We all desire to see the church grow. We want Romans 8:29 to be true, namely that Christ “would be the firstborn among manybrethren.” This means that we desire to see growth on two levels: the universal church (all believers from all time, also known as the kingdom of God) and the local church (Greenbrier First Baptist). I believe that Christ will be faithful to build His universal church as He promised in Matthew 16:18, and I believe that we will see growth in the near future locally as well. As we expect growth and prepare for it, let us notice a couple of things about the growth of the church in Acts 9.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace,
being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit,
it continued to increase. (Acts 9:31)
A healthy church will grow. In fact, no one will really be able to stop it. This is exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 when He promised, “the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Acts 9:31 says the church continued to increase. That means that the increase was not seasonal, but continual. People were believing and being added to their number day by day (Acts 2:47).
What was causing them to be in a position to increase? They were “going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” That’s an interesting combination: fear and comfort. Typically those are opposed to one another, not in union with one another. What we have here is a full picture of the trust that the church puts in God. We are to have a healthy, robust fear (respect) for Him that does not drive us away but brings us close. He is to be the only One we fear, but He is also to be the only One in whom we find comfort.
To put it negatively, the church did not fear people or institutions, nor did they find comfort in anyone or anything other than the Holy Spirit. Because they did not fear man, they were filled with boldness, and because they did not find comfort in the world, their message was pure and their joy undiminished. They were solid, joyful witnesses who were unwavering in their devotion to Christ, and the church grew because of it.
As we look forward to the growth I believe that God is stirring up here, let us prayerfully prepare to be a people who fear the Lord and find comfort in His Spirit.
Years ago I heard my childhood pastor quote a little rhyme that instantly stuck because of its simplicity and profundity. This is it:
Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last
Simple. Weighty. Ringing with truth. This statement is a challenge to be focused on work that glorifies Christ. Everything else will be consumed in the testing fire.
Nothing done for Christ is ultimately pointless
Yet, as we labor for the Lord, it can often seem that our work has no effect, goes unrecognized or helps little compared with the amount of energy we spend doing it. After all, when we spend so many hours praying and doing events and having meetings and serving the community and contributing to Bible study classes or worship services with little to show, we can begin to get frustrated with the results and question the validity of the labor. That’s why Paul wrote, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor. 15:58)
As long as it’s labor for Christ, we can be confident that God recognizes it. He sees and knows. And this hope strengthens us to be steadfast and immovable and continue, or even increase, our labor for the Lord.
Your Reward is with the Lord
Not only does God recognize everything we do for His glory, but He plans to reward us for it. This is what gave Isaiah hope. He said, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely the justice due to me is with the LORD, and my reward with my God.” (Is. 49:4)
This is faith—trust that reward will come later even though work may seem futile now. This type of faith in the remuneration of God will dismantle any fear of vain spiritual labor, as long as that labor is legitimate labor for Christ. This promise of spiritual reward is confirmed in the picture of Christ’s return in Revelation when Christ says, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done." (Rev. 22:12)
This is the reason we toil—to glorify Christ and receive His reward, not the world’s.
This is the rest we have in our toil—that He will bring reward with Him.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. And when You come, may we be found laboring for Your kingdom.