A great many Christians are aware they should be actively sharing their faith. But for too many of us, the task is daunting. How do we begin a conversation about Christ and his gospel? What will happen to our friendships afterwards? What if the person with whom we are sharing our faith, asks questions that are too difficult to answer? How do we actually lead someone to Christ? Indeed, some of us have never seen someone come to Christ. What is that like?
While a great many of us believe we should be sharing our faith, but we also have to admit we are not. And that leaves us with a problem. The charge to do personal evangelism leaves many of us with guilt feelings. Rather than seeing this as an opportunity, we are left with just another area in our lives we don’t want to talk about.
I have good news! Cornelius can teach us a very valuable lesson. You do remember Cornelius, don’t you? His story is found in Acts 10. He was a Roman military man, stationed in Caesarea, where the Romans had their headquarters for their occupation of Israel. The Acts text doesn’t tell us how, but Cornelius came to love the God of Israel. There seems little doubt that he must have procured copies of the Greek translation of the Old Testament. He, at some time, began to observe the Jewish times of prayer. He also gave alms to the poor. He must have attempted to be faithful to the 10 commandments. He must have attended a local synagogue. But he would not have been welcomed into a Jewish home. In order for that to have occurred, he would have had to become a convert. As a convert, he would have had to undergo circumcision, as well as adhering to the dietary restrictions of the Torah. Had that occurred, Cornelius would have been cut off from all his Gentile connections.
One day, God sent an angel to visit him. Cornelius is told to send for a man named Peter, who was at that time in Joppa, some 50 kilometres to the south of Caesarea. While Cornelius’s people are journeying to find Peter, God is giving Peter a vision to prepare him for his encounter with Cornelius as well as all his friends and family.
The point of the Acts account is that the gospel of Jesus broke out into the Gentile community because the Holy Spirit had prepared a group of gentiles for the gospel. By the time Peter got there, everyone in that extensive household had gathered and were breathlessly awaiting to hear the gospel. These people were ready to believe and be saved.
Some of us might be saying, “I wish that kind of a thing would happen to me!” But in so many ways, those kinds of things are constantly occurring. The Holy Spirit is preparing the hearts of people to be receptive to the gospel. What we need, is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. If we will be yielded to him, we might find he is leading us to people who so desperately want to hear. Just listen and be aware.
This cures us of the idea that we must argue people into the kingdom. Of course, we should be attempting to share Jesus with all. But among them all, we will find the hearts that are aching for the good news. Don’t think of evangelism as a burden. Think of it as an opportunity. Cornelius teaches us that!