If we had a visual to represent our persistence in faith, what would it look like? A dusty corner? A strong tower? In this Faith Moment, we’ll look at an instance in the scriptures describing the contribution of one person’s persistence, and how no moment is too small in our faith.
Good morning. Welcome to Faith Moments. My name is Odalis. I am part of the pastoral team at CornerstoneSF. I’m so glad that we have this time to share. Whether you’re here live for the premiere on this sunny Thursday morning, or you’re tuning in later in the week, welcome! My sincere prayer is for the Lord to meet you, for the Spirit to lead you, speak to you, and guide you along in your faith, wherever your faith is at. In this time that we’re going to spend together, I wanted to share something that I was reminded of from a Sunday service a few years ago. It’s something that still challenges me today. This idea of consistency in prayer and devotion. When we can foster a life of consistent prayer and true devotion. It affects the Lord. Our devotion can move the heart of God.
They’re noted by Him. In our busy culture, as things are reopening now, I know I’m not the only one whose schedule feels busier than ever, we need this. I would love to pray before we dive in. Would you join me? Lord God, we welcome you here into this time. Whenever we’re tuning in, wherever we are, you are everywhere. You are here with us in precisely what we’re walking through in these few minutes that we’ll share, Lord. We ask for you to have your way, for you to speak, and for your blessing over this time. We pray these things, Jesus, in your good and beautiful name, amen. As things are starting to reopen here, a lot of us are thinking back to what was. I think it’s hard not to. Whenever you’re rediscovering a path, either from something that used to be or something brand new, we use our experiences as a point of reference.
Some of us were thinking back to different services we’ve had at the Riordan campus. For those of you who don’t know, we meet in a high school theater. We get to enjoy this beautiful campus right here in San Francisco. It’s a wonderful location that the Lord has blessed our church with. As we’ve been thinking back, we were reminded of some of the odd times of the year where we’ve had to have a little bit of a different plan. We have a little bit of an arrangement with the high school. There’s a couple of days a year we meet in the gym instead of the theater. Those days were some hard workdays. It’s a totally different setup than our usual. Even though we sort of had to do a whole new thing on those days, they were still memorable in a really nice way.
It created this fun environment. Because of the different approaches and experiences, some of those Sundays, some of those wonderful mornings, have stood out in a different way. As some of us were chatting about these services, things we’ll be moving forward into in the future. I thought about one of the messages from one of those gym days. It was just a lot of fun. In that message, pastor Terry was walking us through a section of the book of Acts. Acts, for those of us who may not know, is written by the same author as the gospel of Luke. It’s almost like the author’s sequel to Luke. It answers the question of, “What happened next after Jesus ascended?” There’s this simple concept from the message that stayed with me.
As we’re halfway through this very unique and interesting year and planning the future, we’re discovering together. I wanted to come back to it. In Acts 10:1-8, it says, “At Caesarea, there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian cohort. A devout man who feared God with all his household gave alms generously to the people and prayed continually to God. About the ninth hour of the day, he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, Cornelius. He stared at him in terror and said, what is it, Lord? He said to him, your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. He’s lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. When the angel who spoke to him had departed. He, Cornelius, called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him and having related everything to them he sent them to Joppa.”
This man is not a Jew, though he has familiarity and reverence for the Lord. This is a time in the early church where there was a little bit of confusion and separation. The Jewish people at that time had always been the people of God. Though there were adherents who feared God. Who revered and prayed, there was a little bit of separation between the two. What is happening in this extraordinary moment is beautiful because of the devotion and prayers of Cornelius, this man who, though he wasn’t a Jew, loved God and lived a life that reflected it. Not just him, but his household.
It contributed to a really transformative moment in the history of the church. It stands out, the events that follow. Simon Peter meeting him, the interactions that happen are part of what paved the way for the unity of the church from its very origins. The infant stages of the Christian Church. It’s an incredible moment. This man was not a Jew, not part of what had been the people of God at that time. Jesus came to reveal God, not only to the Jews but to all people, to the ends of the earth. Cornelius, his prayers, his devotion, his persistence, and consistency in it are a part of what God uses to pave the way forward for the church. Pastor Terry was sharing this message, and this is what I stayed with.
“There are some prayers that affect God differently. There are habits of devotion and prayer that affect God differently.” Unfortunately for us, there are no guarantees of angels coming down to affirm our prayer habits. What’s described here in this story is a challenge for us and an encouragement. What if we pictured our prayers in this way? What if we thought about our prayers as something that could affect God, as stacked like a memorial before God? The memorials at that time were piles of stones that were gathered intentionally to remind the people of something God had done. Cornelius’ prayers are likened to this memorial, this pile, this consistent intentional offering before God. To remind himself of the goodness of God. If we thought about our devotion, our prayers, our consistency, and persistence in our faith, what would it look like?
What would the visual aid be? If I’m completely honest, there are times in my life in my faith, when my prayers sort of look like that cup of coffee that you make in the morning. You love your cup of coffee! If you’re not a coffee drinker, bear with me. You make the cup and you know you’re going to enjoy it. You get caught up in another thing and come back. By the time you get back to your coffee, it has gotten cold. You think, “Okay, I can fix this.” You stick it in the microwave and heat it up. You go do another thing, and by the time you remember you put the coffee in the microwave, it’s gotten cold again, and you need to rework it.
If I’m totally honest, there are seasons in my life where my persistence is lacking. My consistency in prayer is lacking. I come back and think, “Wait, I love that cup of coffee. I love my time of prayer! Why didn’t I pay attention to it at that moment?” What does yours look like? What is it? You don’t need to tell anybody, or you can, you can drop it in the comments. What does your faith life look like? There’s no shame in it. The beauty and grace to us are that at every moment the Lord is paying attention. Because devotion and prayer move the heart of God. The same way they did Cornelius. Even though there might not be a vision of an angel coming down to tell us as much. We know principally for it to be true. There are many examples of this kind of love, this beautiful devotion, faithful persistence of people who trust in God that are shown to us in the scriptures. Jesus shares a parable about a persistent widow who daily goes to the judge to get her justice. There are countless references in the Psalms. Speaking of being still before God, of coming before Him consistently. Being continual, coming back to Him over and over again until we hear from Him. In the epistles, Ephesians, Romans, and First Thessalonians there are verses all calling us to be consistent and never ceasing in prayer.
At this moment with the Centurion, we don’t know what his prayers specifically were, that Memorial of prayers he had built up before God. We don’t know the exact content of them, but we do know the characteristics, persistence, consistency, love, and devotion. We know that because of that investment he made. The commitment that he had. He recognized the voice that was speaking to him. He recognized the vision he had, though he was terrified. It says, he recognized this as someone coming and representing God. Someone speaking with the Lord’s intention. It’s not just that he talked and talked at God, he also listened because he recognized the voice of the shepherd. Wherever we are at, whatever we’re walking through, whenever we think of this our hearts are designed to recognize this voice. Spend time with the shepherd, to know his voice, to build up these offerings of prayer.
My heart, my hope for us, is to be more like the Centurion in that way. To be characterized by the love of God, love of neighbor, devotion in prayer, and persistence. I think we’re walking into a season where many things will be changing. So much has already changed, Lord knows, and He’s been with us! But more will continue to change. Some of us have prayers of years that we’ve been offering before the Lord. Some of us, I think if we’re honest, get a little intimidated by, “Well, will He answer? Will we hear from Him? Will we have that clarity? Will we receive that healing?” My encouragement for us today, and this is how we’ll pray to close, is that we would be persistent in prayer. That the ways that we are seeking God, we would be persistent in them. Come and build a memorial, an offering of prayers, one at a time like a strong tower that we build up from the ground. That we would live lives of devotion, and that the Lord would meet us in it. Would you join me in prayer here as we close?
Father, we come before you with hearts, hopefully as much as we can like the Centurion, who offer you out of love our prayers. God, we offer you the things that we care for in our hearts, and whether we’ve been persistent in them, or we’ve been a little lackluster like my occasional habit with the coffee. God, we come before you in gratitude for the one whose mercies are new every morning. We rejoice because you have given us this day! Whatever day it is, you have given us this day and every moment is an opportunity to turn away from the things that are unhealthy, God. Away from the things that are pulling us away from you, away from the things that draw us too much into ourselves. Every moment is instead an opportunity to turn toward you, and to be persistent in our pursuit of you in our prayers and devotion, how we love you, and how we love our neighbor. Lord, we ask for you to help us. For you to draw us closer into our hearts, and if possible, we ask for you to help us to recognize your pleasure over us in those times of devotion. Help us to see you, to recognize your goodness, and your presence with us Lord. Help us to build a memorial that is beautiful before you. We commit our ways to you God, we want to be used by you, and we know that it starts with the condition of our hearts. So we turn to you, Jesus, and ask for you to come. Whether it’s for the first time, or we do this all the time, somewhere in between. God, we ask for you to come, for you to be Lord over our lives, and for you to help us to walk our lives in step with you. We love you. We thank you for this time. We pray these things, Jesus, in your good and beautiful name. Amen. Thank you for joining this morning. May His peace be with you. May His strength and His pleasure be over you. We’ll see you next time for the next Faith Moments. God bless you.