Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   Missed Opportunity
   by Rayola Kelley

     One of the spiritual truths I was reminded of recently is that people often miss opportunities because they do not discern the times they are living in. In God’s kingdom, everything is brought about during an appointed time and season. This is why many people miss windows of opportunity. They do not realize that opportunities occur at specific times when everything has been made ready. The environment is right; the circumstances are in place to bring about a certain result.

       When you study the concept of “appointed times”, you realize that Jesus made an entrance into this world at an appointed time. The people of Israel had been waiting for Jesus to make His entrance for hundreds of years. When He did make it, it was not according to any real attempts on their part or based on their needs, but according to an appointed time. Can you imagine what the results would have been if Jesus had not come at the appointed time? Everything in history would not be in sync. It would appear as if everything surrounding Jesus was ahead of schedule or behind schedule, but nothing would be falling into place as far as the events or happenings taking place. For example, can you imagine the angels declaring Jesus’ birth at any other time than the appointed time of His birth? Can you imagine the star shinning, but pointing to an empty manger? Can you see shepherds going to a manger, only to find that the child had not been born or that they missed the event because He was located in a different place?

       The children of Israel were given an appointed time in which they were to enter into the Promised Land. Everything that led up to the time had to be just right for them to possess their promises. Events were in place, and as a people, they had been prepared to take their place as a nation. The time for entering in to possess the land, as well as reap the abundant harvest of it was ripe. They had come up to the very entrance of their promises, now they needed to enter in and possess them. They were so close, but in their hearts and minds, possession of the land was still far away. As a result, they failed to enter in at the appointed time. Within minutes, the door of opportunity slammed on them.

       How could this have happened? Was God’s redemption for naught? Was the appointed time too short or unexpected? Were the present events too unrealistic? What can we learn from the children of Israel in relationship to the time in which we live? Perhaps what stands before us in our present day is not the Promised Land, but an ark much like the one Noah prepared. Instead of a land of abundance, God may be providing an ark of safety where the door will be securely shut before judgment consumes all that is around us.

       To me the urgency to recognize the time and age is clear. We are told that the age we live in will be marked by great deception, that if it were possible even the elect would be deceived. We live in a time much like Noah where perversion and wickedness have not only filled the cup of judgment, but are spilling over as evil becomes more apparent. We are also living in an age where man has clearly become the center of the world. In such a world, there is no consensus or desire for God. It will take every bit of resolve to avoid being sucked into such a world of vanity and foolishness.

       As Christians, we must recognize the time, the instructions and the challenges in order to adopt an attitude of sobriety towards the time we live in and the willingness to follow the leading of God’s Spirit in whatever way necessary to possess His promises. With this in mind, let us now consider what it will take to walk through doors of opportunities to possess the promises of God.

    Faith: We are clearly told in Scripture that only through faith and patience can we inherit the promises of God (Hebrews 6:12). Faith is active and points to a walk that will count all things as dung, or insignificant, in light of gaining the promises of God. It will recognize the opportunity afforded it because it has already believed that such a way has been provided; therefore, it is ready to respond in obedience once it receives the call to possess the promises or the inheritance.

       We see such faith in the lives of Joshua and Caleb. They were the two spies out of the twelve that were sent into the Promised Land that were ready to possess their inheritance. To them, they did not see the obstacles before them concerning possessing their inheritance; rather, they were seeing the opportunity to go in confidence in their God finally to take possession of what they knew had been clearly designated and prepared for them. However, instead of being free to walk through the door of opportunity, these two men found themselves hitting a stone wall of unbelief. Unbelief will quickly cause small windows of opportunity to slam shut as people give way to the darkness of debate and logic as to why something is not possible in the present circumstances.

       Failing to listen to reason: In spite of unbelief that plagued the ten spies, there were the two voices of reason that were trying to subdue the fear that was taking hold of those who were listening to the “so-called” voices of logic regarding the Promised Land. God desires to reason with us about our sins (Isaiah 1:18). All sins find their basis in unbelief. Unbelief refuses to agree with God’s evaluation about something. In essence, people simply do not believe God about a matter regardless of what already has been clearly established by His Word and examples.

       The initial manifestation of unbelief is fear. Fear makes itself apparent in a couple of ways. It begins with those small doubts that rise up and state, “Did God really mean what He said?” These doubts give way to subtle accusations directed against the character or intent of God. “Can we trust God to do what He says?” “Is God big enough, caring enough and committed enough to pull the impossible off in regard to protecting, guiding and keeping us in what appears to be impossible odds, or is God setting us up to be destroyed as some big, cruel joke?” The only way to step through such fear and avoid its onslaught of false accusations is to choose to trust God regardless of the possible outcome. Like the people of faith in Hebrews 11 who did not see such promises fulfilled in their lifetime, they still chose to believe that their real inheritance was not of this world, but of the next. Since their vision was fixed on the eternal, they were not distracted or caught up by the temporary. They had truly become sojourners in this world in order to possess the inheritance of the next that they were counting as worthy of all consideration. Job committed all matters of his overwhelming circumstances to God by declaring that even though God would slay him in his present situation, he would continue to trust Him in regard to that which would ultimately prove to be eternal (Job 13:15).

       Lacking the foresight, and forgetting about the hindsight: The Bible tells us to forget what we thought was important in our former life in order to put our focus on the life that awaits us. The Apostle Paul counted the things of this world as dung and chose to remember that which was wrought by Jesus in order to press towards that which had been promised.

       The children of Israel often chose to remember the temporary, thereby, losing focus of the blessings of God that were before them. They lacked the foresight or vision of going forward because they forgot the slavery from which God had redeemed them. Since they lacked the hindsight of the uselessness and death attached to their former life, they were not disciplined enough to possess the foresight of realizing their real life was before them, not behind them. As a result, they failed to remember their present status of being in the wilderness, a place that had brought separation to the past, but offered no future that possessed promise or hope. Because they forgot where they came from, they forgot where they were, as fear clouded their vision to the life that awaited them.

       This can be true for Christians. It is people’s tendency to look backward, thereby, losing the necessary focus that will cause them to put the present in proper perspective. This will compel them to press through any obstacles before them as a means to possess the promises in front of them. When we, as God’s people, fail to keep our foresight disciplined and our hindsight in the proper perspective, we can become lost in and to our present status. When we become lost in and to our present status, we will fail to realize that we cannot go back to that which is condemned, but we also will not enter that which promises life, hope and purpose. As we become lost to the way we must travel, the door of opportunity will become lost to us, causing us to become wanderers in a barren wilderness that will prove to be void of abundance and purpose. It is for this reason I appreciate Peter’s response to Jesus when he asked if he would be like many of His other followers and turn back because of taking offense to His teachings. Peter’s response showed hindsight, foresight and personal fortitude: “…Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:68b-69).

       Assumptions: The children of Israel assumed that God would afford them other chances, options or opportunities. Obviously, He had shown much leeway in the past concerning their insecure, rebellious actions. Granted, He had judged their idolatry, but their response in light of the Promised Land was not a matter of idolatry but uncertainty and confusion in regard to the obstacles in front of them. Surely, He would understand why they could easily give in to fear and debate the matter. Perhaps, they assumed that He would provide another way, or allow them to wait until they were more comfortable about confronting the present environment. We can only speculate what assumptions they were making concerning possessing their inheritance, but in such matters one can find the presence of assumptions.

       It is not unusual to assume much about God, but in doing so we will ultimately put Him to a foolish test. We will make decisions and assume He will bless them. We will give way to what seems right and practical and assume His stamp of approval or blessings will naturally follow. However, such assumptions will put us at odds with God. We will find ourselves tasting the harsh bitterness of consequences as our assumptions prevent us from seeing the opportunities before us. We will assume our life and the promises of God will remain in sight as we decide to hide our fear behind indecision. However, in the end we may be allowed to see the promises of God from a distance, but we will never enter into their fullness because we missed the opportunity to inherit them according to the appointed time allotted us and the season of reaping that which had finally come to full maturity. This is why we are told that today is the day of salvation. Today is the appointed time to reap what has been made obvious and necessary by the present season that is upon us. However, if the door is closed there is no way in which we will be able to enter.

       Presumptions: The final picture of missing opportunities is that of presumptions. In assumption, we assume that God will understand our logic and reasoning, but in presumption, we are presuming that if we show some type of acknowledgment that we were wrong and try to rectify it in some way, that we can reverse the consequences brought on us by unbelief and God will show us lenience. The truth of the matter is that once the door is shut, trying to open it is the same as trespassing in an area that is now off limits.

       The people of Israel could not possess what had become off limits to them. They had no official claims or rights to the inheritance. In a sense they had squandered it away with their unbelief and disobedience. Clearly, they could not inherit the Promised Land without God’s intervention.

       God’s redemption has afforded each of us a window of opportunity to possess our spiritual inheritance. The question is, how many of us are taking advantage of the different windows of opportunity to come into the place where we will realize the fullness of our inheritance?