“The Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket… So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 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 9:23-25,28-31
When persecution roughs up comfortable, when criticism stings, when every circumstance and authoritative edict seems to impede progress, we can either shrink from the fray, or press on with endurance. Passion and commitment for the mission goads us to stay the course when that mission is threatened.
Saul (his name was not yet changed to Paul) was tenacious about his call to preach the gospel, and his fellow disciples did their part in making that happen. They had a unified aim to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God, to issue the call to repent and believe, and to nurture the body of believers. Some would speak, some support, some work security, some organize, make travel arrangements, and help behind the scenes. All were all driven to build and build up the church, no matter the opposition, and participated in the joyful effort of seeing that done. (Acts 10:34-44)
There are many ways we can contribute beauty and strength to Christ’s church, practically and spiritually. When we meet together, our fellowship stimulates compassion, mutual edification, and doing good deeds. By honest and reasonable discussion of Scriptures we help each other understand and apply its nuggets of truth. We can give from our resources of financial means, time to serve, expertise in needed areas, and encourage the idle and timid to join us. Even when challenged with certain limitations, we can ask God to show us ways to minister to the body, through a shared meal (even virtually), a written note, a sent prayer or blessing, a call that offers a needed listening ear, interest, sympathy, friendship. And we can pray, without ceasing. (Acts 8:26-35; 17:10-11; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5,7,14; 9:7-8; Ephesians 1:15-23; 6:18-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 10:24-25)
Yet Satan continually plots to squash our effectiveness and destroy the church. Have I allowed his unleashed malaise creep in and settle in my heart, self-focus and fear to cloud my mindset, sloth to dampen enthusiasm? Have uncomfortable or distasteful events beyond my control soured my affection for God, and my commitment to doing all I can to build up His Body? (John 10:10)
What materials, what tools, what effort am I using to build the church, invigorate its fruitfulness, and enrich relationships with its members? What can I contribute today to counter the devil, and add to the loveliness of God’s church and the salvation it extends to a needy world?