Joke about Fate: In surgery for a heart attack, a middle-aged woman has a vision of God by her bedside. “Will I die?” she asks.
God says, “No. You have 30 more years to live.”
With 30 years to look forward to, she decides to make the best of it. So since she’s in the hospital, she gets breast implants, liposuction, a tummy tuck, hair transplants, and collagen injections in her lips. She looks great! The day she’s discharged, she exits the hospital with a swagger, crosses the street, and is immediately hit by an ambulance and killed. Up in heaven, she sees God. “You said I had 30 more years to live,” she complains.
“That’s true,” says God.
“So what happened?” she asks.
God shrugs. “I didn’t recognize you.”
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
Set the stage: He and all his family were devout, and God-fearing. He was generous, and a man of prayer.
4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.
1. God notices and rewards faithfulness.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Why would Paul say that?
Sometimes it’s easy to think God doesn’t care, notice, or reward his people.
Example: Asaph, the worship leader envying the wicked.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
At the proper time…
“Don’t quit 5 minutes before the miracle.”
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
This would make Peter more useful… more open to what was coming next.
2. God prepares his people specifically for their work.
Peter would go and preach to people he would not have before.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
God prepares you for what you don’t know is coming.
Peter has a vision to teach him something.
We experience deliberate events meant to teach us too.
Application: I might think the thing I am going through is meaningless, but I will only know in hindsight.
It’s helpful to know this when thinking of timing…
17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
3. Praying people are asking God to change and then use them.
Peter was praying when the vision came.
Application: Prepare to be changed while praying.
“I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord's will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.”
― George Müller
Peter didn’t know the connection between the vision and the visit from the men.
Eventually he would be able to connect the vision with the visit from the men.
Peter went with the men…
25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
4. God does not show favoritism
Peter was asked to apply what he had seen in the vision right away.
Not with food, but with people. Both had that same meaning.
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
Peter shared the gospel with all who were there, while he was talking, the Holy Spirit came upon both Jews and Gentiles.
Remember the passage at beginning of the chapter?
Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.
And what was his reward?
He was told to send for Peter who came and preached to his people about Gentile inclusion resulting in the baptism and salvation of many of his own people.
5. The lost are the inheritance of the righteous.
“My business is, with all my might to serve my own generation; in doing so I shall best serve the next generation, should the Lord Jesus tarry...
The longer I live, the more I am enabled to realize that I have but one life to live on earth, and that this one life is but a brief life, for sowing, in comparison with eternity, for reaping. ”
― George Muller