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.
The church in America has enjoyed an almost unprecedented period of peace. We have never really been persecuted. Even today, we are not persecuted, though some think we are. Mocked; derided; scorned; sometimes hated, but not persecuted. There have been times when, speaking with other believers, I have wondered if the American church — myself, especially — was not stronger because of this lack of persecution. This verse reminds me that persecution is not necessary for a healthy, vibrant, growing church. There are, in fact, three things mentioned in this verse.
One, we must be built up. Too often, I find myself tempted to tear down my fellow believers. I suspect that the same is true in reverse. It is not enough to build one another up. I can build up my fellow believer in the wrong way and leave them susceptible to pride. We must be built up in the Truth: exhorted, encouraged, and spurred on to good works. Always with Truth as the foundation.
Two, we must [go] on in the fear of the Lord. I confess that I am not as afraid of God as I ought to be. If I were, it would work itself out in holy living. I am commanded not to be afraid of man, but to be afraid of the One Who has authority to kill the body and to cast the soul into fire. If my walk with God is atrophied, I may need to look no further than whether or not I am appropriately afraid of God. I know that The Bible tells me that perfect love casts out fear and some will therefore claim that I should not be afraid of God. I contend that the two are not mutually exclusive, but inclusive. As a child, I was afraid of my parents when I considered doing something wrong. Fear was part of the deterrent that kept me from some wrongdoing. It was not only the fear of discipline — though that definitely factored into my thinking — but the fear that I would disappoint. This whole balance of fear and love could be an entry unto itself, but the scripture teaches that the holy versions of both have their place in my life as a believer.
Three, we must [go] on in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Too often, we seek comfort from other places — other people, edible treats, potable treats, exercise, amusement, to name a few — and do not turn to the Comforter Who has been sent by no less than Christ Himself. I am especially guilty of taking comfort in potables such as decadently sweet drinks and large quantities of caffeine. Neither is bad in and of itself, but they are utterly sinful when they supplant the place of the Holy Spirit. Did I first turn to Him and ask for comfort? If the answer is not an emphatic “Yes”, then I am most likely in the wrong.
Am I being built up and building others up; going on in the fear of the Lord; going on in the comfort of the Holy Spirit? In order to grow, I must.