Episode 1. God–Given Opportunities
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Whether we realise it or not, God is in the business of handing us opportunities. And He expects us to make the most of them. What tragedy that so many people miss out on grabbing those opportunities …
Whether we realise it or not, God is in the business of handing us opportunities. And He expects us to make the most of them. What tragedy that so many people miss out on grabbing those opportunities with both hands.
I wonder if you can point to some seemingly small decision that you 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 your life.
When I ask people that question, they often answer no, I can’t think of anything like that. And my response is, you’re not thinking hard enough.
My father was Romanian. After WWII when Romania looked like falling into communist hands, his parents, his sister and he decided to get out of there. But where to flee. So they decided that they would apply to each Embassy in alphabetical order until one accepted them is 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 earlier ones rejected them. When they arrived at the Australian embassy, they went through the process and the official there said no. They left dejected. But as they were walking out and through the car park, that same official came running out to tell them that he’d changed his mind. They would be accepted and could emigrate to Australia.
And that… that’s why I’m an Australian, and not 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, because I was sick and running a high temperature. But I felt I should go – that’s where I met my wife. She was visiting from interstate and that was the only morning I could have met her. 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 happened 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 this, 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 his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not 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 summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds. ’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities. ’ Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds. ’ He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities. ’ Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow. ’ He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into 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 did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence. ’”
The easiest thing in the world for us to do is to read this like a 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 He was speaking these words to – the everyday man and woman in the street. Jews. A proud nation, God’s nation, who were farmers and peasants. Nobodies, when compared to the Roman empire, 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 He 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 will 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 women who were listening to Jesus tell it, applied it to their lives. God comes to you, He hands you an opportunity – with the strongest of expectations 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 perhaps tell you that you couldn’t possibly make a difference in this world, a little like those who were listening to Jesus on that Day? Or … do you grab it with both hands and throw your whole life into doing something with that opportunity? All too often, God’s opportunities come disguised as calamities, impossibilities … and yes, 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 presents opportunities to us. Because I believe that He has opportunities ready and waiting for you, just around the corner. And I know that there are so many of His people who are set to miss those opportunities for any number of reasons.
And that, in my book, would be a 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’ve thought and prayed about that, and we’re going to journey for a while with Joseph, of technicolour dream coat fame.
All God seemed to be handing the young lad was calamity after calamity. It was a terrible journey that Joseph had for much of his early life. But at each turn, he took the opportunities that presented himself. And as a result, he became a man of great power. But that’s not the main bit of his story. The other consequence was that he saved the fledgling nation of Israel (although it was just a family not a nation at that point). 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 – God’s plan for your life isn’t the same as Joseph’s. But He has a plan and He’s passing you opportunities far more frequently than you might suspect. The trick is – make sure you don’t miss them.