There is something beautiful and amazing about the Christian man/woman who walks daily with God, believing in Him, being with Him, trusting, walking with God is what allows optimism to reign in the middle of a pessimistic world, expectation to color our hearts and minds when the world around us sees a prison. To walk with God, practicing the disciplines of faith so that we are more like to hear from him, to love being with Him and wanting more, always content but never satisfied in the things of the spirit is a wonderfully exciting place to be.
Peter and Cornelius are both men who walk with God, devout men, with a regular, consistent habit of praying to God, and expecting God to work in their lives. READ Acts 10:1-4, Acts 10:9. God is not meant to be a last ditch effort to get out of a crisis, there are a few people out there that when I see their name come up on my phone I cringe, because they only call me when they want something, don’t appear to care about a relationship, only money or something… God is not meant to be an add on when things are tough. I love the words of E. Stanley Jones: “To talk with God, no breath is lost. Talk on! To walk with God, no strength is lost. Walk on! To wait on God, no time is lost. Wait on!”
Wake up with God on your mind, go through the day listening for God, thank God for the joys of the moment, ask for God’s grace for yourself and others. To walk with God means he is with you each moment for the day’s journey. The one walks faithfully with God will make a world of difference.
O ~ OBEY God ~ “Radical obedience to Christ is not easy... It's not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.” ― David Platt
God brings together unlikely people in Acts 10; they are all obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. READ Acts 10:8, Acts 10:23-25, Acts 10:28-29
To be obedient often means being uncomfortable…(we would not need a reminder to be obedient if we were never challenged) I get discouraged when I hear people declare they can’t do this or that because that’s not who they are…If you only always accept God assignments in your own strength, in your own experience, your own timing, you will miss out on the excitement/blessing of life. I can’t tell you when to hold back and when to accept an opportunity to serve God, but consider saying YES to God unless it is impossible! And sometimes say YES even when impossible…
A quick word on knowing what God’s commands are:
#1 Read the Bible…
#2 take care of all your responsibilities in life, your family, your job, whatever you said you’d do. You don’t need a voice from God to fulfill your commitments.
#3 carefully consider ever opportunity, perhaps through your church an act of service, a group, leadership. Weigh out your gifts and opportunities. SHAPE is an awesome study: Spiritual Gift, Heart, Ability, Personality, Experiences…
#4 Listen for God’s voice, through prayer, a nudging, an amazing “coincidence” you can’t ignore, an audible voice, a word of wisdom through a trusted friend.
#5 Show up and let the H.S. show you…
What’s the opposite of obedience? (not disobedience, although I can see arguing that point.) The opposite, IMHO, is laziness. Our world is full of spiritually lazy people. It’s not that they are actively being disobedient to God, but rather they are not entering the opportunities, taking risks, go forward with an urgency. Do not withdraw from the world but enter into active service of the King of Kings! The one who is obedient to the leading of God through the H.S. makes a world of difference.
R ~ REACH out to people outside your comfort zone. Billie Graham said it this way in saying we’re to reach out to those we don’t even like: “God loves us not because we’re perfect, or even likeable, because we aren’t. We fall far short of what He wants us to be, yet the Bible says He still loves us. And unlike our love for others, His love means He always wants what’s best for us, although we don’t deserve it. This is the way God wants us to love others—by seeking what’s best for them.”
Through-out Acts 10 people who are very unlike each other, different backgrounds, different status’s of life interact. The beautiful principle is laid out in Acts 10:28. READ. Embrace that truth. Nobody is beyond God’s love. Peter was led to enter the Gentile world. The gentile world invited the Jewish world in… Want the best in Christ for all.
One of my major life’s philosophies is that one of our callings as servants of God is to giveaway my power, my advantages to those who have less than me… maybe it’s resources, maybe it’s a lousy upbringing and they need help to overcome their past, maybe it’s the discouraged that need a word of encouragement, or a hug, the hungry, the homeless, the prostitute that needs a father figure, a child that needs direction… there is no doubt as you make yourself available to actively serve God he will bring you into contact with people who are unlike you… often there is a temptation to hang out with peers, people who are like you… but God often reaches people by putting together people who are different from the other… you have to love people in order to serve God.
Another major belief. I can learn more from people who are unlike me than those that are similar to me. How much Peter and Cornelius certainly impacted/impressed the other, such different backgrounds. You cannot ever think you are better than anyone for there isn’t a person alive that can’t teach others…
Reach those outside your comfort zone, and you will make a world of difference.
L ~ LOOK for those God is softening. I love the insight of Dietrich Bonheoffer: “Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him.”
READ Acts 10:19, Acts 10:22-23. The constant theme in Acts shows us that God is working; our job is to find out where and get in on it. Just show up! God sends people our way. God gives us divine appointments when He will use us personally as His vessels to share the Gospel. LOOK for those searching for God, and you will make a world of difference.
D ~ DISREGARD the criticism. IMHO, nothing stops people from fully serving God as a critical spirit/fear of what others will think…some words of wisdom: “You may find hundreds of faultfinders among professed Christians; but all their criticism will not lead one solitary soul to Christ.” ~ Dwight L. Moody ….
“The way we respond to criticism pretty much depends on the way we respond to praise. If praise humbles us, then criticism will build us up. But if praise inflates us, then criticism will crush us; and both responses lead to our defeat.” ~ Warren Wiersbe. “Many pastors criticize me for taking the Gospel so seriously. But do they really think that on Judgment Day, Christ will chastise me, saying, 'Leonard, you took Me too seriously'?” ~ Leonard Ravenhill
Not hard to imagine Peter resisting the leading of the H.S. in Acts 8 because of his traditions, what other people would think… the vision of God of eating unclean food and then transferring that to Cornelius and Gentiles. READ Acts 10:13-14. Peter’s first response was NO… Acts 10:15 is a major shift in Peter’s thinking. Here’s the best I can do to try and imagine Peter’s thinking: I invite you to my house and serve you a delicious looking plate of food and tell you it’s dog, what will you say? “Surely not Lord” (in many cultures that’s a treat, but not us…)
To serve God is to take a risk, it is to risk criticisms, failure (at least human failure), to overcome your own obstacles. When I was young I had many theoretical ideas of standards/principles but then in 30 years I’ve met real life, a messy world, people that don’t fit neatly into my categories… criticism is part of the deal, from me and others… People are going to be resistant to what God wants you to do. Jewish culture was resistant. Peter himself was resistant. The church is resistant, critical, skeptical. But Peter, Cornelius, Peter’s traveling companions, and ultimately the church itself overcame the resistance to be a part of what God wanted to do. God was moving, spreading his message by wooing hearts, by awakening souls.
Listen to God above all, over man/pastors/the church. I’m not saying become an independent lone ranger, but rather, always have a filter even for those that you are closest too. As a pastor, I have been very clear forever that I am not a prophet that can tell you what God’s will is for your life. I can share my thoughts on general principles, I can scold you if you make a decision that is clearly not in his standards, but I cannot make decisions for you. You can listen to those that love you, but often even well meaning friends and family might apply brakes, the grandparents that put pressure on their children to not move across the globe to a foreign mission field with their kids…
God’s voice is always the last word. Overcoming the critics, even the resisting voices in your own head, is always part of the obstacles to overcome. You might be resistant to what God wants you to do. It may take God working in your heart just as He did in Peter’s heart to help see how He wanted to make a difference in his life. Peter had to overcome prejudice so that God could use him to reach more people. In your case, there may be something that is hindering you from reaching the people God wants you to reach. In the past, perhaps you’ve given in and held back. We cannot go back and undo the consistency of our walk with God, or the level of obedience, all we can do is draw a line today, ask God to forgive your resistance yesterday and go forward.
Walk closely with God, Obey God, Reach people who are unlike you, Look for those who are searching, Disregard criticisms and God will use you to make a W-O-R-L-D of difference. Amen.