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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Persistent Prayers that Produce Results

Acts 10: 1 - 8, There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the Ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, "Cornelius!" And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, "What is it, lord?" So he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do." And when the angel who spoke to him had departed, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier from among those who waited on him continually. So when he had explained all these things to them, he sent them to Joppa. NKJV
It is this man, Cornelius, who can be credited with the gentiles coming to faith in Christ. Cornelius was a praying man, and he also loved to give to the people. Consequently, his actions of faith captured God’s attention. What intrigues me about Cornelius and his faith is the way he persisted in his giving and praying, even though he wasn’t a Jew. If you remember, gentiles in Jesus’ day were looked down on and despised. For example, the Gospel of Mark tells us in chapter seven that a Greek woman came to Jesus begging Him to heal her daughter, and He called her a “dog." She was a gentile woman, who had no covenant with God because she wasn’t a daughter of Abraham.
In fact, all gentiles were excluded from the covenant that God made with Abraham until the day Cornelius was heard by the ear of God; and God’s heart was moved by this gentile’s faith. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we must believe until the salvation of the soul, and if any one draws back into unbelief His soul will have no pleasure in them. Nevertheless, this gentile, who had no hope prayed continuously anyway and gave without regard to his being separated from the Abrahamic covenant. Finally, God was moved by Cornelius’ persistence and sent an angel to give him specific instructions.
This story is one which greatly fascinates me because we know that Cornelius was a sinner, who had an encounter with the angel of God. We know, too, that angels can’t preach the message of salvation. Therefore, he instructed Cornelius to send for Simon, also named Peter. In the meantime, God sent word to Peter that men who were deemed “unclean” by Jews were about to show up in his life; and he was to go with them back to a gentile’s house. God visited Cornelius and Peter in order to set up a meeting between a Jewish follower of Christ and a gentile believer, who was about to become a follower of Christ. Because Cornelius had faith in Christ and acted upon His faith, it opened heaven’s door for us, who are gentiles to come into the sheepfold.  
When Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius with the three men and those who also went with him, they found his entire family awaiting their arrival. After Peter shared the good news of Christ with those that were in attendance, God saved all of them. The Jews who came with Peter, as well as the gentiles, who were present for the sermon, accepted Christ as their Savior. Afterwards, God filled them all with His Holy Spirit, and they began to speak with other tongues. Because of faith and persistent prayer, God’s heart was moved to have mercy upon the gentile race and include them in His New Covenant in Christ.  
I share this word with you today for many reasons. Nonetheless, the Lord wanted you to see what persistent faith will do when it seems like the world (and even God) is against you. In spite of feeling like there was no hope for this gentile, he kept praying and giving alms unto the Lord, and his sacrifice of faith came up before the Lord as a memorial. Are you facing a hopeless situation? Do you feel like God, Himself, is against you? Do what Cornelius did and hold onto your faith until the breakthrough comes. If you have faith in Christ and don’t turn away from Him, He has given you His Word that He won’t forsake or leave you, ever!
Hoping in Faith,
Pastor Asa Dockery

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