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Opportunity

Scripture: Luke 5:4, Matthew 25:14
Date: 02/25/2012 
Pastor Batchelor looks at the concept of opportunity in the Bible. God sets before us open doors. We need to recognize and take steps toward these opportunities. Being in tune with the Holy Spirit is essential to catching divine opportunities.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning. Good to see you in the House of God on the Lord’s Day and glad that we can worship him together.

One word, five syllables: Opportunity. Opportunity. Life is an opportunity. At the end of your life, you will be evaluating the opportunities that you recognize and embrace and the opportunities that you neglected and lost. Many people miss and lose opportunities because they don’t know how to spell the word. There are many different spellings for opportunity and we’re going to consider some of those alternate spellings from the Word of God in our presentation this morning.

A number of years ago, on the East Coast, there was a resort community that was having some financial problems and so they had a town community meeting. It was an open meeting and about 20 people showed up for the meeting. As they got into the meeting, they noticed one person in their midst that seemed to be a stranger, nobody really recognized. And they talked about the financial challenges and what could they do to remedy and different solutions were offered. And then this one gentleman raised his hand and began to make some comments that he thought would help them with their community, but since he looked like a stranger in the community, someone else there shut him down and they went on neglected him for the rest of the meeting.

Well, he dismissed himself early and shortly after he left, someone else came into the meeting late and they said, well, did he help us? They said, did who help us? The fellow that just left. Who was he? You mean you didn’t know? That was John D. Rockefeller. I just came from the harbor. He brought his yacht in. He heard we were having some problems in the community and because he uses it for his yacht when he goes on vacation, he came to offer help, the richest man in the world. Did he offer any help? They said, no, well, we didn’t know who he was. He never came back.

You wonder how many opportunities have we missed. The richest person in the universe is often in our meetings willing to help and we forget about him and we forget to ask. Life is full of opportunities that are recognized and embraced or lost.

And so we’re going to have a spelling lesson today to talk about how we can better recognize these opportunities with a biblical perspective when they come. It might not hurt to start with the definition. What does the word opportunity mean? Opportunity is, for one thing, an appropriate or favorable time or occasion. Knowing those favorable times or occasions helps.

Secondly, a situation or condition promising for attainment of a goal. There are different opportunities in life to reach your goals. If your goal is to get married, you need to know when those opportunities show up. I remember hearing about this one lady that said, ‘No, I never did get married.’ She was late in life. And someone said, ‘Did anyone ever ask you?’ And she said, ‘Yes, a nice guy asked me, but if I had known he was the only prospect, I probably would have said yes.’

Three, a good position or chance or prospect for the advancement of success. Now the word opportunity comes from the Latin and it means toward the port, as a ship that is catching a favorable wind and aiming and adjusting its sails correctly to move towards the port or the goal. Life is very short and because we recognize the brevity of life, we want to be able to adjust our sails so that we make our destination.

A lot of opportunities are missed because, well, for one thing, we think that they’re crazy when we first hear them. Some of the most successful things in life started out as a crazy venture. And that’s because you can spell opportunity ‘opportu-nutty.’ You’ve got to recognize those opportu-nutties. The Apostles, for example, were presented with an opportu-nutty. They know that you fish at night with a net. The fish are dormant in the day. Any of you know anything about fishing, you know that there are times for fishing and there are times you’re wasting your time.

And when Jesus came to the Apostles, Luke 5:4, He got done preaching and He said to Peter, launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. Simon’s thinking, well, I’ve heard you’re a carpenter. We’re fishermen. We know about fishing. You don’t fish with a net during the day. They see the net, you can’t catch them. He said, Lord, and we’ve tried all night. It’s just not a good time for fishing. We fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus didn’t change his word and Peter said, ‘Okay, nevertheless, it’s your word. I’ll obey. I’ll let down the net.

And when they took Jesus up on this outrageous opportu-nutty, it says ‘Their nets were caught with so many fish, it began to break and they had to get the other boat. And both boats began to sink under the weight of all the fish they caught,’ because they almost missed this great opportu-nutty.

Sometimes we try something that nobody else has tried and we think that this is a crazy idea, but the Lord is speaking to us and He’s opening a door. And we need to be willing to listen to the voice of the spirit and maybe try something no one’s ever tried before. I mean, what general would ever suggest marching around a city and blowing trumpets as a way to get victory and then shouting?

Look at the things in the bible that were done that really seem -- why would you want to reduce your army from 32,000 to 300 so you could beat a million? But those that stayed in Gideon’s army, while it seemed crazy, they found out it was an opportu-nutty and they got a great victory.

Some in the business world who experience this, inventing and trying something that nobody ever tried before. I don’t know if you’ve heard about Joe Green. I think if I were to ask you how many have heard of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, people have heard of that. Is it next week, it’s supposed to -- they’re going to make a public offering for it and they’re wondering if it’ll bring in $100 billion. He didn’t even finish at Harvard.

What many people don’t know is that Joe Green was his roommate, also a computer programmer at Harvard. And Mark said, ‘Let’s quit college, we’ll move to Silicon Valley and we’ll take this social network that we’re developing and it could take off and go into orbit.’ And Joe said, ‘You know, that sounds like a crazy idea.’ And he didn’t go. And he’s now teased all the time for missing this multibillion dollar opportunity.

That story doesn’t end totally sad. He was creative in his own right and now he is worth millions of dollars by starting another computer company that works with Facebook. Sometimes other opportunities present themselves. But at first he said no and all his friends tease him. He’s still friends with Mark and he said I made a billion dollar bad decision because I didn’t recognize an opportu-nutty when it came along. How could you be so successful doing something like that?

You know, Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 25:14. He said the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man traveling in a far country who called his servants and delivered his goods to them. And to each one, he gave something according to their respective abilities. One got five talents and one got two talents and one got one talent. Everybody is given an opportunity.

And as in our scripture reading we just looked at, the message to the Church of Philadelphia from Revelation 3, the Lord says, ‘I have set before you an open door. No man can shut it,’ but you notice it doesn’t say, ‘and I’m pushing you through the door?’ He sets an open door before us. But do you know what that means? You’ve got to decide if you’re going to go through the door or not. And all through life, God gives us doors of opportunity. He gives all of his servants varying abilities and we need to recognize how and when to take those steps and to reach and embrace those opportunities. Life is filled with opportunities and sometimes we don’t recognize them because we don’t know how to spell the word.

Another spelling for opportunity is ‘oppor-tune-ity,’ like T-U-N-E. Nehemiah is an example of someone who recognized being in tune with the holy spirit and embracing a great opportunity. You can read about this in Neamiah 2:1. Chapter 1 of Nehemiah, he hears about the sad state of affairs in Israel. The city is all broken down, the walls are broken down, the houses are broken down. And he’s got this passion to build up the city of God. And he works for the king, but he doesn’t know, how can I ask the king for time off to do this. Well, he was so sad when he got the news that he couldn’t hide it.

Nehemiah 2:1. And it came to pass in the month of Nisan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes, then wine was before him and I took the wine and gave it to the king. He was the king’s butler. ‘Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore, the king said to me, why is your face and since you’re not sick, this is nothing but sorrow heart? So I became dreadfully afraid. And I said to the king, may the king live forever, why should not my face be sad when the city and the place of my fathers and the tomb lies waste and the gates are burned with fire.’ Then the king said to him, ‘What is your request?’

What an opportunity, to have a king say, what do you want, recognizing the opportunity of telling the king why you’re sad. He could have just said he didn’t sleep well. He could have said, you know, I need some time off. He said, ‘What do you request? So I prayed.’ Right on the spot, he prayed. One of the ways to embrace those oppor-tune-ities is to pray and help God, ask God, to help you recognize them. What is your request? Right then and there standing before the king, he prays to another king. ‘And I said to the King Artaxerxes, if it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah to the city of my Fathers that I might rebuild the city.’ Did God hear his prayer? Because he recognized that remarkable oppor-tune-ity and he was in tune with the leading of the holy spirit, he had been praying, hadn’t he? He had been fasting and praying and that’s one reason the king recognized that he was sad.

Because he was in tune, he saw that opening and he came right out and he asked a very risky question. ‘King, if I’m your friend and if I found favor in your sight and you care about this, then not only do I want you to send me go, give me time off.’ He could have just said, can I have some time off. No, he said, ‘I want time off to go and build the city and I want you to help me pay for it.’ That’s pretty bold. Now you’ve got to keep reading.

You know, when we’re in tune with the Holy Spirit, have you ever noticed that an opportunity passed you by because the Holy Spirit impressed you and you didn’t listen to that impression? And the more you walk with God and the long you spend time with God, you recognize that voice of the Spirit. And it’s -- you know, we’ll miss those opportunities all the time unless we’re listening to the Spirit, unless we have our private devotions.

If you spend time in prayer and you ask God everyday for his Spirit, if you spend time in prayer and you’re spending time in the Word, when those divine opportunities come along, you’ll recognize them. And they can be leading you for all sorts of purposes. It could be helping you with some financial opportunity, work opportunity, romance opportunity. The person you’re suppose to marry might also be an opportunity just to save someone’s life. Or to help a person in need.

I read about a bag boy, a teenage bag boy working at a supermarket and, while he was out in the supermarket helping someone bring their bags back, he was going to push some carts back into the store on his way back in and he saw a lady that was struggling with her packages. She came with too many packages in her cart and then she put one package up on top of the roof and she fumbled for her keys and she opened up the door and she loaded her packages. She was a little out of his way in going back and it looked like she was going to do it all right, but he felt impressed, even though she was going to probably be loading before he got to her car, that he ought to walk over there. And he fought the urge to just push the carts back and he followed the inner tuning of the Spirit that said ‘Go towards that car.’ And he got over the car just as she climbed in and sure enough, she left the package on the roof. And she starts out of the parking lot and he starts to chase after her just as she’s getting ready to turn out on the street, the package slips off the roof and he leaps and he catches the baby. She had left her baby in a basket on the roof. And he felt this strong urging of the Spirit to go and to help this lady. Now, what do you think that was? The Holy Spirit. And he was listening to that. I hope someone talked to that mother about not being so distracted. She had the Brussels sprouts in the car, but she forgot the baby on the roof. Oppor-tune-ity, spelled T-U-N-E, being in tune with the Spirit.

Another spelling for opportunity is very simply ‘oppor-time-ity,’ because a lot of opportunities are lost because we don’t recognize the season that God has provided. Isaac’s an example of that. A very simple passage, Genesis 26:12. Then Isaac sowed -- means he planted -- in that land and he reaped the same year a hundred fold. Talk about a prospering business. He reaped a hundred fold. And the Lord blessed him. Well, you notice what he did -- well, let me finish the verse. And man began to prosper and he continued prospering until he became very prosperous, for he had possessions and flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. But it starts telling he became very prosperous with a very simple phrase, he sowed.

Sometimes you need to recognize an opportunity to make an investment. You realize for a farmer, when you sow, what you’re doing is you’re taking seed and you’re not eating it. You’re putting it back in the ground. And a lot of opportunities are lost because we just hoard, but all real wealth is not gained by hoarding. It’s gained by knowing how to appropriately invest. And that would mean not only investing in a financial sense, but investing in a spiritual sense. Not only investing in the economy or stock market, but it’s investing in God’s work. God can bless you in that way as well and prosper you. He can prosper you tangibly in monetary things by investing spiritually. And part of that comes from recognizing those oppor-time-ities when they come.

And you notice that when he invested that first seed in the ground, he got a hundred fold. And then how much did he invest, you realize that he planted the next year only a fraction of that hundred, he now would end up with a thousand fold and it all starts with his recognizing the seasons for planting. There are times. Timing they say -- for those that are in the stock market. I’m not, other than whatever they’re doing with our retirement or our bank account. You realize your bank invests in the stock market. But they say it’s all timing. Understanding the times. Well, it’s that way in the Christian life and it’s that way in farming. You’ve got to know the seasons for planting. You’ve got to know the times of opportunity. And again, it’s the Holy Spirit that helps us recognize those times. You have times to invest for God everyday to invest in other people’s lives. Someone said, don’t wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good. Try to use ordinary situations and invest in them.

Who was it, Horace and his poem, Carpe Diem. Do you know what that means? Seize the day. Every day we have opportunities, oppor-time-ities, to do something for God and we miss many of them. Someone said once, ‘If you were to win a million dollars, after you pay your taxes and your fees, you’ll end up with approximately $24,000 a day, and because there’s 24 hours in a day, that means you’ve got to spend $1,000 every hour.’ Am I right?

Now suppose if you won that million dollars and you’ve got to spend $24,000 a day, the only money you get to keep is that what you spend. In order to keep, you’ve got to spend it. How would you spend your $24,000 a day to get your million dollar winnings in a year? You’ve got to do it every day of the year, too. That would be a lot of work. Would you do it? How many would like to try to spend $24,000 a day?

Well, you really do actually have it. You’ve got in your time. Time is the stuff that life is made of and we have been given an opportunity. Life is an opportunity. Your life, most of you, I think. There are days I wonder, but I believe we’re here because we’re alive and that means you’ve got this incredible opportunity to do something with your 24 hours for God. And you need to seize the day for him. Say, Lord, what do you want me to do now? Every moment of the day is an opportunity to do something for God. We’ve got to recognize those.

Another spelling for the word opportunity is really in taking inventory. So you’d spend that ‘oppor-tally-ty,’ you tally things. You count what God has given you. So often we’re looking at what we don’t have and we neglect what we do have. We look at the abundance we may not have and you don’t realize that lightly used the little that we do have can be a great opportunity.

Just a few minutes ago, when I was talking to our other class, I shared about the woman there in 2 Kings 4, the widow who lost everything because her husband died. She was in great need and she went to Elijah and said, ‘I’ve got nothing. What am I going to do? Credit is going to come and arrest my sons and sell them as slaves. I have nothing.’ You know what Elijah said to her, and by the way, 2 King 4:2, he said, ‘What do you have?’ Not what don’t you have, what do you have?

And it’s easy for us to pine and feel regret about the gifts that we don’t have or some of the opportunities or the -- maybe we weren’t born into a wealthy family or maybe we didn’t have some of the skills or the job opportunities or the education. We can always focus on what we don’t have and be very unhappy about that and forget to be grateful for what we do have.

And he said to this widow, ‘If you’ll listen to me and use what you do have, you’ll not only be able to pay your debt, you’ll have something to live on.’ And when she listened to the man of God, he performed a miracle for her because she consecrated to God what she did have.

Do you remember when there was the multitude that Jesus fed, the disciples first came and they were all worried. They said, ‘The people have eaten and where are they going to find food? There’s just not enough food in these small communities out here. They’re going to home hungry and famished and faint along with way. What will we do? Where are we going to find bread for all these people in the wilderness?’ Matthew 15:33. And you know what Jesus said? ‘Well, instead of wringing your hands and worrying like that, he said what do you have? Count. Take a tally.’ And they said, ‘Well, seven loaves and two fish or five loaves and two fish, but what is that amongst so many?’

What did Jesus do when they finally took a tally of what they did have? Everybody has been given something. The master that went into that far country, he gave opportunity to every servant. Yes, different amounts of opportunity, but they all had opportunity. And you know what he said when he came back from his journey? The one who had five talents had turned it into ten. He said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.’ The one who two and turned it into four, he exact same thing, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.’ But the one who had only one that said, ‘I haven’t got much to work with, they’ve got so much more than I’ve got.’ And they focused on what they didn’t have. They didn’t take a tally of what they did have. He said, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, I’m going to take away even what you do have and, no, you will not enter into the joy of the Lord.’ That’s a pretty scary denunciation to think about.

If we go through our lives pining and worrying and complaining about what everyone’s got more of than us and we don’t take a tally of what did he give us to faithful with. Everybody has been given something. An opportunity is spelled sometimes oppor-tally-ty. Take a tally of what you do have.

They’ve got these programs about people who survive in these dire circumstances and all they’ve got is a knife. And they think, ‘How can I survive in this wilderness with nothing but a knife?’ But they failed to mention it’s a Swiss Army knife with 500 attachments. Because you’ve got a magnifying glass to start a fire and it’s got a sewing needle to sew up a skin and it’s got all kinds of stuff. And, oh, I forgot to take a tally of the knife that they gave me for this survival journey that I’m on. You’ve got to take a tally. Alexander Graham Bell said, ‘When one door closes, another opens.’ But we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, we don’t see the one that’s open.

Another spelling for the word opportunity comes through a test. It’s oppor-test-ity. I know, that doesn’t flow off the tongue very well, but it’s the only thing I could think of. And Esther is the story I want you to look at. Sometimes it’s when some terrible trial comes to us. It’s really an opportunity, we’re being tested. Esther 4:14. You know the story. Their captain’s in Persia and there’s some wicked character in the palace that wants to exterminate all the Jews and the law is made to eradicate all the Jews on a certain day and it looks like all they’ve got to look forward to is the death decree and all the people are crying. And Esther says, ‘What will I do? I can’t do anything.’ Mordecai said, ‘You’re the queen. Go in there and talk to the king.’ ‘But I can’t go talk to the king without permission.’

And Mordecai says to her, Esther 4:14, ‘If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from some other place.’ Another opportunity will come because God has work for these people that isn’t done yet. I just said that. But you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.’ In other words, this terrible trial that had everybody mourning in the streets, at least all the Jewish people, Mordecai recognized that this might be the very purpose that you were called into the palace as queen. Indeed, he was right, wasn’t he?

This trial that we’re going through, instead of it being a terrible time, is a great opportunity. And so she acted on that. And what happened as a result? Not only were the Jews spared, but their enemies were destroyed and Esther and Mordecai were in the palace. Haman was out of the palace and the Jewish people began to lead in Persia because she recognized this terrible crisis as an opportunity.

Now, someone told me that in Chinese, and we have friends here that could verify this, the symbols in the Chinese language for the word crisis and opportunity are the same. A crisis is an opportunity. Actually, a crisis is riding the dangerous winds of an opportunity. You’ve just got to set your sails right. We need to view a crisis as stepping stones to the stars and not stumbling blocks. Albert Einstein said, ‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.’ Someone else said, ‘If you’re looking for a big opportunity, look for a big problem.’

Again, never think you could do something only if you had different lot or circumstances assigned to you. What you call hindrances and obstacles, discouragements are probably God’s opportunities and you just haven’t recognized them, because they’re oppor-test-ities. You need to recognize them that you’re being tested through this trial and you could make it something good.

How many of us know somebody who’s gone through some terrible trial and that very trial they went through really opened a ministry for them? Some crisis, some test, some loss ended up becoming an opportunity for them to witness. And if they hadn’t gone through that, they would have never had that. So always ask the Lord at the other end of some trial, where is the opportunity in this test?

Elisha, he spelled opportunity oppor-tough-ity. And I could spend a lot of time on this and probably will. A lot of great opportunities are missed because we don’t realize that opportunities are often -- you’ve got to be persistent, you’ve got to be tough.

Kings II 13:14-19, Elisha’s is in bed. He’s sick. He’s dying, really. He’s got his terminal illness. He knows he’s dying. The King of Israel goes to visit Elisha, sort of the last official visit of the king to the prophet. And when he gets done crying, there at Elisha’s bedside, my father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof, Elisha tells him to stop crying. He says, ‘Open the window, take your bow.’ The king had his bow and his arrow with him. He said, ‘Fire an arrow out the window.’ Well, the king obeyed and he shot an arrow out the window. He said, ‘This is the arrow of the Lord’s deliverance from Syria, so stop crying about the Syrian surrounding us.’

And then he said, ‘Now take your arrows, take a handful of arrows out of your quiver and beat the ground.’ So he struck the ground three times. And it says here that the old sick prophet was wroth. I would have like to have seen how this looked. It says, ‘The man of God’ -- this is verse 19 -- ‘was angry with him and said you should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck the Syrians until you had destroyed them, but now you’ll only strike Syria three times. You would have won enough decisive battles, you would have won six battles and completely destroyed them. Now you’re going to win three battles and will hold them back, but they won’t be destroyed. You missed your opportunity because you just didn’t have enough oomph. So that would have been oppor-oomph-ity. No, I did oppor-tough-ity. You’ve just got to be a little tougher.

A young salesman who was very ambitious talked to an older salesman and said, ‘How is it that you’re so successful?’ He said, ‘Well, you’ve got to recognize every opportunity at jump at it whenever you see it.’ He said, ‘How do you know which ones are opportunities?’ He said, ‘I just jump all the time and I don’t miss them.’ And so we’ve just got to keep jumping, recognizing those opportunities.

Someone said, ‘Even when opportunity knocks, a man must get up off his seat and open the door.’ Some people miss the door of opportunity because they never get up an open it. And the sign on the door of opportunity always says ‘Push.’ Who was it, Ann Landers, who said, ‘Most opportunities are disguised as hard work.’ People miss them. Someone else said, ‘Take a lesson from the mosquito. He never waits for an opening. He makes one.’

Proverbs 26:13, Solomon. A lazy man said, ‘There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion in the street.’ As the door turns on its hinges, so does the lazy man on his bed and that lazy man will say, ‘I have no opportunity because there’s a lion out there. You know it’s dangerous to go out and work, dangerous to go out and plant a farm.’ And you’ll always have an excuse for not taking an opportunity if you want one. Isn’t that right? You can find a rationalization to play it safe, but sometimes you’ve just got to have some oomph and be a little tough and push a little bit and work a little bit. God blesses the tenacious. God blesses the determined.

Was it Benjamin Franklin who said, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ Ben Franklin also said, ‘Plow deep while sluggards sleep.’ That’s an opportunity. There’s a German proverb, ‘God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them.’ He might provide them for you, but you’ve got to put in effort there to open them up.

The ones who made the greatest fortunes during the gold rush were not the ones who were out panning with dreams in their eyes. You know who they were? The ones who saw the opportunity to sell the gold miners their stuff. The ones who trucked their stuff, the ones who built the hotels for the miners, the ones -- Levi Strauss made his fortune in the Gold Rush. Not in gold. Do you know what he did? He came out west with all this blue denim that he was going to make tents for the miners and they didn’t buy the tents and he didn’t know what to do with all of his extra material. He had just yards and yards. He had brought truckloads of this blue denim out. It was died Indigo blue and he brought all these rivets and grommets for the edges of the tents so they wouldn’t tear out when the wind blew. And nobody was buying the tents he made. And he thought, what I’m a going to do. He became so low and poor, he made himself a pair of pants and he thought, you know, I could make a really good pair of pants out this tent canvass and I will even put grommets and rivets at the corners where they always tear. And all the miners saw him strutting around town in these pants that he made and said, ‘Can you make me a pair of those pants?’ The next thing you know, Levi Strauss was born. And people are still wearing blue jeans with rivets today. He saw a failure as an opportunity and he became fabulously wealthy in the process.

So you’ve got to be thinking differently than everybody else and also be willing to work. And then you’ve got what I would call the opportunities to witness called an oppor-testimony. Sounds like something a doctor would do in the hospital, right?

Philip is an example of someone who recognizes those divine opportunities to witness, an oppor-testimony. Acts 8:26, ‘The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying arise and go towards the south along the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is the desert. So he tells him to go up from the mountains, where there’s meadows and trees and water, out to the desert. And out in the desert, he sees someone who’s from another country heading back to their country. But out there in the desert, he finds an opportunity to witness. He says this must be someone that the Lord wanted me to talk to. Well, he probably talked to everybody he saw, but he was the only one there. And as a result of seeing that opportunity to let his light shine, not only did that man -- he saw him out sitting in his chariot reading the bible, reading the very prophesy about the messiah, what a coincidence.

Do you ever run into those divine coincidences? Like the very thing you read in the morning in your personal devotions is the very verse someone else needs during the day? Or you’re sitting next to someone and the very place your bible falls open is the very verse that they needed? I could tell you story after story of how that’s happened to me. And he shared his faith with this man. He accepted the Lord and that Ethiopian treasure took the gospel back to the queen and a whole country was converted as a result. And there are still Coptic Ethiopians today because Philip recognized that divine oppor-testimony to talk about Jesus. Just in that short time, he shared about Jesus, he baptized him and sent him on his way rejoicing.

Don’t miss those opportunities. Now, it’s frightening when you think about it, because when you fail to recognize the opportunities to share Jesus with somebody, you don’t want to come out of the grave and the resurrection with your white robe and have it sprinkled with the blood of the people that you failed to share those opportunities that are missed.

Paul, when he preached, he said, ‘I’m free from the blood of all men because I have declared to you the full counsel of God.’ Paul never missed an opportunity and we’ll get to that in a minute.

Proverbs 3:27, ‘Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in the power of your hand to do so.’ When you’ve got the opportunity to do good, whether that’s sharing the gospel or helping someone, don’t say, well, I’ll do it later. Now probably you can all think right now of times that you’ve missed opportunities to do good. You said, ‘Not today, maybe tomorrow.’

And I remember I was once overseas, I was in India. There was someone who was begging in a certain spot. And one day I walked by and I said, ‘I’ve seen him here for days. Now is not a good time. We were on our way to our religious meeting. I’ll help him tomorrow.’ And I never saw him there again. And I always regret it. That’s happened to me more than one. I always regretted missing those opportunities to do good because I postponed it for whatever reason.

‘Do not withhold good to whom it is due when it is in the power of your hand to do so.’ I’m not done with the verse. Proverbs 3:27, 28, ‘Do not say to your neighbor, go and come back and tomorrow I’ll give it to thee when you have it with you. Now is not a convenient time.’ When someone is available to share the gospel with or to help in some way, see that as an oppor-testimony and do it then when the opportunity presents itself.

Everyday we’re running into opportunities and we need to take advantage of them. Keep literature with you. You never know when you’ll find someone that needs to know something. Christian literature I’m thinking of, more specifically. Opportunities, someone said, are very seldom labeled. You never recognize an opportunity until it’s going down the street. And it’s almost impossible to get the opportunity after you’ve missed it because someone has gotten it. And so you want to get them when they’re within reach, a very important principle about sharing your faith.

Ecclesiastes 2:14, ‘The wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness.’ That means the wise man, eyes in heads, it means his eyes are open. He’s looking for opportunities. ‘Pray for the holy spirit to be in us and recognize those opportunities.’

And then there is one sad spelling for opportunity. It’s ‘oppor-loss-ity.’ And I’m thinking about Felix and the Book of Acts 24, you know, if you wanted a preacher to preach to you and to share the gospel with you and make an appeal, you couldn’t find anybody better than Paul. Paul wrote a majority of the New Testament, preached all over the empire, spoke in several languages, did it with passion. He wasn’t much to look at. He said that himself. But, boy, he could speak and preach and write with power.

And here Felix, one of the rulers in Judea appointed by the Romans heard Paul make a powerful gospel presentation and he felt, you know, ‘God is calling me to accept him.’ But he thought, you know, for whatever reason, what will people think and, you know, I’m the ruler and he’s a prisoner and why should I let a prisoner tell me what the purpose of life is and who knows what he was thinking. But it tells us what he did say.

Acts 24, 25, ‘As he reasoned about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix trembled. The Holy Spirit conviction him and he was afraid and he answered, ‘Go away for now and when I have a convenient time, I’ll call you and we’ll finish this conversation.’ He was feeling impressed to repent and accept Christ. And he said, ‘Not right now, do it later.’ The devil’s most famous and successful ploy is not to tell you there’s no God or that God doesn’t love you, but to tell you there’s no hurry. Do it later. And, you know, there’s no record in the bible that Felix ever called for Paul again or that Paul ever came to preach to him again and how different history might have been in the land of Judea if Felix had accepted Christ at that time. All of the history of that period could have changed for the whole nation, but he said not know. And so what could have been an opportunity turned into an oppor-loss-ity. As far as we know, he lost everlasting life.

It’s like the story -- there’s other in the bible, of that rich, young ruler who comes to Jesus, Mark 10, and he even asks for eternal life. ‘Good master, what good things shall I do that I might have everlasting life?’ And Jesus tells him, you know, you’re distracted with your wealth. I’ve got something better for you. The same way I asked Matthew to leave his cash register and I asked Peter, James and John to leave their bulging nets, I’m asking you to forsake your wealth and follow me. You will have treasure in heaven.’ What’s worth more, any treasure on earth or all the treasure in heaven? Jesus was offering him all the treasure in heaven. Well, that’s a good opportunity. That’s like the man who sells everything he has in order to get that pearl of great price. That’s a good opportunity. Or selling everything you have to buy the field that contains the treasure. But that rich, young ruler doesn’t tell us what he thought. Maybe he said not now, I’m going to have to think about that. He went away grieved for he had great possessions. He missed an opportunity not only to be a disciple, he missed an opportunity to be an apostle. Christ said, ‘Come and follow me.’ Same thing he said to Peter, James and John and Matthew. Follow me. And he said, no, I’m not sure that’s a good investment. He lost treasure in heaven and he went away sad with earthly treasure.

A lot of stories we could tell. I hope there are none represented here of people who have lost everlasting life because they waited and they didn’t listen to the appeal coming from either Paul or even Jesus himself. Great oppor-loss-ity.

We all know opportunity knocks but once or twice, but temptation knocks every day, right? And that’s why we’ve got to take advantage of these opportunities to invite Jesus into our hearts. The Lord has set before us all an open door and he wants us to recognize that and invite him into our lives.

Now sometimes we’ve missed opportunities. What do you? Can you ever recover? Because I told you that even a crisis can be an opportunity, that means even a lost opportunity can be an opportunity to recover. Not always, so don’t be reckless with the opportunities that God gives. But like I told you about this man, Joe Green. Even though he missed the billion dollars of Facebook, he saw follow-up opportunities and he recovered and you’ll be happy to know that he’s a multimillionaire today. I know you all feel better knowing that. Not a billionaire, but at least a millionaire. And some opportunities you can’t always get them back, but you can recover to some extent.

One of the most brilliant politicians, you’re going to cringe when I say it, was Richard Nixon. He was a very brilliant politician. He was not only a senator, he was a vice president and, in spite of his lack of integrity, terrible mistakes and terrible language, talk about the disgrace of being impeached while president, missing a big opportunity. He just took a few years outside of the spotlight, but he was so restless because he saw what was happening to the country during the cold war. He knew so much about international policy and negotiations. He had seen America through getting out of the Vietnam War. He began to work as a diplomat. He actually called some of the presidents and he counseled them. And he said, ‘Can I give you a tip? I know I’m not supposed to mettle,’ and they welcomed his advice because while he had disgraced himself as president, they knew he was a brilliant politician and a diplomat. And so he began to help advise them and then he began to travel and he began to represent the U.S. in visiting China.

And, you know, by the time he died, he was once again a respected statesman because he helped with the relationship with China, with the overthrow of the Soviet Union and you can see a picture of Richard Nixon’s funeral and you’ve got more living U.S. presidents at his funeral than any other funeral in history. There were even more there than the Pope had when he died. He recovered to some extent. You can’t always undo the mistakes that you’ve made, but he at least died with some respect and some dignity as a diplomat and a respected statesman.

And maybe you have made some mistakes. Maybe you’ve done some things you’re ashamed of and you wish you could take back. I have. And you can’t turn back the clock of time, but even our failures can be opportunities to learn and not make the same mistakes and help the next generation learn and try and do good while it’s in the power of your hand to do it.

Life is an opportunity and a living dog is better than a dead lion. That means you’ve all got opportunities right now. And as long as the door is still before us, Jesus has set an open door before us, a door of everlasting life. No man can shut it, but you can neglect to go through it. You need to seize that day. Amen. Today is an opportunity. Today we have that chance.

And I’d like to encourage all of us this morning to pray for the Holy Spirit because ultimately everything I’ve just described, whether it’s the opportu-nutty or the oppor-tune-ity or the oppor-tough-ity or all the rest, you need the Holy Spirit. If you’re being lead by God’s spirit, you will recognize these divine appointments, these doors, as they come along and you’ll walk through them and you’ll take them.

And if you’ve like to pray in closing, Lord, I don’t want to miss these opportunities to be a witness for you, a worker for you, to be a steward for you, help me to have that spirit. Help me to have the courage. Help me to have the toughness to make the most of these opportunities in life. Is that your desire? Let’s stand together and we’ll sing He Leadeth Me as we close. Oh, by the way, that’s number 537.

Now, I want to just, as I often do, give you an opportunity. You know, I’m always afraid to neglect these opportunities to invite people to come to the alter and to accept Christ. There may be some here who have never really surrendered their lives to Christ. So you’re struggling or you’re thinking not today, Paul, like Felix, at a more convenient season. Well, there’s no time like the present. You need to seize the day. Today is the day. If you have not yet said, I want to live for Christ, I want to make the most of this opportunity, this life, to serve Him, I want his spirit to lead and to guide me, then we’d like to pray with you and invite you to come to the front as sing verse two and we’ll pray with you that you can have that opportunity. Praise the Lord.

And there may others, you’ve drifted from the Lord. God is giving you an opportunity to come back and maybe recover to some extent what you’ve lost. Come, we’re going to sing verse two together.

Now in a more general way, before we sing the last verse, I’d just like to ask everybody, have you maybe missed some opportunities? I won’t ask you to show your hands. Do you realize that without God’s spirit, you’re going to miss some more opportunities to work for Him, to witness for Him, to invest for Him? And you know that without His guidance and His spirit, we’re going to pass a lot of good doors. Some may seem like they’re tough doors, some may seem like they’re nutty doors, but He’s wanting you to go through them.

If you’d like to say Lord help me, give me your spirit. Would you lift your hand in His presence. I want to be used of you. I want to recognize those opportunities to let my light shine and to witness for you.

Let’s sing the last verse and then we’ll pray together. Verse four. Amen. Those who have come forth, come a little closer. Don’t be bashful. And any of our pastors or elders that are here, if you wouldn’t mind joining us. Pastor Mike is here, Pastor Ray is here. I saw Pastor Obinus (phonetic) and any others, come down. I want you to be able to visit with these people. After prayer, I typically go to the door and greet, but if you have any special needs, please visit with our pastors are here and we’d like to pray with you.

Father in Heaven, we thank you for the message that while we’ve failed sometimes and missed opportunities, that you continue to open those doors before us. Help us, Lord, to recognize the opportunities that come every day. First and foremost, to recognize the opportunity to come to Jesus just as we are for eternal life. And then opportunities to work for you, to invest for you, to serve for you, to take risks for you, Lord. I pray that you’ll give us the courage and the spirit, give us the resolve that we need to be your servants.

And in a special way, Lord, whatever the needs might be, bless each person. Lord, bless and comfort our hearts. We all can look back and feel deep regret over opportunities missed. Thank you for your mercy and your compassion. And I pray, Lord, that you’ll be with those are wanting right now to accept you as their savior to take full charge of their life that today they’re going to walk through that door. Give them your spirit, give them your peace. Help them to see your purpose and your mission for them as individuals. And I pray that when you come again, we can all hear that blessed announcement, well done good and faithful servant. You’ve invested the talents that I’ve given you. Enter into the joy of the Lord. This is our prayer, in the name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen. God Bless you, friends.

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Culture And The Christian (PB) by Joe Crews

Culture And The Christian (PB) by Joe Crews
God's Promises




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