By Larry Ray Hafley
“Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).
With the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, it appears that the church had a period of “rest.” The lack of persecution was not the reason for growth. The abatement and assuagement that came as the result of a lighter, temporary degree of opposition was not the cause of growth. The church has always shown an ability to thrive under intense assault. What, then, prompted the renewed vigor?
First, it was edified, built up. A church, like a body, begins to stagnate if it does not continue to receive nourishment. Churches are torn by personality conflicts, acrid bitterness, hatred and strife when they do not receive proper exercise in godliness. This growth is not an accident. It must be planned and purposed. Elders, watch for trouble, confusion and division if there are no efforts to increase the fruits of righteousness.
Second, they walked “in the fear of the Lord.” To serve God acceptably, we must act with “reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28). There must be an awesome concept of the God we serve. We must know His might, power, purity, love, grace, truth, mercy and justice. We must be aware of our weakness, frailty, sin and hopelessness without Him. “How Great Thou Art” is not just a song. It is a reminder of the exalted majesty of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Where this attitude toward Him does not exist, man is crowned king and God is toppled from the throne of the heart. Failure is then made certain. Growth in grace is impossible.
Third, they walked “in the comfort of the Holy Ghost.” They were led by His word (cf. Rom. 15:4). The “fellowship of the spirit, ” the human spirit, is made possible by the word of the Spirit. Those who do not fear God do not walk in the truth and they are not comforted by the Spirit. The peace and comfort of the Spirit comes by walking in the truth with prayer and thanksgiving (Phil. 4:4-9).
These three items are the key to growth. Without them there is discord and spiritual retardation. Let us follow the Divine formula for growth here and for heaven there.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 23, p. 715
December 4, 1986