The Understatement

"And they took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted." Acts 20:12

I just love the understated way, Luke expresses the obvious. His tendency to state the facts of faith, without filling the air with superlatives and sensationalizing the ministry of The Holy Spirit is one of the vital signs that his words are God-breathed.

Before church web-sites became the puff sheet du jour, there were church newsletters. Getting off the mailing list of a church newsletter was harder than getting on their softball team. The Pastor's Column was always on the front page, or the upper left hand corner of page two.

As I read these epistles, I pictured thousands of Monday morning quarterbacks sitting at their type-writer or scribbling in their legal pad, with a cup of coffee and a thesaurus next to them. Every article deadline launched a frantic search for all the synonyms for "spectacular" that could be used to describe what happened that past Sunday.

One of the timeless, classic headlines I recall reading was, "Yesterday's services were a spectacular culmination to SENSATIONAL SUNDAYS! Hundreds saved, thousands healed. Renting New Mexico for parking!" He needed to lay off the caffeine, and take a chill pill. He must have been using the AMPLIFIED VERSION OF THE THESAURUS.

The work of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the lives of the preachers of The Book of Acts did not always leave people riveted to their seats. It sometimes led them to fall asleep and out of windows. Slumbering saints are not a new expression of Christianity. They are an ancient people.

"Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight...And there was a young man name Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead." v. 7-9

Paul was an anointed preacher, and filled with The Spirit, but even he had the capacity to put people to sleep. The ears can only hear what the seat can endure. A stifling hot room, filled with burning lamps and perspiring bodies is not going to improve communication. Eutychus fell asleep and into the street, three stories below. This will break up the meeting every time. Eutychus took one for the team.

"Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, 'Do not be troubled, for his life is in him." v. 11

Paul went back upstairs and continued preaching. Raising the dead was trumped by breaking of bread, preaching the word, talking with friends, and Christian fellowship.

"He talked with them a long while until daybreak..." v. 11b

A few years ago, I received a four colored brochure invitation to a church that advertised "The 20 Minute Service." From entrance to exit, they promised they would only take 20 minutes of my time. I decided it wasn't worth getting cleaned up to go see if they could do it.

Some things take time to get it right. Anything that grows overnight in my yard is usually a weed. When I think about it, this gives me a whole new idea for "ROUND UP! SUNDAY!" But I digress.

"They took away the boy alive and were greatly comforted." v. 12

I bet they were. This word for comfort is the same word that is often transliterated to describe The Person of The Holy Spirit as The Paraclete. Comfort is the work, and the very heart and soul of the Spirit of Christ.

The word comfort may not sound rigorous or vigorous to contemporary culture. This nation's restless values causes people to spend a great deal of money on the comforters they throw on top their beds, but in the end, the same weary people lay sleepless and comfortless underneath them. They have a comforter, but have no comfort.

Scripture indicates the family of Eutychus received great comfort, from the news that their boy was alive. They were going home with him by their side, not to a graveside.

The word comforter can also mean strengthener. Worship with friends, where the work of The Spirit is evident will always leave people greatly comforted. The fullness of The Spirit of Christ is essential in any service that begins and ends in the name of Jesus. The comfort is not in the length of the sermon, but in His Presence and the ministry of The Spirit.

"We must not be content to be cleansed, but be filled with the Spirit. The word 'comforter' as applied to the Holy Spirit needs to be translated by some vigorous term. Literally it means 'with strength.' Jesus promised His followers, 'The Strengthener' would be with them. No lullaby for the fainthearted. It is a blood transfusion for courageous living." C.P. Hovey

The prayerless church will always find itself breathless, trying to puff up what has been deflated when The Spirit departed the premises. The praying church will find itself in speechless understatement to describe the Presence and the power of The Risen Christ unleashed in His people and through His church.

Praying people are full of The Spirit and not themselves. They don't puff themselves up with false claims or threadbare superlatives. They simply state the facts of a living faith in The Risen Christ. The understated omnipotence of the Lord Jesus is always a great comfort. Don't settle for anything less. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!