Opportunity

“How much I missed, simply because I was afraid of missing it.” (Paulo Coelho)

Opportunity is a favourable situation or set of circumstances that make it possible to do something. There are those who can spot opportunities everywhere, and those who are oblivious to them. There are those who capitalise on any opportunity, and those who are too cautious to embrace it.

The writer of Ecclesiastes gave the following advice.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

Opportunitywhatever your hand finds to do

When Paul the apostle visited Athens (Acts 17) he was there to wait for Silas and Timothy so that they could continue on with their journey. But while there he took the opportunity to engage with the Jews in the synagogue, anyone who happened to be in the market-place, Epicurean and Stoic philosophers that he happened to come across, those who gathered at the Areopagus, and a few individuals who believed his message and joined him. That is a lot of opportunity to come from waiting at a transport hub. There is no shortage of opportunity if we will look around and see what can be done.

Actiondo it

Spotting opportunities is only the first step. When Paul saw the opportunities in Athens, he took action to seize those opportunities. He intentionally stepped into the synagogue on the Sabbath and took the opportunity to speak to the Jews. He deliberately walked around the market-place and started conversations. He accepted the invitation to visit a religious site filled with idols. He stood among the philosophers and preached. He welcomed and accommodated the new believers who joined him. If opportunities are not to be squandered, they must be taken and acted upon.

Enthusiasmwith your might

How we do things is as important as what we do. Opportunities will never be maximised if we lack an enthusiastic attitude. It is difficult to fault Paul’s zeal while he was in Athens. His presentation style was enough to engage devout Jews in the synagogue, intrigue strangers in the market-place, captivate scholars and philosophers at the Areopagus, and persuade some significant individuals of the claims of the gospel. Paul had a message worth being enthusiastic about, and he delivered it with conviction. If the gospel is the greatest story ever told, it deserves to be delivered with some fervour. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)

“An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” (Winston Churchill) Every day provides countless opportunities. Spot them, seize them, and see what happens.

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Look

“It’s amazing what you can see when you just sit quietly and look.” (Jacqueline Kelly)

To look at something means to direct one’s gaze in a specific direction in order to see something or someone. It is more than a casual glance. Looking is about examining something in order to see and comprehend.

Jesus often asked people to look. When he said, “Behold”, he was directing people to pause and give careful consideration to what he was pointing at.

“Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” (John 4:35)

Look and stop

It is not always easy to see what is directly in front of us because we are preoccupied with other things and distracted. In order to see what is before us we must stop. We can take a glance while on the move, but we can only look when we stop. The crowd were surrounded by harvest fields and yet were oblivious to them. So Jesus had to tell them to look. In a world of 7.5 billion people, we are surrounded by harvest fields, yet we cannot see it. Stop and take a look at the harvest field of the world around us.

Look and survey

It is possible to look at something but not see it. When Jesus directed the crowd to look at the fields, he was not asking them to take a cursory glance. He was inviting them to take a good look at the surrounding fields and to survey them. They were not just fields, but fields ready for harvesting. Perhaps we have become so accustomed to the world around us that we no longer perceive the opportunity before us. Take a good look at the world, both on our doorstep and across the globe, and survey the opportunities for mission.

Look and see

In the Bible, to see means to perceive and discern something. It means, ‘to get it’. Unlike those who, “see but never perceive” (Isaiah 6:9) Jesus was calling the crowd to look and see what he could see. Not just fields, but fields ready for harvest. The field is the world, full of people who need to hear the gospel and are waiting for someone to come to them with the message. We would do well to look at our world again and see what God sees. See the multitudes waiting for someone to go to them with the message of Christ.

“Nothing is so often irretrievably missed as a daily opportunity.” (Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach) The field of the world around us is waiting for missionaries and ready for harvest. Look, I tell you. Lift up your eyes and see it.

World Missions

“If God’s love is for anybody anywhere, it’s for everybody everywhere.” (Edward Lawlor)

Christian missions around the world is a response to the command of the risen Christ to preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15), make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), and be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The great commission is about evangelism and discipleship on a global scale.

In the book of Revelation, John the apostle saw a vision of the successful completion of this commission.

“For you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)

Who is the gospel for?

John Wesley declared, “The world is my parish.” God loves the whole world, Christ died for the whole world, and the church is called to proclaim the gospel to the whole world. The extent of missions goes beyond all known borders and embraces the whole of humanity. “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” (Abraham Kuyper) The gospel is not just for our locality, nationality or culture. It is a message for the world.

How are we doing?

After two thousand years of ministry, how is the church doing at outworking the great commission? In some ways, “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.” (Charles Dickens) Across the world the church is bigger than it has ever been. More people in more places are coming to faith in Christ than at any time in history. Yet the unprecedented growth of the global population has resulted in more people being alive today who have never heard the gospel than at any time in history. Vast numbers are being born, living and dying without ever hearing a viable presentation of the gospel. “Untold millions are still untold.” (John Wesley) There is still much to be done.

What can be done?

“Is not the commission of our Lord still binding upon us? Can we not do more than now we are doing?” (William Carey) Currently we are living in days of unprecedented opportunity for missions. There are resources available to the church today that previous generations could not have dreamed of. “There is nothing in the world or the Church – except the church’s disobedience – to render the evangelization of the world in this generation an impossibility.” (Robert Speer) If Christian believers took the great commission seriously, the gospel could be preached in all the world in our lifetime. “The evangelization of the world waits not on the readiness of God but on the obedience of Christians.” (Bill M. Sullivan) The unparalleled opportunity is there if the church will engage in missions.

“This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) The great commission will be fulfilled one day, and it will happen through our engagement in world missions.

Stickability

“Endurance is the price tag of achievement.” (Unknown)

Stickability is the ability to stick with something and see it through. It is the process of persevering with something until it is done. Any great feat requires staying power.

David had it in his heart to be king and to build a house for the LORD. But it was an uphill struggle, and it was achieved by unwavering stickability.

Remember, O LORD, in David’s favour, all the hardships he endured. (Psalm 132:1)

Hardshipall the hardships

David’s life was no walk in the park. From the beginning he was beset by challenges, disappointments and hardship. He carried a God given vision in his heart, yet difficulties followed him at every turn. Ease and straightforwardness, or pain and impossibility, are no indication of the will of God. God’s will is God’s will, whatever the circumstances. All God’s servants face hardship at many points in their pilgrimage. That is no reason to give up. God given vision involves mountain sized challenges.

Endurancehe endured

The choice David faced was to give up or carry on. Time and again he was confronted with this test. What made the difference for David was his attitude. Whatever was thrown at him, David endured. It is this attitude that separates the men from the boys. “Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convicts of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” (Winston Churchill) God given vision requires an attitude of endurance.

Successa place for the LORD

David made it. By the grace of God and a lifetime of endurance he became king of Judah, king of Israel, established a kingdom, made detailed preparations for the house of God, and became the great ancestor of Christ. Everyone wants to be like David, but few want to endure like he did. Yet for those who will fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith, there is laid up a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award on that Day. (2 Timothy 4:7-8) God given vision will eventually meet with success.

“Endurance develops every time you reject the temptation to give up.” (Rick Warren) Stickability is does not come naturally to anyone. It is developed through the trials of life. Endurance may not be fun, but the rewards are worth it. Wherever you are at, stick at it.

Still In Love?

“Falling in love is easy, but staying in love is special.” (Unknown)

What is true naturally has a spiritual parallel. When we first embrace the gospel it is easy to be captivated with Christ and all he has done for us. But maintaining that devotion over the long haul is not guaranteed. Sliding back from our first love can happen to anyone. It happened to one of the best churches in the first century, and it could well happen to us.

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2:4)

Praiseworthy ChurchI know your works

In many ways the believers at Ephesus are an example to us all. They were hard working, faithful, holy, doctrinally sound, consistent and strong in the face of persecution. The Lord himself had noticed their efforts and had taken note of all that they were doing for the kingdom of God. The disciples at Ephesus were good people. One imagines that this was a flagship church that others might want to emulate. This was a praiseworthy church.

Problem Churchyou have abandoned the love you had at first

Yet Jesus had a problem with the believers at Ephesus. They didn’t love him any more. Their outward religious devotion looked like real passion. But genuine love comes from the heart. “This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me.” (Matthew 15:8) For Jesus, all their good points were outweighed by their cold hearts toward him. They had abandoned their love for him. The Christian life is all about God loving us and us loving him. If we lose that we have lost everything. This was a problem church.

Priority Churchdo the works you did at first

The problem was serious and the need to address it was urgent. Without an immediate rekindling of their love for Jesus, their days were numbered. They were called to recognise their predicament, repent of their loveless religion, and to set about renewing their love for Christ. Forget everything else, falling in love with Jesus again was their number one priority. Christian discipleship is not firstly about good works and service. It is about love. What Jesus wants to know is, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17) Answering that question is our greatest priority.

“Do not be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour in serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11) Stoking the fire of love for Christ is the greatest thing a Christian can do. Let our first love always be our first love.

Waiting

“How much of human life is lost in waiting?” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Few people enjoy waiting. Yet it is a common constant for us all. It is not possible to live without waiting.

The Bible has a lot to say about waiting, and not all of it is bad. There is actually a positive side to waiting. What we do while we are waiting can be the key to opening up a whole new life of opportunity. The Psalmist discovered this when he wrote:

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I have hope. (Psalm 130:5)

WaitingI wait for the LORD, my soul waits

At the beginning of this Psalm the Psalmist cried out to God for mercy and help. Yet there was no immediate answer. This is a common experience and raises the question, what do we do when answers to prayer are slow in coming? The Psalmist’s answer was to wait. As the watchmen waited for the inevitable dawning of the morning, the Psalmist waited for the inevitable answer from God. Waiting is no fun, but it is part of the Christian life. The Lord’s timing is impeccable and his answers to prayer are worth waiting for. Wait for the Lord.

Wordin his word

How we wait for the Lord is as important as the waiting itself. When the Psalmist waited it wasn’t an idle passing of the time. He turned to the scripture and spent the waiting time in God’s word. It is in the waiting times that God teaches us faith, and it is in the word that faith is strengthened and grows. A commitment to the Bible and the prophetic word are essential to surviving and thriving in the waiting times. God even uses the waiting season to draw us into more reading, studying and meditating on his word. Wait in his word.

HopeI have hope

When prayers go unanswered for a season, the first thing we lose is hope. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12) Yet in this Psalm the Psalmist did not lose hope. Rather, as he waited his hope was renewed and strengthened. This is what time in the word does for us. It builds faith, which produces perseverance, which generates hope. God is faithful. What he has promised he will fulfil. The waiting season is a time to revisit the promises God has given to us and to feed our hope with the word of God. Wait in hope.

“Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be.” (John Ortberg) When it comes to waiting for the Lord, what is often seen as a negative can become the greatest positive of our lives. There is no limit to what God can do in us as we patiently wait in his word.

Expectant

“All good is born in prayer, and all good springs from it.” (C. H. Spurgeon)

On a certain occasion the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) One of the key principles Jesus taught was that we should pray expectantly.

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it
will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)

Praywhatever you ask for in prayer

According to James the Lord’s brother, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:3) Jesus taught, “Ask, and it will be given… for everyone who asks receives.” (Luke 11:9-10) The key to a healthy, dynamic prayer life is to begin praying. “Every Christian needs a half-hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour.” (Francis de Sales) How often we pray, and for how long, matters. Strong Christians are praying Christians. The promises of God are available to every believer who knows how to pray.

Believebelieve that you have received it

The writer to the Hebrews said, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Unbelieving prayer is a misnomer. “Faith is the vital principle of prayer.” (Reinhard Bonnke) When we pray we are placing our confidence in the character of God, in the promises of his word, and in his willingness to do us good. Whatever the request, we are to pray in faith, believing that we have received the answer.

Receiveand it will be yours

James teaches, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16) He goes on, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:17-18) Prayer is more than a religious exercise or spiritual discipline. Through prayer petitions get answered. “We never know how God will answer our prayers, but we can expect that he will.” (Corriedale Ten Boom) God answers prayer.

“Fervent prayers produce phenomenal results.” (Wood row Kroll) The Psalmist wrote, “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3) That is how we should all pray. Expectantly. Pray, believe, receive.