Written by Erik Daniels, Executive Vice President
Earlier this year, on February 25, the Associated Press reported that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was asked to evacuate Kyiv at the behest of the U.S. government. However, he turned down the offer, saying “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.” His heart for his people was truly revealed, and his response garnered worldwide admiration and acclaim. Once a comedian and actor, he is now a national leader and hero. As one observer noted, it was as if Charlie Chaplin had morphed into Winston Churchill. President Zelensky was noticed by the world.
It took a war for Zelensky to be noticed by the world, but what does it take to be “noticed” by God? Until recently, I had never really asked myself that question nor considered its implications. I have thought about how I can please God as well as what I can do for God, but I never thought about being noticed by God. However, I can safely state that I have thought many times about being “noticed” by man! I desire for others to notice and respect me for my knowledge of financial planning and investment management. I want others to notice and respect me for my love for my family. I even desire for others to notice and admire my ability to play sports. However, as a follower of Jesus Christ, what does it mean to be “noticed” by God? More importantly, how does one get noticed by God?
In Acts 10:1-6, Luke tells us of an army officer in the Italian Regiment named Cornelius. He was a man that was noticed by other men since he had achieved considerable rank and status as an officer in the Roman army. Although he was a Roman centurion and a Gentile, he was labeled by Luke as a devout man and one that feared God. The Jewish people of that time would have respected Cornelius for his fear of the Lord, but he would not have been noticed due to the fact that he was a Gentile.
Luke continues to speak highly of Cornelius by extolling his virtue as a leader in his own household, and then specifically points out that he was a man of prayer and generously gave to charity. There are many references in the scriptures about the importance of prayer and giving, but I had never considered that God “notices” me when I am faithful in these two areas. When Cornelius is visited by an angel of God, he stares at him in terror and asks the angel, “What is it sir?” The angel replies “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have not gone unnoticed by God!” Wow! God specifically NOTICED Cornelius!
After reading this passage a few weeks ago, I asked myself why God would highlight generosity and prayer as two actions that He specifically notices? These two marks of men and women must be near and dear to our Lord’s heart. Could it be that you can’t have one without the other? Could it be that each one builds on the other? When believers give generously, their faith expands generously. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that an expanding faith leads to us pleasing God!
God wants our hearts. And I believe these two traits reflect more about one’s heart than one’s actions. John Piper writes in his classic book, “DESIRING GOD,” that God desires us to love him, not out of duty but out of desire. He uses the illustration of a husband’s anniversary. Suppose a husband brings home a dozen long-stemmed roses for his wife on their anniversary. The wife responds in a loving manner by saying the roses are beautiful. The husband then states, matter-of-factly, “Don’t mention it; it’s my duty.” Are dutiful gifts a contradiction in terms?
Similar to King David, Cornelius was a man after God’s heart. It was reflected in his desire to go before the throne of grace in prayer as well as his desire to give generously to others, specifically the poor. I am reminded that C.S. Lewis once said, “Few things in life reveal our hearts as do our attitude towards giving away money, especially when it comes to the poor.”
As we approach Easter Sunday, we are all grateful for the heart of Jesus and the cost he incurred for our salvation. Let us live in hope that we will be noticed by God for our faithfulness with the time he has given us on this earth as well as the resources he has entrusted to us.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4: 9-10).
Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.