(During the summer, I will not be producing our usual daily devotionals. Each week, I will only produce one group study based on the Sunday message. Daily devotions will resume - God willing - on Monday 5th September)
‘Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.’ (Act 9:31)
The Early Church had faced many challenges up to this point: Persecutions, martyrdoms and inner tensions. At such times, it can be easier to be prayerful and active; when the church is under pressure, she often flourishes, as Alexander Souter wrote,
"We spring up in greater numbers the more we are mown down by you: the blood of the Christians is the seed of a new life,"
For example, I love what we read in Acts 4 regarding how they responded to attack:
‘On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them…Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.’ (Acts 4:23-24, 29-31)
However, peacetime can create a lukewarm and formal approach to our Christianity. For the Early Church to continue to see God’s purpose of multiplication and fruitfulness realised, they needed to be kept on the right path; in order for them to be kept on track, they needed the right guide. and this text says 2 things about this:
i. THEY LIVED IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD
To fear God is to be in reverence and submission to Him. It’s to recognise who is in charge of our lives and the church. A walk with God is not a series of democratic decisions about which way to go! Jesus is lord - we trust that He knows what’s best. To be a fruitful and multiplying church, we must know and submit to Jesus as Lord.
ii. THEY WERE WALKING IN THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
God, however, for the Christian is not just mighty and incomparable; He is also with us in great intimacy and the two aspects must be kept together. Jesus has promised to be with His church by the Spirit. God has given his presence to those who believe and follow him. To keep us on the right track and on His mission, He has given us His empowering and comforting presence.
FEAR + ENCOURAGEMENT = MULTIPLICATION
If we are to be kept from spiritual discouragement, lethargy and complacency we need to learn the lessons of the past. If we are to fulfil God’s purpose for the church with zeal, we need these two things: we need to walk in the fear of the Lord and In the comfort of the Holy Spirit which, in turn, will lead to fruitfulness and mulitiplication.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR PERSONAL REFLECTION
Did God speak to you about anything from this blog or Sunday’s message?
What does it mean to ‘fear the Lord’ and how can we encourage this attitude in ourselves?
How can we walk in the ‘encouragement of the Holy Spirit’ each day?
SIV (Serve, Invest, inVite) - Why will fearing God and being encouraged by the Holy Spirit make us effective in reaching our community for Jesus?
SIV (Serve, Invest, inVite) - Do you have any non-believing friends that you would like to pray for?