Thursday, February 9, 2017

Day 29: Acts 9:26-31; Prov. 12:19-28 - Are We Walking in the Fear of the Lord and the Comfort of the Holy Spirit?

Today's Reading: Acts 9:26-31; Prov. 12:19-28

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, ESV

Are We Walking in the Fear of the Lord and the Comfort of the Holy Spirit?

How many of us would love to see the church enjoying peace and being built up in the Lord? This is an ideal description of the life of the church, something which every true Christian longs to see. But notice that it comes on the heels of hard times. The peace and growth of the church follow a time of intense evangelism and persecution. This seems to be a regular pattern.

Paul escapes from Damascus and eventually ends up in Jerusalem. His arrival there initially fills the disciples with fear. After all, the last time we saw Paul in Jerusalem, Stephen was being stoned to death and Paul, then known as Saul, was approving of Stephen's death and then imprisoning believers. The fear of the disciples is understandable.

Paul soon puts the disciples at ease, but then his great success in evangelism and apologetics makes him a target for hatred and violence: "So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him." (vv. 28-29) So often, what brings success also brings persecution. This is the nature of God's kingdom.

The church decides it will be best for everyone if Paul moved on, so he leaves Jerusalem, heads back to Damascus and then back to his home of Tarsus. This exercise of prudent wisdom bears fruit for the church. After Paul leaves, the re-invigorated church experiences relief from persecution. After all, the target of the Hellenists' anger has left. More importantly, the peace the church experiences comes with spiritual growth, which then leads to fresh numerical growth.

The description of the church in Acts 9:31 is very convicting and encouraging at the same time. It should prompt us to ask a question: Are we walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort (or encouragement) of the Holy Spirit? Too often, I fear we're just going through the motions in our Christian lives, not really enjoying the fruit of our fellowship with God because our walk with Christ has become dull and predictable.

We need a renewal that only the Holy Spirit can bring, a renewed sense of God's holiness and His presence with us that would cause us to walk in real fear of the Lord. Sometimes we need to take risks, engage in evangelism and apologetics and suffer some persecution in order to experience this renewal. After all, what we're not willing to share with others, even at risk to our reputation and social standing, must not be that precious to us, right?

Heavenly Father, revive and renew Your people. Give us a new zeal for reaching out to others with Your Gospel, proclaiming the faith and defending the truths of the Gospel, even if it's scary or risky. May we always do so in love and with respect, but may we never lose sight of the preciousness of the Gospel and our calling to be Your ambassadors to a world in need. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Prayer Based on Proverbs 12:19-28:

Truthful lips endure forever,
    but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
    but those who plan peace have joy.
No ill befalls the righteous,
    but the wicked are filled with trouble.
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those who act faithfully are his delight.
Heavenly Father, keep us far from lies and deceit,
    and may our lips always be filled with Your truth, spoken for Your glory,
        and may Your grace empower us to act in faithfulness, to keep our word.

A prudent man conceals knowledge,
    but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
Lord, give us discretion as well as honesty in our speech,
    that we may learn to speak a word in due season, blessing those who hear.

The hand of the diligent will rule,
   while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
Father, make us diligent in our labor,
    never slothful or negligent of the good work You give us to do.

Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down,
    but a good word makes him glad.
Lord, if we know that we are in Your hands,
    we have no reason to be anxious or fearful,
        so let us walk in joyful confidence, guided by Your hand.

One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
    but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,
    but the diligent man will get precious wealth.
In the path of righteousness is life,
    and in its pathway there is no death.
Father, let us be a good witness to our neighbors of the path of life,
    and let us walk before others in integrity and loving compassion,
        showing others the mercy we ourselves have received.

All these things we pray in Jesus' name and for His sake, Amen.

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