Thursday, October 25, 2012

Seizing the opportunities – part I

I am going to talk about seizing opportunities when God is on the move. Of course, God is on the move all the time, for God neither sleeps nor slumbers, said the Word. So, what do I mean by God is on the move? By that, I mean there is a particular move of God or move by the Spirit of God.

Moves of God
At times, there are the big moves of God or the Holy Spirit. For example, for the seventies (1970s), for countries like Singapore, there was a big move of the Holy Spirit coming upon believers, activating various spiritual gifts in the believers. Even into the eighties, we could still see such a phenomenon. Of course, we still have such thing as the baptism of the Holy Spirit, in the like of that which the disciples of Jesus experienced on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Scripture, where many persons received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at one go, accompanied by manifestations of the Spirit; but are now, not that frequent, on a group scale. The scale then (70s- 80s) can only be described as liberal and generous and on a group level. Today, we see this, more on an individual level; and even if there is a corporate dimension to it, it does not happen at one go, but over time, more usually.

Concerning the above move of the Spirit, some groups of believers experienced it, while others did not. Looking back to that time, there was so much grace in those years of outpouring. It was like God turned on, all the heads (streams) of grace, all at the same time, be it from the head of love and faithfulness of God, head of righteousness of God, head of sovereignty of God or the head of glory of God (yes, the grace of God does not flow to us from one head only but from several heads).

Some people literally bumped into it; others seized the opportunities of the time or moment. Others missed it, without even knowing about it; and still others, and this was a big group, they gave it amiss - so very sad!

The above is just a real example, and there are various other big and smaller moves of God here or elsewhere, in different times. Smaller scale ones could the same phenomenon but confined to particular local church or body. Some seize the opportunity and ride the wave, so to speak; others, in the same body, can be found to be giving it a miss.

Of course, the context of the need for us, to seize the opportunities afforded us by God, can include other scenarios. For example, it could include particular fruit or works, the Spirit wants done; this can include such thing as God wanting particular community or people-group to be saved or evangelized; God wanting particular spiritual gifts to be used, so that people can be blessed; God might also be wanting to liberate certain oppressed people, or suppress certain move of the enemy, Satan; or it can be God wanting His glory to be made known to particular people or in a location.

On smaller scale, but nevertheless, important to God, and even to us, are various scenarios like that in a home or household; like there is grace of God for salvation(s) in the family. Others could include the place of work, etc. Other scenarios could include such thing as peace and reconciliation.

Failure to seize
What happens when we do not seize the opportunities? These are some of the ill-effects of our failure:

1. A profaning of the grace of God happens;

2. We have not cooperated with the Spirit of God;

3. We may even have quenched the Spirit;

4. Intended blessing maybe delayed for some, or even missed altogether, by some;

5. Because we missed being instruments, we missed the associated blessing for us, even;

6. Our development schedule with God gets disrupted, and reworking maybe required;

7. We miss the honor and privilege of serving God at the things He wants done. In other words, we could be history-makers, but we miss it.

What no-lah!
"No-lah, the plan of God cannot be thwarted by anyone of us; we seizing or not, is not relevant", sometimes, we get such a feedback. Such an attitude is not pleasing to God. Had God been wanting to do things apart from men, then it is true, but history from Scripture, tells us that, right from the beginnings of men, God involved men in what He wanted done. So, where it involves men, we have a part to play, we just cannot abdicate from our role, thinking that our lack of participation can never displease God. We may not be able to thwart God's plan in any finality, but our non-cooperation may upset Him.

Those staring at you
Sure, we cannot be participating in every event or occasion, but we have to be honest with ourselves and with God, and we have to bring matters before the Lord.

But more often than not, we are not referring to the more remote scenarios, but rather, situations right under our nose, so to speak. God can easily understand about your non-participation in more remote cases, but are you really able to justify those staring at you?

Excuses or reasons?
Why do believers ignore the very opportunities God presented them at their doorsteps? What could possibly be some of the excuses or reasons?

1. Unbelief. For example, for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, many do not think separate baptism of the Spirit is still applicable today. All they believe is that, on entry into salvation, a person gets the indwelling of the Spirit; and that is it. Generally, because you don't believe, in many cases, you even think it is wrong, and so, you don't want to have anything to do with it.

2. "Other people can do it, I won't be missed." This is of course, pure abdication of role.

3. "I am busy, Lord; you understand, right!" Well, He may understand if you don't take Him for granted; but if you take God for granted, thinking your matters are always more important; how can you expect God to be understanding all the time.

Often, we want to seize opportunities in our many own matters, like our career and our so-called investments; in fact, often we even over-seize or prematurely seize, and they don't work out, and we wonder why God doesn't seize with us those opportunities! Perhaps, we forget how we also frequently ignored seizing with Him, the opportunities He would like us to seize. I am not saying that we have a "tick for tack" God, that since you are like that, then He is like that, too. Of course, God does not take after you; rather it is to be the other way round - we are to take after God. But seriously, does God or does He not, "give it to you, like you give it to Him or to another (man)?

First, let us be very clear, God is not learning or is growing; He is arrived, and He applies His wisdom; and so, He does not learn from you, and then do the same, to you. But Scripture is clear, God did paint the picture that how you mistreat others, He is at liberty to treat you likewise. But we must understand that when God does that, it is a chastisement. I therefore, likewise, believe that God is also at liberty, for the way you "mistreat" Him, to treat you likewise. It is not that God is by nature, a “tick for tack” God, but it is that He will chastise those He loves, and that can include letting you to have a taste of your own medicine, so to speak. The idea is to reform you or transform you, and not to harm you; God cannot be evil, meaning His intent towards you cannot be evil.

4. You think you are as arrived as God! You think you have the full mind of Christ, and so, you have the audacity to think that if God wants something to be done that requires your attention, you will automatically know, right from the moment of your entry into salvation; if you have to think first or think "should I…", you claim you are entitled to ignore any suggestions that you have to do anything. And so, you just adopt basking in grace, and would only do anything meaningful to God or to others, if and only if it is automatic to you.

Just basking in grace has no creditable support from Scripture. The Word of God does not tell us that the moment we entered into salvation, we are instantly matured, and be having the full mind of Christ that we need no instructions or be seeking of His righteousness and ways. Scripture also does not teach that we are saved to just bask in grace. Rather Eph 2:10 is very clear that we are saved unto good works. Just basking in grace steps from the erroneous teachings of the overly grace preachers; we should all be careful with some of these grace teachings. You can even name this point/reason as incorrect indoctrination.

5. "I am with a lot of problems and issues which I cannot even begin to cope with, and so, I can't think of seizing opportunities pertaining to matters that please God or beneficial to others (in line with God's call for us to love our neighbors as ourselves)."

Many people erroneously think that they are entitled to think that it should be the other way round, meaning God should be helping them instead of them helping Him; and it is others should help them, since there are so many people having more than them or are living "better" life than them.

As far as God's grace, I am NOT saying He does not want you to have His grace; He is more than willing to let you have it; but you have to understand that God can only love you unto righteousness, and so, you have to be aligned to that. No one is always above trouble or are always without trouble, for Jesus Himself said, “In this world, you will have trouble” (from. John 16:33).

As to comparison, the world tells us to compare with those above us, but that is NOT the ways of God. It is more along the lines of: The last shall be first! Serve to lead! Everyone is asked to care for the poor and the needy. There is also the Good Samaritan story in the Word. What do the last two statements mean? It simply means there are always poorer people than you, and so, you are not excluded from the commandment. If you extend the coverage of "poorer" to other areas, like being afflicted, like the man who was robbed and beaten, and you are not, you are "richer" or "not poorer", and so, you are in a position to help or bless.

But why must we seize the opportunities
We have seen the ill-effects of our failure to seize opportunities, and some of the excuses of people. But why must we seize the opportunities God afforded us? These are some of the reasons:

1. The grace of God is precious. There are so many situations where nothing short of the help or blessing of God can meet the needs. So, if our non-seizing of the opportunities God afforded us, stands in the way of the flow of God's grace, it is really a pity.

2. God's timing is the best. When we do not seize the moment's opportunity, we miss God's timing intention. If we believe God is wisdom, then His timing must be the best.

3. There is a time and season for everything - Eccl 3:1-8. Overly grace preachers like to exhort sitting at the feet of Jesus; while it is not wrong, that cannot be the thing to do all the time, not for everyone anyway.

Moses, for example, he did not do anything significant for 40 years from the age of 40, was just shepherding his father-in-law's flock at some outback, but when it was time to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he had to go, do it. Please, it is NOT always to just bask in grace, there are times you are to put your hands to the plough, so to speak.

The redemption works of the Cross included redeeming us of the works dimension, even when there are the redemption of the spirit and bodily dimensions. Even as the first Man did sit with God regularly in the Garden, he was also engaged in works - tending to the Garden.

4. God holds the key. Because He holds the key to the meeting of the need, it is only right to do thing according to His timing. God may line up chain of events across dimensions of time, places, and persons; and so, when we don't come in, in the time required, it probably translates into God having to re-juggle many parameters. We are here to co-work with God, and NOT to throw God's plan into disarray in any way.

5. We should want to maximize the benefits of an intended outpouring of God's grace. Sure, God can still, in His sovereignty, go against men's arrangement or lack thereof, and still forces His grace through, but in practice, God does allow a place for men's volitions.

If we look at the matter honestly, we can understand why God does NOT simply disregard men who are meant to participate; to do otherwise, would amount to us having no meaningful role. It is obvious, if we are there or not, does not matter, won't be missed a single bit, then we will stop being there, to co-labour with God. So, may I take this opportunity to say, those who argue everything is God's part, none our part, are wrong; we ought to be careful to simply take in, such teachings.

6. We would be blessed too. Is this important? Some people think, the people who consider this, are "weaklings", and on that account, they want to discourage people to think anything about this.

This down-playing is unnecessary; for it is part and parcel of the ways of the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is one of the most vital keys to the well-being of a believer; to be receiving grace of God as a result of grace flowing to him, the believer, because he is practicing righteousness.

A simple definition of righteousness is to be acting in agreement with God; and when we look at Jesus' commandment to us in Matt 6:33 which stated that we are to seek first, God's Kingdom and His RIGHTEOUSNESS, and then all our needs will be added unto us, we can understand, this, the practising of righteousness, is one of the significant heads of grace; meaning we receive the grace of God which we so very much need, in our life, from this head. If you don't want to practise His righteousness, by doing what God desires done and at the time He wants, you will miss out a lot; I don't know about you, but I want all the grace I can have for life, so that my life is full and abundant (John 10:10), and I will be able to function, better and further, for God, when my needs have God's grace bearing on them.

Since it is so important to seize the opportunities God affords us, how can we position ourselves, not to miss these opportunities? What kind of mindset must we have, to seize opportunities? We will look into this, in part II of this article.

For this part I, it is my hope that readers catch the importance of NOT being complacent in our Christian walk. It pleases God that we co-labour with Him; it pleases Him that we are diligent; and it pleases the Lord that we seize the very opportunities He affords us. Resolve today, that you will NOT be a by-stander, or be looking the other way, when it is time to work or work together corporately to give maximum efficacy to the outpouring of God’s grace or God’s moves. Of course, resolving is NOT enough, it is just the beginning; in part II, we will look at the mindset required; even then, unless resolution is followed through with actions, it remains “useless”, like year-end resolutions that are soon forgotten as the year progresses.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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