It was lunch time. He was hungry. But instead of eating he went up on the housetop to pray. Why? Because he had a burden. Those who know of this account in Acts 10, know we are speaking of the apostle Peter.
“The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he was hungry” (Acts 10:9).
As Peter began praying he fell into a trance and received a marvelous vision of the purposes of God to open the door of the gospel to the Gentile world. This vision changed the course and the entire landscape of Christianity in the early Church and beyond. What if Peter had not been paying attention to his heart? What if he had not taken time to pull aside and wait on the Lord? He would’ve missed the plan of God and probably not received the messengers that Cornelius sent who were on their way to the house.
Peter paid attention to what was going on in his heart. He pulled away from the distraction of food and eating and the Spirit of God met him. What a great lesson we can learn from this! Often the Lord is trying to get our attention but we are distracted by too many things. All the time He is endeavoring to speak to us, to lead us, and to impart some needed wisdom to us, but we are too busy to stop, wait, and listen.
Then when bad things happen to us, or we experience the awful consequences of poor decision making, or we make a false step, we blame God. But all the time God was trying to alert us and secure our attention, but our minds were on other things.
God’s Spirit works with the one whose mind is set on Him (Is. 26:3). He who searches the heart knows what is the mind of the Spirit (Rom. 8:27). We must learn to use our minds to pay attention and search out the activity in our hearts. That’s what Peter did.
We live in two worlds – the physical and the spiritual world. The Lord wants to train our physical senses to perceive what is happening in our spirits. While processing physical information we need to learn to perceive what is going on spiritually in us and around us. Jesus did this in His earthly walk.
But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me” (Lk. 8:46).
When the crowd was thronging Jesus and pressing against Him He perceived that virtue or power had gone out of Him (Lk. 8:46). The woman with the issue of blood touched Him with her faith and He knew it. Jesus was receiving information with His physical senses while keeping His mind on what was going on spiritually.
The apostle Paul did this.
“And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked: the same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked” (Acts 14:8-10).
While Paul was speaking to a crowd and very aware of his physical surroundings his eyes became fixated on this crippled man. He was sensitive to his spirit and perceived this man had faith to be healed, and he commanded him to rise to his feet. The man was healed and leaped and walked.
Here is another excellent example of Paul paying attention to his heart and the activity in his spirit.
“Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:6-9).
After being forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach the gospel in two different places Paul was searching for direction of where to go. His mind was on the Lord scanning His heart for direction. A vision containing direction from the Lord was given to him and off he went.
Visions and direction are often given in prayer. Many times any vision or direction you receive has to do with the gospel, with people, and advancing the kingdom of God. If you are engaged in God’s purposes He will include you in His plan. But if your mind is constantly on the world and other things you will disqualify yourself from receiving guidance, wisdom, and direction.
Here is a Holy Spirit inspired utterance given to my wife and I recently in prayer that speaks to the heart of this matter.
“Who’s in front of you? Who’s in your life? Pay attention to the heart of God for them. So much is missed because we’re not sensitive and paying attention. For if you look at them and you see them in the condition they are so much will be missed.
People who are caught up in the logistics of a meeting or the routine of life miss opportunities multiple times every day to touch a life. Look into the heart of God for a person because the Lord has never had a negative thought toward anyone. See them through the finished work of the cross like the Lord does.”
Let me bring this down to a very practical level because while looking for the spectacular we so often miss the supernatural that is there all along. We look for the lightning, we listen for the thunder, but we miss the still, small voice in our hearts, which is really the voice of our own conscience.
When we lived in Florida I remember a neighbor’s dog kept coming in our yard and doing his duty. I’m not going to lie to you, I was outraged every time he did this. I had vengeful imaginations of taking the dog’s poop and plastering it on the man’s front walkway, or house, or even the front door. While being aware of all this physical activity that was irritating me my thoughts began paying more attention to the activity of my heart. The love of God was constraining me (1 Cor. 5:14) and softening my heart.
These neighbors were not saved. God’s purpose for every human being is first and foremost salvation. If I followed my vengeful imaginations I would’ve ruined my witness for Christ and disqualified myself from being a candidate in bringing my neighbors to salvation. My poor witness could also turn these neighbors off permanently to Christianity. Thank God I refrained from my carnal imaginations and maintained kindness to my neighbor. We did later put up a fence, though (smile).
Think of the opportunities we miss to be a witness for the Lord and to touch lives all around us because we see something about them that irritates us or rubs us the wrong way. But there is always a root to why people are the way they are and behave the way they do.
First of all, they are bound by a sinful nature and are powerless against sin. They cuss, they drink, they smoke, and are involved in promiscuous sex and shady business deals because their nature is all wrong. Their greatest need is to be born again.
Secondly, people have major problems, messes, and are carrying heavy physical and emotional baggage in their lives, that in most cases, stems all the way back to their childhood. There is a lot of dysfunction in our society today and we must be moved toward people by the love of God that has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost (Rom. 5:5).
If you learn to follow the love of God He will share His wisdom with you in every situation because you will be on His wavelength. God’s wavelength is love. God’s love is not selfish. Why would God share His wisdom with a selfish person?
Let us train our minds to be in a continual search mode shifting our attention between the natural and the spiritual world, between what our physical senses tell us and the activity in our spirits. Then, by reason of use or exercise, we will have stronger discernment to know good and evil and the ways of the Lord.
“For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:13-14).