The Threat of Peace
Tuesday, January 8, 2019 - Devotional for Day 2
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)
As Luke composes the book of Acts, he carefully records the fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8:
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Here in Acts 9:31, Luke summarizes the church’s growth thus far. Amazingly, the gospel has already reached Samaria, and now the ends of the earth become the final frontier.
Still more, the church is healthy and strong. The brothers and sisters know the balance of fearing God and enjoying the Spirit’s sweet presence. What a beautiful picture of the people of God! This is what we fast and pray for – a church walking in the fullness of God’s promises.
How did the church do so well in those first decades? And how can we too walk in the glory of those early years?
If we look at much of the church around the world today, we may be able to learn at least one lesson which also lives in this verse in Acts 9:31; it has to do with Luke’s description of the church having “peace.”
When Luke says that the church had “peace,” he may be referring to a break in the persecution they experienced earlier in chapter 9 and which resumes in chapter 12.
There is an ironic catalyst that spurs church growth: persecution. Wherever believers face opposition, the word of God seems to spread all the more.
We see this paradox of persecution and church multiplication at work in the early chapters of Acts. Hardly a chapter goes by without Christians being imprisoned, threatened, or even murdered, and yet the seed of the gospel flowers and grows.
However, in this verse of Acts 9:31, Luke tells us that the church entered into a rare season of peace, yet it was still multiplying.
Can the church thrive in a time of peace?
In modern China, the church has been exploding but it has also been consistently persecuted.
“Don’t pray for the persecution to stop” is what one Chinese church leader, Brother Yun, said. Yun believes that peace is a bigger threat to church growth than persecution.
But Brother Yun wrote the following hopeful and prophetic word to us in the West:
I pray that God might use the Chinese church to help the Western church rise up and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s almost impossible for the church in China to go to sleep in its present situation. There’s always something to keep us on the run, and it’s very difficult to sleep while you’re running. If persecution stops, I fear we’ll become complacent and fall asleep.
Could the church in America learn this lesson to thrive in peace?
Will we be so superficial in our faith that only persecution will cause us to live all-out for Jesus?
Fasting thrusts us into a voluntary persecution of sorts that will not allow us to lull deeper into complacency. May God’s gifts of fasting, interceding, and seeking Him set us running so that persecution won’t be our primary fuel.
As we fast and pray for revival in America in 2019, let’s seek God for a new trend in His church:
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to fall on the church in America
- Pray that we Christians in America will not be lazy in our devotion to Jesus
- Pray that we will live every day as missionaries to our family, friends, and neighbors
- Pray that we will fear God, knowing that we will stand before Him to give an account for our lives. What will we have to show for our years on the earth?
- Pray that the Holy Spirit’s comforting presence will be strongly sensed in every Christian in the U.S.
Dr. Chuck Hetzler
Senior Associate, Christian Union Day and Night
Lead Pastor, Bethesda Grace Church