message, but they fed and clothed the poor, built hospitals and orphanages, and so many other ministries to help the needy and society’s outcasts. It all began with a waiter named Stephen in chapter 6 of the book of Acts.

Stephen and six other men were chosen by the Apostles to feed the widows – to literally serve them meals. First, men serving women in that culture (like many cultures today) was unheard of. At that time, all of the followers of Christ were Jewish (no Gentiles) but they were from many different parts of the known world. Stephen was Greek. The Bible doesn’t say, but I suspect that Stephen’s mother was one of the poor widows that he was serving meals to.

Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles…” (James 1:27)

Many of the Jews that rejected Jesus as the Messiah became frustrated and jealous of the Christians because – “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)

One day, these highly-educated religious men decided to take their frustrations out on the young servant named Stephen. They were going to use him to prove to the gathering crowd that the followers of Christ were misled and finally put an end to this new movement that was then referred to as “The Way.” They began by using scripture to make their case, “but they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he (Stephen) was speaking.” (Acts 6:10)

When the crowd saw that Stephen was winning the debate, the religious leaders became even more frustrated and began falsely accusing Stephen of all kinds of horrible things, including blasphemy. At the peak of their anger, they carried him out of the city and stoned him to death. The young waiter’s last words were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60)

Stephen became the very first Christian martyr. Over the two thousand years since his death, millions of Christians have paid the ultimate price for standing up for their faith.

stand up

It was a Jewish leader by the name of Saul that was urging the crowd to stone Stephen. That day, because of the stance of this faith-filled man and the persecution that followed his death, many Christians fled Jerusalem and began spreading the gospel message and doing good works throughout Asia, Africa and Europe.

With permission from the Jewish authorities, Saul began hunting these Christians down.

As most Christians know, after an incredible encounter with Christ while hunting for Christians, Saul himself became a follower of Christ and was transformed into the man we now know as the Apostle Paul. It was Paul that became the Apostle that would carry the gospel message to the Gentiles, including to the people of Greece, very likely some of Stephen’s relatives. Years later, Paul would also be martyred for defending God’s word.

It all began with a humble waiter standing up for what he believed.

In that day, and still some parts of the world today, defending the Christian message might lead to imprisonment or even martyrdom, but in most places we’ll just be told to shut up. Sadly, many of those who call themselves Christians don’t stand up for Christ even when the only cost is being ridiculed.

Stephen’s story shows us that God works through ordinary people. We don’t need to be a pastor or a theologian to make a difference for Christ. Even if you’re a new Christian or you feel spiritually weak, start small and God will expand your work.

doing good

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on March 4, 2016, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 97 Comments.

  1. I’m going to post this to my site brother. This is an excellent article.
    And I still haven’t forgotten about you. I’m going to pray for you again this morning.

  2. Love this!!!

  3. Funny thing is, when we stand up we are really standing in God’s strength. Sometimes thinking it is our own strength while standing. When will I learn to be humble in Christ? Thanks Bill for being a vessel of God’s truth.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! My family has had a disastrous year so far, and I got months behind in reading even my favorite bloggers. Well, God certainly does work in mysterious ways, because tonight was the night I needed to read this. Thank you. And Thanks be to God.

  5. I hope you and your family are enjoying Memorial Day, Bill. Those who died to protect our freedoms were ordinary people who gave their all in a noble cause. As Christians, we ought to do likewise. 🙂

  6. “Do not grow weary of doing good …”
    I was thinking of that scripture just a few days ago … thank you for your beautifully written piece and I take on board what God is speaking to me about through my thoughts and now your blog. Blessings. God is Good!

  7. Wow! As Terri said, also needed to scroll through… Needed to give ‘honour where honour is due’! A really good read, thank you.

  8. Jennifer Stepanski

    Thank you Bill! Love you! God Bless You Always! Appreciate you! God is Good!
    Hello to you and the family! Happy Easter to you all! He is Alive! Mrs. Wonderful

  9. Wow! I had to scroll down through so many positive comments just to get to the bottom to make my own comment! As usual, a very well-written piece, and from the heart.

  10. Thank you for the encouragement that every little step we take is important. Nothing is insignificant in God’s hands.

  11. It all begins with one step…the first one. And I do believe what helps us to lean into that first step is a mish-mash of faith, hope and trust. Sometimes the sprinkling of one is a little heavier than another but all three are necessary…and I do believe with the absence of one the ability to take those next steps & continue forward, one step after another, can be over-shadowed by fear. It’s like a heart-beat…there are 3 beats needed to keep it pumping properly. To skip a beat weakens the body. So too faith, hope, and trust are necessary to sustain us as we step into the will of God. (I’m quite certain it is no coincidence the pattern of 3’s, don’t you agree? Giggles.)
    Thank you for the reminder of what I must take with me throughout this ‘journey of faith’ of mine.
    Always a blessing to read your words of faith…they bring me hope… and help me to trust that much more!
    Hugs & Blessings!

    • Thank you, Dawn Marie. I agree that faith, hope and trust are needed because they work together – remove one of these and the other two wither away like a plant without water.

  12. It’s always such a pleasure when I read one of your posts and this one is no different. I admit I do falter at times when sticking up for Christ for that very fear of being ridiculed.

    It’s so stupid, I know I’ve made progress but thanks for the reminder and motivation to do more!

    • Thank you for your comments, Tricia. We’ve all been guilty of not standing up. Some people fear being ridiculed, but others don’t feel confident in defending their faith.

  13. Great post, and great reminder! These are most assuredly days that we must simply stand up, where we are, and in the power of “Who’s” we are!

  14. Amen dear brother. This is not only a beautiful ly written article, but also one that is true. We claim to love Christ, to honoraires God, but just the thought of being ridiculed by standing for God is enough to send most in their comfort zone, away from the Gospel. But thank be to God, that He still has some who will continue to earnestly contend for the truth. Amen brother…and may His peace always be with you!

    • Thank you for your comments. Standing up might be uncomfortable at first, but after some time and with God’s help, standing up for what we believe can become our comfort zone.

  15. Thank you, Bill! Because I have struggled with my marriage and just recently divorced, I have often felt like I was useless in the Kingdom. Being in a man’s world, too, with the fire department, and being among many irreligious people in the biker world, my stand is different with them than my stand within the church setting has been. I’m not saying that bikers are irreligious, because many have come from church backgrounds, but they have become disillusioned with the traditional church and religion. Anyway, I know that God still uses me to minister to people, and although I am no angel, many of the people in my new network say that I am. I don’t know what the future holds, but I don’t want to mess it up and diminish His glory in the eyes of others.

    • Thank you, Rene. I’m sorry you’ve been going through difficulties. I know that God uses you because He’s encouraged me through you several times over the last 3+ years that you’ve been my friend. I know many other people feel the same way. You have a gift for encouraging others.
      “I don’t want to mess it up and diminish His glory in the eyes of others.” I’ve always believed this is the key to living right and doing the right thing – it’s not about us. If our motivation is only about protecting our own reputation, we’ll fail. It has to be bigger than that, our righteousness is as filthy rags… Praying for you, Rene.

  16. Hey Bill.

    Wow, you have some insight. The ability to share it and help us all have the bible come alive. A true teacher, thanks so much Bill. Hope it is well with your soul my friend.

  17. Amen! And so good to hear from you again, Bill!

  18. Thank you, Bill, for again encouraging us to walk with Christ, serve Him, and trust He can use “ordinary people” because He’s an extraordinary God.
    Blessings to you & Mary ~ Wendy

  19. Wonderful to hear from you again Bill! I see a lot of Stephen in you. We’ve never met, but from your writing I know that you put to excellent use what you have. Energy is very precious to you and you spend it loving your family and sharing the hope our Heavenly Father has imparted to you with the world. Truly you are a son that reflects His Father’s glory.

    • Thank you very much for your comments. You are so right about energy being precious – it’s like gold to me. I’m exhausted most of the time, but hope keeps me pressing on.

  20. A moving message, Bill. It spoke directly to my heart. I constantly doubt my effectiveness.

    I think Satan uses such doubts to undermine the efforts of many Christians. The temptation to give up is always there. We assume we are having no impact, and stop serving…never realizing what God might have accomplished through us.

    While I was still able to work, it was easier to still that critical inner voice. I could rely on my own efforts; measure externally the impact I was having. I am forced now to rely on God, and trust that He will make use of my efforts — however small. I realize now that much of our impact is internal. We will never see it in this life. But it is real.

    And if we are still here, God still has a purpose for us.



    • Thank you, Anna.
      “…if we are still here, God still has a purpose for us.” I love this quote because it’s so true. I think about this every day – I’m still here so God must have something worthwhile for me to do. If He can use me, He can use every conscious person 🙂

  21. Bill,
    As always, another excellent post! I was so happy to see you back out here encouraging us that we can make a difference. Your life is definitely making a difference! Thank you. May The Lord continue to bless you and your beautiful family.

  22. Great post; I love walking through the scriptures and being encouraged by the early church

  23. God uses us utterly disproportionately to who we are. It’s amazing to me that he thinks us to be worthy to do any work for Him. But I guess He longs for us to get to know Him better and learn to love Him and others more. THANK YOU for letting God use you … for being an amazing witness for Him. So grateful for your obedience, Bill.

  24. .needed to hear this today……in a nursing home for rehab for a shattered shoulder…so many just waiting to die here.. will share your ministering from helplessness bless you bless you

  25. Reblogged this on Jeffrey H. King's Blog and commented:
    This is a great post about having the courage, the desire to share your faith.

  26. Nicely done. I really enjoyed this. I’ve heard too many Christians say that their faith is a personal thing and they aren’t comfortable talking to other people about it. WHAT?!? The Gospel spreads through us!

    I’d recommend the book Killing Christians. I can’t recall the author, but it’s a great telling of the spread of Christianity in the Middle East.

    • Thank you, Jeffrey. You’re right, too many Christians claim that their faith is personal… But you’ll notice these same people will try to convince us to vote for a certain Presidential candidate or try to get us to buy a certain product… It’s human nature, we tell others about the things we truly believe in and are passionate about. So, what are they really saying when they claim their faith is personal?

  27. There is no ordinary in God’s family–He makes us all uniquely amazing by the power of His Holy Spirit in us. He works in us and through us to be His hands and feet–just like Stephen. I love how you’ve pointed the picture to what looks mundane to see the beauty, what looks “normal” to show the extraordinary. Thanks for this wonderful post, Bill. It encouraged my heart tremendously. I keep forgetting how much undeserved privilege we have in our Savior–and how we need to be living that truth without hesitation.

  28. Thank you for writing this it really moved me deeply and encouraged me. God Bless.

  29. I think often of those whose very lives or those whom they love, depend upon renouncing Christianity or at the very least meet secretly, and I am humbled as a Christian whose faith has not been so severely tested. But you are right, in that God uses us whatever circumstances we are in…. if we ‘listen’….. Diane

    • Thank you, Diane. Yes, trials and tribulations force us to reevaluate our faith. I think about Christians in places like Syria, people that are told to convert to Islam or face beheading.

  30. Good to hear from you! You have been on my mind lately. Great piece you wrote. Thank you for sharing it!

  31. This is an amazing reminder friend, and a truth I must hold onto. God is exactly who He says He is and we can never go wrong in standing up for His truth!

  32. God has placed us where we are, among people He wants to impact through us. Thanks for pointing out that ‘a humble waiter’ who was prepared to give a reason for his hope made a difference! And yes, there is a cost to following Jesus. But the pay-off is far greater!

  33. Great encouragement for me…one of the ordinary. Thank you for your writing !

  34. Great post; you have certainly given God glory through your loving words here.

    Remember, there were a few who followed Jesus who were not Jews: The Samarian woman at the well who brought those who lived in her village, and the Syrophoenecian woman (Matthew 15:22-28) who begged Jesus to save her daughter. These are two the Bible tells us about.

    I think there are people we make a difference with we will never know about; as we struggle and continue to hold tight to God’s hand, He gives us strength to take a stand through the Holy Spirit. And giving Him glory day after day is what it’s really all about.

    • Thank you, Susan. It probably sounded confusing the way I stated that, at the time of Stephen’s death, all the Christians were Jewish. The examples you mentioned were not Christians (that we know of) at this time (they were inspired by Jesus while He was on earth, but not even the Apostles were Christians before Christ was sacrificed). The gospel wasn’t presented to the gentiles until Acts chapter 10.
      I totally agree with you that it is God that gives us the strength to stand…

      • I didn’t want to correct, yet the Syrophoenician woman is one of my favorite characters in the NT. I see your point, yet wonder – Jesus had such an impact on them – if they followed silently, and were among the 120 there in that room the day of Pentecost.

        • Thank you, Susan. This is a really interesting subject to me, and obviously you also. There might very well have been gentile Christians during this time, but the Bible doesn’t reveal that. It took a series of revelations (to a gentile named Cornelius and to Peter and Paul in Acts 10&11) for the gentiles to be welcomed by the Jewish Christians.

          • It did; the Jewish Christians were certainly closed off. And what’s just as interesting to me now is, the tables seem to have turned in our modern day world.
            I’m a Jewish Christian, and seem to be somewhat of a curiosity to my Gentile Christian friends. 😉

          • That’s funny, Susan – in the early church, the gentile Christians were probably “a curiosity” to the Jewish Christians. I enjoyed our discussion.

  35. So good to hear from you again, Bill! As always, your post encourages and inspires. Thank you for reaffirming: “We don’t need to be a pastor or a theologian to make a difference for Christ.” Also worth remembering: Stephen never knew (this side of heaven) the impact his martyrdom had on the world. First, the conversion of Paul surely started that day as he held Stephen’s cloak, and second, Stephen’s inspiring story was included in scripture for millions (maybe billions?) to take to heart over the centuries. Lord, help me stand strong as Stephen did!

    • Thank you, Nancy. I think you’re right that Paul’s conversion began with Stephen’s death. This might be the ultimate example of, “All things work together for good…” Maybe Paul was thinking about Stephen as he wrote those words.

  36. It’s great to hear from you again. Thank you for the encouragement. Your blog helps so many people.

  37. Great post!
    It’s hard to feel that you can make a difference if you’re unable to confidently expound your beliefs. That doesn’t mean you have to be a trained minister to share your faith, we only need to allow people to see what God has presently done and continues to do in us. Witness is often more effective through actions than it is words. Everyone has the opportunity to publicly demonstrate a changing life. Humble servanthood like that of Stephen feeding the widows opened many hearts to the Gospel.

    • Thank you, Gene. I agree with you that it can be difficult for Christians with little knowledge (of God’s word) to feel confident sharing their faith. But testimonies, even from the illiterate, are a powerful witness. As you said, actions are more effective than words.

  38. jacquelinegwallace

    I’ve been wondering how you are doing, Bill, and looking forward to your next post. Again, you have a good word for us. Thank you. God bless you.

  39. “Stephen’s story shows us that God works through ordinary people. We don’t need to be a pastor or a theologian to make a difference for Christ. Even if you’re a new Christian or you feel spiritually weak, start small and God will expand your work.”
    YES, YES…well said!
    Never forced it should always “flow”

  40. It seems to me that a key word in your admonition to “stand up for what you believe” is the word “believe”—-so many don’t know what to believe in this crazy world of conflicting values with so many telling us what we should believe. Before we stand up, let’s make sure that our beliefs are grounded in the word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit—-then stand!

    • That is SO true, Pastor Jim. You’re right, believing, true belief in Christ, is the key. If we really believed (in Christ and His word) we would stand. Stephen BELIEVED!

  41. Thank you for inspiring me this morning! Very well written.

  42. They could not resist his spirit. Oh to be so connected to the Paraclete that we could reflect His desires and authority at any moment. Preachers need to put down their pens of artful composition and simply soak in reverence. The words then come mightily…Acts7

  43. Thank you very much for the re-blog, Kenny.

  44. Thank you very much for the re-blog, Bruce.

  45. Thank you very much for the re-blog.

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