And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.
So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
“I wish they were here to hear that lesson.” Sometimes a sermon is preached or a Bible class is taught, and our minds naturally go to some who really could have used that lesson, but were not there. Many times the reason those on our minds were not there was because they simply had other priorities. Just like Absent Thomas missed the first chance to see Jesus risen from the dead (John 20), others may miss a great opportunity to have their souls stirred up by some really good lessons. Here are some thoughts about that.
It may be that the lesson was designed for me, not for them. Spending time on wishing others were there can end up as time wasted if I fail to contemplate on what the lessons did for me and how those lessons can help me grow. I was there to be encouraged and maybe even rebuked, so the mirror was not placed in the face of those who were absent, but in my face as I heard the word preached. Remember how Peter was so concerned about John’s life, and Jesus said, “What is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21).
Those who were there were edified and stirred up, and maybe those who were stirred up will be a great influence on those who chose to miss the great opportunities to be with God’s people. The church at Sardis was a dead church, but it was not a church without hope or without help, because Jesus charged those who were still alive spiritually to strengthen what remains (Revelation 3). We need to remember this as teachers and preachers. We have to teach those who are there, not obsess over those who are not. Preach to those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, and be thankful for their hearts. They will be the catalyst for growth as God works through them. Preach to those like Cornelius and his household, who had gathered together eagerly to hear the word of God.
What if those you wished were there were actually there? Would it have had the effect you wished it would have? Please think about this, if someone’s heart isn’t right or isn’t ready for certain lessons, we can hog-tie them to the pew or guilt them into being there but the word isn’t going to have the effect we would like. There are times when those we are really trying to influence are actually there, and they hear some great lessons, but then we are disappointed because the change doesn’t happen that we are looking for. By the way, who is that about? I think we are making that about us. Are we truly interested in nurturing someone’s spiritual growth, or are we trying to muscle someone into heaven? In our frustration, we have to remember that God is at work, this is His work, His Word is at work, and God works on His time. God’s word does not return to Him void, it accomplishes what He purposes (Isaiah 55). God gives people a lot of time to repent, to understand, and to “get it.” We have to have that same patience and perspective. Remember that Elijah was despondent and ready to give up because he thought his ministry was ineffective, he was all alone and nobody was listening. God showed him the truth on all those incorrect conclusions (1 Kings 19).
Thankfully, with the benefit of technology, a lot of those great lessons can be preserved, sent all over the world and reheard as much as needed. The opportunities are always there if a person is hungry enough.