Then… the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. Acts 9:31
“Then” is a powerful word. It implies that something came before, and something will come next. It is like starting a new chapter, turning the page or experiencing something new. Being an optimist, then is almost always a hopeful word because it implies forward movement and I always look forward to change.
In this instance, “then” represents moving forward from a time of great unrest and persecution into a new season of blessing. The church in Jerusalem was only a few years old when Stephen, a man full of the Holy Spirit was brought before the Sanhedrin, tried and executed by stoning. That day, the Bible says a great persecution broke out against the church, which numbered nearly 10,000 strong. Followers of Jesus were scattered from Jerusalem throughout Judea and Samaria.
Luke, the writer of Acts shares the story of the incredible conversion of Saul, the main proponent of the persecution and concludes the story with the second half of our “then.”
Acts 9:31 says: “Then”… the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria, (those young Christians who had been through the season of persecution,) enjoyed a time of peace and were strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, (the church) increased in numbers.
As I read this passage, the Holy Spirit impressed on me that this needs to be the focus of my prayer for the church in 2021. 2020 was a difficult year, but now may our “Then” begin.
I am praying for a time of peace and that the church would be strengthened. I am praying that as we engage in our communities, we would be full of the Holy Spirit, we would “reverence” the Lord and be given the courage to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
May our “then” bring the church an increase in numbers! May our “then” display a humble reverence to those still “rattled” by 2020 so that they may take courage and be encouraged in faith. May our “then” cause the church of Jesus to rally in unit, understanding that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
I am praying that we are in a season of “Then.”
In Christ Jesus
May the Holy Spirit help us keep our eyes on Jesus, that together we would enjoy a season of peace, be strengthened, live in the fear of the Lord, be encouraged by the Holy Spirit so that whatever church you call home, it may increase in numbers, for each number represents a son or daughter, a mother or father, a work associate or a neighbor added to the Kingdom of God. Amen!