Names in the Bible often cover great significance and offer reveal and declare a person's prophetic destiny.
For example, David means beloved, Jesus means 'God will save' etc.
So what is the meaning and the destiny behind the name of the church's first martyr - Steven?
Does his name mean 'martyr', 'persecuted one' or 'hated one'?
No - in fact the Greek name 'stefanos' means 'a crown' or a 'wreath'. It is a mark of royal or exalted rank, and was used to describe the victors crown given to athletes in the olympics.
In other words, Steven's name did not point to suffering as his destiny or his identity. His identity and destiny is linked to the reward, the honour and the royal rank that was set before him - the heavenly crown of righteousness which was to be given to Him for His faithfulness.
In Paul's final words to Timothy, he too speaks of his soon approaching martyrdom. However, he doesn't dwell on it, but goes on to speak about the crown (or stefanos) of righteousness laid up before him and all those who have loved the Lord's appearing. (2 Tim 4:8).
So what can we learn from Paul and Steven?
I think a key is for us not to focus on the suffering and challenges at hand, but rather to lift our eyes to the stefanos that is set before us. We too have a destiny of a crown of righteousness even though we may face hardships here on earth - so let's not give up, but rather look up and live for our King and the reward that is coming.
Jesus himself had a crown (stefanos) of thorns placed upon his head, as the soldiers mockingly exalted him as king. But one day, He will return - wearing a golden 'stefanos' or crown and will take his place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 14:14). And so we too may face humiliation and persecution on earth, but ultimately God Himself will turn it around for us and we will be rewarded and exalted in the Kingdom.