So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. —Acts 9:31
The book of Acts is always an encouragement to me. As we’ve walked through 1 Peter in our current preaching series at church, we’ve seen that God creates a distinct people from all peoples and expects them to face persecution and suffering as they walk out-of-step with the society they live in. In the book of Acts, we get to see what that looks like.
Christians in the early church were often hated by the religious powers of the day and were misrepresented and maligned by general society. As those who had been purchased by the blood of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2), they simply had a new and living hope that compelled them to walk in newness of life. I think it is fair to say that the moment they were living in was at least as stressful for a church as the moment we are in today.
The verse at the top of this post comes right after the conversion of Paul and the subsequent plots to kill him. Things are not at rest. Things are not comfortable. There was much to fear. Yet, throughout Acts, in the face of this kind of persecution and attempt to snuff out Christianity as an almost constant theme in the background, we find a church emboldened to preach the gospel and care for one another. Why?
I think the answer is this: the peace that reigned in their hearts comes from a shift in what they feared and where they found comfort.
No longer did they mainlyfear the loss of earthly privileges, rights, or prosperity. No longer did they mainly fear their health and wealth being forcibly taken. Instead, they feared God. They walked in the fear of God. And this fear of God dispelled all other fears. They feared disobeying the one who had saved them more than they feared the loss of some little slice of heaven on earth.
And no longer did they mainly find their comfort in those earthly places either. Instead, they found their comfort in the blood of Jesus Christ and the application of all of the promises of God finding their “Yes” in Him. Of course, all of this became a reality in their lives only as the Holy Spirit dwelt inside of them as the practical application of his power and presence among them.
Do you see the connection between where you find your comfort and what you fear?
Brothers and sisters, let us be those who fear God and walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit as we make much of King Jesus in these days. Consider your heart and ask yourself if your interactions, social media posts, and inward dialogues reflect a deep trembling before God and deep comfort in the Holy Spirit reminding you of the goodness and mercy found in Jesus Christ. If they don’t – that’s ok – just bring those misplaced fears and misprioritized comforts to the cross of Jesus and ask for help to walk in fresh fear and fresh comfort found in Christ alone.