Becoming a More Effective ServantFull of Grace and Power
Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: There’s power that comes when you make it your main aim in life to please God. It sets you free from fear of man.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, February 12.
Nancy’s been taking us into the book of Acts this week to show us four character qualities the apostles were looking for as they filled roles in the early church. If we ask the Lord to develop these qualities in our lives, we’ll be more effective in His work as well. The series is called “Becoming a More Effective Servant.” Here’s Nancy.
Nancy: Well, as we’ve been talking about over the last couple of days, the early church in the book of Acts faced a crisis. In the midst of explosive growth, there was dissension, a conflict that arose between the Hebrew believers who were native to Palestine and the Hellenistic or the Greek-speaking believers. And kind of the tip of the iceberg, the symptom here was that the Greek-speaking believers felt that their widows were being overlooked in the care and the provision that was made; that the Hebrew widows were getting preferential treatment.
And so the apostles said in Act 6:3: “Pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and full of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” to oversee getting the situation straightened out and making sure that it continued to go well. Then verse 5,
[And] what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit . . . And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people (vv. 5, 8).
So we see here that Stephen was full of the Spirit, full of wisdom, full of faith, full of grace, and full of power. I discovered yesterday that due to a discrepancy between some Greek manuscripts, some of older translations say that he was full of “faith and power.” My translation says, “full of grace and power.” Well, he was full of both, grace and faith and then power as well.
Now, these qualities, full of the Spirit, wisdom, faith, grace, and power are so different from what the world pursues, aren’t they? And what the world considers important for big tasks? The world is seeking after wealth, after recognition, after pleasure, after natural gifts and abilities. But God’s economy, the Kingdom of God, has a whole different set of values. If you’re a child of God, you will be pursuing kingdom values, God’s values, what’s important to Him.
I shared with you that over the last months, I’ve been praying since I discovered these five qualities that I would be full of the Spirit, full of wisdom, full of faith, full of grace, and full of power. I’ve been praying that for others as I say goodbye or as I’m praying for somebody in need or just at church standing in the aisle afterwards praying with someone or with a staff member. I’ve just prayed, “Lord, help this person to be full of your Spirit. May they be full of wisdom. May they be full of faith. May they be full of grace. May they be full of power; also, may they be emptied of all the opposite of those things. May I be emptied of the opposites of those things.”
So in this session we’ve looked at the first three already—full of the Spirit, full of wisdom, and full of faith. Now we see that Stephen was full of grace and power. An old-time commentator, John Gill says about that:
He had an uncommon share of [grace]; it was exceeding abundant in him; he had a sufficiency of it for the service and sufferings he was called to: and he was full of power to preach the Gospel, and teach it [to] the people, which he did with authority; to defend it, and oppose the adversaries of it; to bear reproach and indignities for it, and even death itself; and to do miraculous works for the confirmation of it.
That’s just a paragraph about what it meant for Stephen to be full of grace and power as we read in Acts 6:8: “Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.” Now, I want us today to just unpack those two qualities—what it means to be full of grace first and then to be full of power.
When I see that phrase “full of grace,” my mind goes immediately to John 1, the gospel of John, where it says that Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (v. 14). Verse 16:
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (vv. 16–17).
So He is full of grace. He came to this earth full of grace and truth. He has given us of His fullness, the fullness of His Spirit, the fullness of His grace that we might walk in grace and truth as well.
When Jesus spoke in the synagogue in Nazareth, the Scripture says in Luke 4 that the people “marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (v. 22). It’s the same word charis, grace. They marveled at the gracious words that were coming from His mouth.
Now, a paragraph or so later they were ready to throw Him out, so their opinions were fickle. Sometimes they marveled at Him. Sometimes they wanted to get rid of Him. But they were aware that He was full of grace, and it came out in His speech and His words. They were words that were full of grace.
Now, we usually think of grace initially as “saving grace.” By His grace we are justified. And many believers, I’ve discovered, think of that being all there is to grace. "It’s grace that you need to be justified, something you need to get saved, but nothing beyond that. Yes, I got God’s grace back in ’95 or ’85 or ’65 or whatever it was that I got saved.” The grace of God—"By grace you were saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8).
But as you study God’s Word, there is so much more to God’s grace than just the grace that we need to save us, huge as that is. We also need “sanctifying grace”—grace that transforms us as justified believers into the likeness of Christ; grace that delivers us from the power of sin; grace that gives us the desire and the power to obey God.
“Saving grace,” “sanctifying grace,” and then “serving grace.” We need grace to serve Him. It’s through grace that we are enabled to fulfill what it is that He has called us to do and to worship Him.
I think of Paul saying in 1 Corinthians 15:
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I
persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (vv. 9–10).
Paul was saying, “Everything I’ve done was by God’s grace. Who I am—it’s by God’s grace. What I do—it’s by God’s grace.”
Hebrews 12 says it this way, verse 28:
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
We need grace to serve God in an acceptable way. We need grace to have reverence for Him and godly fear for Him. Then I love that verse, 2 Corinthians 9:8. Talk about full of grace? Listen to this.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you [that sounds like full of grace], so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
That’s what it is to be full of grace, tailor-made grace—tailor-made to your circumstances, tailor-made to your situation in life, tailor-made to what God has called you to do and to be. God gives you that grace. He infuses it into your life by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Well, Stephen needed grace to navigate the conflict and the tension between the Hebrew believers and the Greek-speaking believers. He needed grace to serve in an administrative position, to serve faithfully when he wasn’t in the limelight, when he was kind of doing dirty work, the admin work, the keeping things together. That’s grace.
I’m thankful for all the people in our ministry who serve in administrative, behind-the-scenes tasks with such grace, amazing grace, full of grace. They do it joyfully; they do it gratefully; they do it humbly; they do it quietly. They’re not expecting any great reward for it. They don’t expect a pat on the back. They certainly don’t expect big salaries. They do it because of grace. It’s their response to God’s grace in their lives. They’re full of grace.
So we have “saving grace,” “sanctifying grace,” “serving grace,” but then we also see in Stephen what it means to have “suffering grace.” Stephen had experienced the amazing grace of God in his life—God’s undeserved favor toward sinners. That’s why he was able to extend grace to those who maligned him, falsely accused him, attacked him. It’s the grace of God flowing through his life that enabled him to actually forgive those who persecuted him as he was dying. That was grace flowing through him.
You read that in the end of Acts 7. If you have your Bible open to the book of Acts, you might just want to look at the end of that chapter, Acts 7:56:
And [Stephen] said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. . . . And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep (vv. 57, 59–60).
He died. That is a man who is full of grace. You cannot extend that kind of grace to those who wrong you, those who misunderstand you, those who falsely accuse you unless you have received God’s grace in your life.
So to be full of grace is to always be breathing grace in and breathing grace out. To be full of grace is to be emptied of pride because God gives grace to the humble. You want to be full of grace? You’ve got to be emptied of self and pride so God can pour His grace into your life.
Then we see that Stephen, finally, was “full of power.” To be full of power is to be emptied of your natural strength, your natural self-sufficiency. He was dependent upon the power of God and that power is seen in the way that Stephen performed miraculous signs and wonders among the people as we read in the eighth verse of chapter 6.
That power is seen in the way he faced his accusers as he walked through Israel’s history and he showed how the Jews in the Old Testament had rejected Joseph and Moses—the very ones that God sent to rescue the nation. Then he took it home to his audience.
He said, “In the same way, you have rejected your Messiah, the very one God sent to save you.” It took the power of God for him to look his accusers in their faces knowing this was going to be his swan song, and say those things, to not be political, to not be politically correct, to not try and save his own neck. It took the power of God.
There’s power that comes when you make it your main aim in life to please God. It sets you free from fear of man. Stephen displayed that kind of confidence in God so clearly.
When I think of what it means to be “full of power,” I think of this whole interest today in superheroes, superheroes with super powers. Now, I wasn’t raised on these superheroes, so I don’t know a lot about it, but I’m hearing more about it. Some of the people in my life are really into this stuff.
These superheroes have the ability to combat crime and to protect the public from various threats. Superheroes. Super power. And people are enthralled with this. They want power. We also think of this whole thing of girl power. That’s a big emphasis in our generation, of having power in the workplace. People want power. They want to feel powerful. They want to be powerful. They want to have power.
But the fact is, we are not superheroes, I mean, unless we’re deluded. We don’t have super powers. The fact is, we are weak, but He is strong. Jesus is strong. To be full of power is to be full of His power in us. It’s Jesus’ power.
We’re told in Luke 4:1 that Jesus returned from the wilderness, where He’d been tempted by Satan, in the power of the Spirit to Galilee where He started His earthly ministry. Jesus was God, and so He had all the power of God. But when He came to this earth, He lived and served as a man fully human, dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit to do what God had called Him to do. He showed us what it is to be fully human, to be full of power as weak mortal human beings, to be full of the power of God.
Then in Acts 1:8 He said to His followers as He was going back to heaven,
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and [in all] Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.
That power is not something we have inherently. It’s something that we receive as we’re filled with the Holy Spirit.
I did a study on the word power just in the book of Ephesians. That is the word dunamis, the word from which we get our English word dynamite. Paul says in Ephesians 1:19:
[I pray that you may know] what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places (vv. 19–20).
Paul is saying, “The power of God that raised Jesus from the dead, that’s the power that is in you!” That power is immeasurably great. You can’t measure it. Whatever God has called you to do, you have the power to do it because of Christ who lives in you. Not because you’re a superhero. You’re not. Not because you have super powers. You don’t. But because He is powerful in you.
Paul says in Ephesians 3, “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power” (v. 7). To be full of power is to be full of God, full of Christ. Ephesians 3:16:
[I pray that] he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being . . . Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all [that] we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him [not to us] be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen (vv. 16, 20–21).
You see how that power is something that we receive? It is something that is given to us, something we rely on, something we depend on, something we draw on that is outside of ourselves, something God gives to us by the indwelling Spirit of Christ.
That power of God—that immeasurably great power of God—is seen most clearly through human weakness. That’s why Jesus said to Paul when Paul was saying, “I’m weak. I can’t do this with this affliction. I have this thorn in the flesh.”
Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
I can’t tell you how many hundreds maybe thousands of times in doing this ministry my heart has cried out, “Lord, I can’t do this.” Like last night and as I’m preparing for these kinds of sessions and feeling my weakness, my inadequacy, my inability. Again and again and again I come before Him empty and say, “Lord, here’s my cup. I’m empty. Fill it up. I don’t have strength. I don’t have power. I don’t have ability, but You do. I draw upon You. Be strong in me. May that resurrection power of Christ fill me and anoint me and enable me to do what You have called me to do.”
He will do that very same thing for you, wherever it is that you are serving Him, in the hardest of circumstances. Not your power. You’re no superhero. You have no super powers, but you have the super power of God living in you.
Well, in these two chapters, Acts 6 and 7, we see the results of Stephen and these other men being full of the Spirit, full of wisdom, full of faith, full of grace, and full of power. What are the results? Acts 6:7:
[And] the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
The church had been threatened by the dissension between the Hebrew believers and those Hellenistic or Greek believers. But with this kind of servant leadership, men who were full of the Spirit, wisdom, faith, grace and power, the need was met, and the church grew and more came to faith in Christ.
As a result of them being full in this way, the supernatural power of God was released through Stephen so that others could see how great God was. Acts 6:8: “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.” Stephen couldn’t do those things. Who was doing it? It was God doing it through him.
Those who opposed the truth most vigorously were impacted by these men who were so full of God. Verse 9 of chapter 6:
Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. . . . But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking (vv. 6, 10).
They thought they had super powers. They thought they were superheroes. But they could not withstand the power, the wisdom, the Spirit of God within Stephen.
Then you see that beautiful picture in chapter 6 beginning in verse 12 where the people were stirred up and they seized Stephen. They brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who falsely accused him. And then verse 15:
[And] gazing at him [Stephen], all who sat in that council [that was there to judge him, to condemn him to death, they] saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
He was full of the Spirit, full of wisdom, full of faith, full of grace, full of power, full of God. When he got squeezed, what came out was what was inside. What was inside became reflected on the outside. What is it? It’s the glory of God. That’s what people saw because that’s what was in him.
Well, we live today in a world that is characterized by self, foolishness, the glorification of human wisdom, fear, doubt, pride. We need women today who are full of the qualities that we have seen in the life of Stephen. We need:
- women who are full of the Spirit—which means to be emptied of flesh and self
- women who are full of wisdom—emptied of foolishness and our own natural wisdom
- women who are full of faith—emptied of doubt and fear
- women who are full of grace—emptied of pride, of self-sufficiency, of self-effort and self-striving
- women who are full of power—emptied of their own strength and full of God’s power
A reminder as we close, that to be full of the Spirit, to be full of wisdom, faith, grace, and power is to be full of Jesus. It’s His Spirit who fills us. He is our wisdom. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the One who is full of grace and truth. Grace came through Him and all power belongs to Him. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1
To those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, [Hebrews, Hellenists, all those who are in Christ] Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God . . . Jesus Christ, whom God made our wisdom and sanctification and redemption (vv. 24, 30).
And so O Lord, I pray again for my sisters here. I pray for myself, that we might be full, full, full of Your Spirit. May we be full of wisdom. May we be full of faith. May we be full of grace. And may we be full of power. Fill us, Lord. Fill us to overflowing. May we be full of Jesus, that the world may see Your glory in and through our lives. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss. The apostles were looking for people to minister to the body of Christ who were full of grace and power. Nancy’s been showing us how to develop those qualities allowing the Lord to develop grace and power in us. That message is part of a teaching series called “Becoming a More Effective Servant.”
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