“Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering!” Acts 10:4b
Roman officers weren’t known for their acts of kindness and generosity, but Cornelius was a little different than the rest. I’m sure it wasn’t without hard work that he rose through the ranks to become a respected Roman officer, charged with an entire Roman regiment. He obviously had proven his allegiance to Caesar and the Roman government, or such a position of stature and authority would never have been granted to him. In spite of such allegiance, Cornelius had an even greater allegiance, and that was to God.
Cornelius was the opposition. He was a Gentile, a non-Jew, and was a part of the invading army that had held Israel in captivity for years. Yet, out of character for one in his peer group, Cornelius did something that, most likely, his fellow soldiers and officers weren’t doing. He was praying to the one true God and was giving in honor of the God to whom he prayed.
Because of his position as a Roman officer, Cornelius was probably the last person anyone would ever suspect of receiving such favor from God. Yet because of the dynamic duo of his praying and giving, one day an angel appeared to him and gave him some incredible news. The angel told him that every one of his gifts to the poor, and every single prayer he had ever prayed had been accepted by God as a sacrifice. And, because of his faithfulness, God had a big surprise for him, Cornelius would be the first Gentile to receive the Gospel and the Holy Spirit. This surprise would be delivered from a person who was just as surprised as he was.
Peter, selected by God to take the Gospel message to Cornelius’ home, was just as taken aback. After all, he had always been taught to stay away from the Gentiles, not to mention the Romans. Yet God wanted him to deliver the Gospel Message firsthand.
Today, let me encourage you to keep on praying and keep on giving, because your Heavenly Father is receiving those gifts and prayers. And, just like Cornelius, that dynamic duo will come back to you in ways that you may have never even considered.