Acts 10:30-33 – “Then Cornelius said to him, Four days I have been fasting; and at three o’clock in the afternoon while I was praying in my house, a man dressed in white garments stood before me.31 And said to me, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are a memorial before God.32 But send to the city of Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; behold he is staying in the house of Simon Bur-sa’ya, the tanner, by the seaside: and he will come and talk with you.33 At that very time I sent for you, and you have done well to come. Behold we are all here present before you, and we wish to hear everything commanded thee from God.”
Immediate disclaimer – I am not talking about success as in gaining riches or things of that nature!
I believe that one of the primary purposes for going to the House of God is to worship! We should come to the gathering with expectant hearts open to a touch of the Holy God of heaven upon our lives. When I go to the House of God, I go with the expectation of receiving a touch and being ministered to by the Holy Spirit, and extending my praise unto God in adoration and worship.
In this particular service or gathering, we find an incredibly successful service. I can honestly say that I have conducted and been in church services that left me feeling a bit empty. I would never presume to know the depth of what might have transpired in people’s lives but from where I stood, they looked like there were anything but successful.
In those services when the benediction was offered, the body language, facial expressions, and conversation of the congregation did not give the impression God had positively impacted them. They did not appear to have been in green pastures and drinking at the still waters of the Spirit of God. Rather, many looked like they had been stranded in a barren desert or just came from an hour in a dentist’s chair. Some had sour expressions on their face. There did not appear to be any victory.
The service we are looking at was other than that. This was a dynamic gathering that resulted in the lives of the attendees being transformed radically by the Holy Spirit. It was a success by any definition. The residue of this service was felt and demonstrated for years if not decades to follow. This is not the type of service that belongs in some far-off yesterday, but it is available for today.
I believe that God would have this the norm rather than the unusual. As I contemplated this gathering, I saw that there were at least four factors that contributed to the success of the service. Out of a desire for us to have that type of service when we gather to worship, I share my thoughts. If you believe this is for yesterday, you will not appreciate my observations, but if you are hungry for more of God, it might prove beneficial.
THE FIRST FACTOR THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE SUCCESS OF THE SERVICE WAS THE AUDIENCE.
I realize that in some circles many believe that the success or failure of the service is dependent upon the worship and praise, or the message delivered by the minister. That would be a tragic misunderstanding of our reason for gathering. The audience plays a vital role in the outcome. I have found in my years of preaching that some audiences could almost breathe life into the dead, they are so engaged, open, and expectant. Some audiences can put out any fire that is burning and render the service mundane and lacking. Some audiences turn their backs (figuratively) on the service and others are so receptive they are like sponges.
The audience in this story was a Present Audience. Before you say, “Of course they were, they were sitting before Peter.” Let me challenge you to consider what it means to be actively present. I have preachers tell me, “I can preach as well to a handful as to a houseful.” I will not question that, but I have never been inspired preaching to a crowd that more reflected the life of a lumberyard than a gathering of hungry hearts. Jesus is present when two or three gather in His name, but when that is extrapolated to many it can be infectious.
Cornelius said to Peter, “We are all here PRESENT.” Wow! That is an audience that inspires. It is the kind of audience that the preacher preaches to be hopeful. I have had people tell me, “I could not be with you, but I was with you in the spirit.” Someone said, “Spirits are like dogs. If you cannot come and tend to them, they might be better off kept at home.” I appreciate the thought, but you and your spirit there will lend to the victory of the meeting.
The audience was a Reverent Audience. Reverence is not one of the common characteristics of our day. Irvin Cobb (not regarded as a great theologian) said, “If you were to examine the bump of reverence on the head of modern man you would find it to be a dent.” Reverence is incredibly important because it is an expression of value and worth. It has been said that it is a gateway to knowledge. We will never find our way into the Secret Place of the Most High being flippant or irreverent.
This was an Expectant Audience. As a preacher, I can tell you it is easy to discern if the audience is expectant or not. Two types of audiences inspire me. The audience that is enthusiastically with me and the one that is enthusiastically against me or what I am presenting.
A bullet can penetrate a piece of thin plate metal fairly easily, but a bullet will not penetrate a ten-foot snowbank. The snow greets it with an icy kiss and lulls it to sleep before it travels to its destination. The expectancy of the audience was not placed on Peter’s reputation as an orator or scholar. They had been praying for light and understanding. They were hungry for the revelation of God and God sent them a preacher. Therefore, they were right in having expectations of the highest order. Peter had been selected by God and therefore, they expected something to happen when he spoke. They were present to hear and open to the truth.
I do not want to go too long so I will pause here and pick up next time with more thoughts about the four factors for success.
God bless you richly is my prayer and desire. Have a wonderful day in Jesus!