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.
People are always looking for a new recipe for church growth. Everything from advertising to hip new slogans, to building projects, to ‘relevant’ preaching, to more and more programs, pastors and leaders are often trying to create the bigger and better church. But Acts 9:31 gives us God’s recipe for successful church growth– fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
To fear God is not to be afraid of Him– rather, it is to rightly honor Him as the holy, righteous, and omnipotent Creator and Judge before whom every knee will bow. God is not thought of very often in those terms these days. Jerry Bridges writes, “There was a time when committed Christians were known as God-fearing people. This was a badge of honor. But somewhere along the way we lost it. Now the idea of fearing God, if thought of at all, seems like a relic from the past.” But the Bible says that “the fear of the Lord is wisdom” (Job 28:28), “the fear of the Lord is hatred of evil” (Proverbs 8:13), “the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 14:27), “by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil” (Proverbs 16:6), “the fear of the Lord leads to life” (Proverbs 20:23), and “the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure” (Isaiah 33:6). Being aware of the awesome power and holiness of God is what makes one wise, turns one away from sin, and opens the door to eternal life. So you can see how the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit are related; the Holy Spirit is the One who creates holy fear of God in our hearts (Isaiah 11:2), which brings about all the blessings above.
If walking in these things is how the church multiplies, how can you cultivate the fear of God in your personal life and in the life of your church? If you are a pastor, preach with the aim that people be staggered by the grandeur of our glorious God. If you are a small group leader or elder or any other sort of leader, seek to deliberately connect in your mind all of your responsibilities to the glory and holiness and renown of God. Parents, train up your children to know that God is great. Together, with the power of the Spirit at work in us, we can begin anew to walk in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit, Only You can open the eyes of my heart to see God as He really is, that I might properly fear Him. Please do this work in me, making me aware of the great holiness and glory of God, that I might despise my sins and daily seek refuge at Calvary where the wrath of God was absorbed, that I might see my holy Judge as my glorious Savior.
“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” ~Dietrich Bonheoffer