Episode 1. God-Given Opportunities
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As you look back on your life so far it might amaze you to think about the huge changes in direction that your life has taken based on seemingly small decisions that you made along the way. In fact …
As you look back on your life so far it might amaze you to think about the huge changes in direction that your life has taken based on seemingly small decisions that you made along the way. In fact the more you think about it the more the mind boggles.
I wonder if you can point to some seemingly small decision that you’ve made along your life’s journey that had huge consequences or perhaps it was a seemingly chance encounter or some small twist or turn that changed the course of your life. When I ask that question people often answer, ‘Well, no I can’t really think of anything like that’ and my response is, ‘I don’t think you’re thinking hard enough’.
My father was Romanian. After World War Two when Romania looked like falling into communists hands, which it did, his parents, his sister and he decided to get out of there but where to flee? So they decided that they’d apply to each Embassy in alphabetical order until one of them accepted them as immigrants.
Now if you have a look at the alphabetical list of countries it goes something like this: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Angola, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia and then Australia. The early ones rejected them. When they arrived at the Australian Embassy they went through the process and the official there said no too.
Well they left dejected but as they were walking out and through the car park that same official came running out to tell them he’d changed his mind. They’d be accepted and they could emigrate to Australia and that, that’s why I’m an Australian and not a Afghani, Albanian, Algerian, Angolan, Armenian or anything else. That one small twist years before I was born has defined my whole life.
Decades later I almost didn’t go to the Church service one Sunday morning because I was sick and I was running a high temperature but I really felt I should go and that is where I met my wife. She was visiting from interstate and that was the only morning I could have met her in my life.
It’s funny the twists and turns that life takes. I know that if you think back you’ll be able to see some amazing things that happen along your journey that have completely changed how your life has turned out. Some people put it down to coincidence, others to fate, yet others to destiny, what do you put it down to?
Me? I believe, in fact I know that I know that it’s none of those because the God who created us, you, me, has a plan for our lives. He has a plan for your life, He has a plan for my life and along the way He hands us opportunities and He expects us to take them and do something with them.
Don’t believe me? Have a listen to how Jesus put it:
As they were listening to him he went on to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves and gave them ten pounds and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’
But the citizens of this country hated him and sent a delegation after him saying, ‘We don’t want this man to rule over us’. When he returned, having received royal power he ordered these slaves to whom he had given the money to be summons so that he might find what they gained in trading.
The first came forward and said, ‘Lord your pound has made ten more pounds’ and he said to him, ‘Well done good slave. Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing take charge of these ten cities’. Then the second one came saying, ‘Lord your pound has made five more pounds’ and he said to him, ‘And you, go rule over those five cities.’
Then the other came saying, ‘Lord here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth because I was afraid of you because you’re a harsh man. You take what you don’t deposit and you reap what you don’t sow’ and he said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words you wicked slave. You knew did you that I am a harsh man taking what I didn’t deposit and reaping what I didn’t sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank then when I returned I could have collected it with interest?
He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds’. And they said to him, ‘Lord he has ten pounds’. I tell you to all those who have more will be given but from those who have nothing even what they have will be taken away but as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be king over them bring them here and slaughter them in my presence. (Luke 19:11-27)
The easiest thing in the world for us to do is to read that like some fairy tale. Heard this one so many times, some of us, that it’s like water off a duck’s back but let’s just remember who Jesus was speaking these words to, the everyday man and woman in the street, Jews, a proud nation, God’s nation. These people were farmers and peasants, nobody’s when compared to the Roman Empire and the power of Caesar, an occupied nation, oppressed with little or no future.
And so along comes the Son of God and tells them a powerful story about the fact that God is handing them something, in the parable it’s the pounds, the money and God expects them to do something with it. What this story is about is God handing His people, even the peasants, even the farmers, even those who live in an oppressed land, a substantial opportunity with the expectation that they’ll grab hold of it and do something with it.
Now let’s take a moment, you and I, to apply that parable, that powerful story to our lives the way the men and the women who were listening to Jesus on that day applied it to theirs. God comes to you and He hands you your pound, your opportunity with the strongest of expectation that you’ll do something with it.
How do you handle that opportunity? Are you too busy to notice? Are you too busy to take hold of it? Is it perhaps an inconvenient opportunity? Do your circumstances maybe tell you that you couldn’t possibly make a difference in this world? What do you do with that opportunity?
See all too often God’s opportunities come disguised as calamities, impossibilities and even sometimes seemingly insignificant decisions but what we do with God-given opportunities is going to impact the rest of our lives.
Over the coming few weeks on the program we’re going to be looking at the different ways that God can present opportunities to us because I believe that He has opportunities ready and waiting for you just around the corner and I know that there is so many of His people who are set to miss out of those opportunities for any number of reasons and that, in my book, would be such a great tragedy.
So where do we go in the Bible to talk about opportunities, to discover what God has to say to us about the specific opportunities that He has ready for us? I thought and prayed about it a lot and we’re going to journey for a while with young Joseph of Technicolour Dream coat fame. All God seemed to be handing to this young lad was calamity after calamity.
It was a terrible journey that Joseph had for much of his early life but at each turn Joseph took the opportunities that presented themselves and as a result he became a man of great power but that’s not the main bit of the story, the other consequence was that he saved the fledgling nation of Israel although it was just a family back then not a nation, it’s through Joseph that many, many years later God gave us Jesus.
As one calamity after the other savaged his young life Joseph couldn’t have known the ramifications of God’s mighty plan for his life, ramifications that wouldn’t become evident until many centuries later. I know that God’s plan for your life isn’t the same as Joseph’s but He does have a plan and He’s passing you opportunities far more frequently than you might expect. The trick, the trick is making sure that you don’t miss them.