Friday, July 5, 2013

Are you seizing every opportunity?

Recently, I heard a preacher gave what "P.O.O.R" stands for.  Well, what was given was this: Passing Over Opportunities Repeatedly.

What comes to your mind; having just read the above?  Are you thinking something like: "Yah-lo, those poor fellows, they did not seize opportunities that cross their paths; they passed over them repeatedly; that is why they are poor-lo!". Maybe, you even have added, "They only have themselves to blame-lo; thank God, I am smart enough to have seized some of the opportunities, and so, I deserve to have these wealth that I have - condo, car, cash and credit cards!"

Whether the acronym was coined for this purpose or not - to explain why some people are poor, I don't know; rather, since it was spoken by a preacher, I would like to see if there is any relevance to us, as believers.  Obviously, it is not to invoke the above thinking; if we did get that thought, maybe, we are somewhat proud, somewhat mean, and somewhat taking for granted, God's blessing.

Seriously, does the Word talk about seizing opportunities?  If it does, what kind of opportunities is it referring to?  Can we not do so, seize the opportunities afforded us?

Here are 2 verses having this "make the most of every opportunity" (NIV):

Col 4:5 - Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
Eph 5:16 - making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

What do you think; are they referring to opportunities to get ahead in life, to get rich, or be financially well-off?

Before I go any further, let me say that I am NOT against people being rich; and if you are one, thank God always, and be mindful that the Lord did NOT say "it is more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle" for no reason.  Having said that, in many ways, being well-off, can be a good thing; it is only what we do with what we are blessed with, that make the difference; after all, we are stewards for God for what we have.

In fact, the subject of us being stewards, is so relevant to the subject of seizing or making the most of every opportunity.

Let us return to the 2 verses I quoted above, and see what we can learn.

Directly, the Col 4:5 text has nothing to do with opportunity to make money!  It is NOT about opportunity to be well-off financially; although I cannot say that it can never happen, that when we proceeded according to the text, we could be blessed.  It is best we looked at both verses 5 & 6, instead of just verse 5:

Col 4:5-6 - 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Verse 5, firstly, said that we have to be wise in how we interact with non-believers, and that includes making the most of every opportunity; and so, it did specify the context - our interactions with non-believers (outsiders).  But what is the every opportunity for? To seize every opportunity for what? Verse 5 does not say; but verse 6 does leave us some clues; in the seizing of the opportunity, we are to have our conversation to be full of grace and seasoned with salt.  We are to be wise, that we may know how to answer everyone.  But answer everyone concerning what?

The answer to both questions is this: How do we answer "we are different from the rest of the worldly people". It is because of our faith, because we are subscribing to the ways of the Lord.  To be wise, first, we are to live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth - Eph 5:8-9). The life as children of light or the life as one of the Kingdom of God, is different from that of one still of the world (of darkness; not yet of light). As one of light, our conversation should be full of grace, and seasoned with salt.

What does it mean to have our conversation seasoned with salt? It means our words should preserve, instead of degrade or corrupt, and our words should edify and vivify the bland soul.  So, the exhortation here is that we live out our Kingdom life, and make the most of every opportunity to share the reason for our different life, different from the non-believers.  And you and I know, the reason is Christ Jesus, the Gospel, and so, we are to make the most of every opportunity afforded us (because of how we have lived according to the prescription of the Lord), to share about the Lord and the Gospel.  The text has concentrated on our conversation, and it is NOT without reason; for the most common interaction we have with people is conversation.

While the text from Col 4 centered on the our interaction with the non-believers, and  concentrated on our conversation, the second text, which is from the epistle to the Ephesians, is more all encompassing.  You need to look at, not just verse 16 of Ephesians 5, but the text covered under Eph 5:8-20.

Eph 5:8-20 - 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This text talked about how we are to live - Verse 15 said, "Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise". As quoted earlier, verses 8-9, talked how we must no longer live like before, when we were still of the world (in darkness), and we are to live as children of light, a life consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.  As I have said, it is more encompassing; it calls even, for us to find out, and so, live accordingly, what pleases the Lord - v10.  Being wise includes understanding what the Lord's will is, and so, act according to it - v17.  It even calls for us to expose deeds of darkness (v11); in other words, to uphold His justice, too.  It also calls for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and so, to be led by the Spirit - v18.

Now, in this text, we can see it written there, that it spoke about interaction between believers; v19 talked about speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. This is definitely referring to interaction between one believer and other believers, and NOT non-believers.

Does it not include the scope of the Col 4 text we looked at, first; interaction with non-believers and the sharing of the Gospel?  Not explicit, but implicitly, it is there, and the pointer is in v17 - NOT to be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.  The Lord's will included (1) we are no longer to live as before, in darkness (before salvation), but as a believer, to live as children of light; (2) we are to be light and salt to the world (Matt 5:13-16); and that God's desire is for all men be saved (1 Tim 2:4); (3) we are to love one another, brothers and sisters in Christ, and that would include encouraging and building up one another.

From the will of God, we can see the Eph 5 text implicitly includes, we, to make most of every opportunity to share the Gospel with the non-believers, afforded from the latter being influenced through our way of life - life as children of light.

Are you P.O.O.R. - passing over opportunities repeatedly? You should NOT, you-know!  You should be S.E.O.!   No, not asking you to be "Search Engine Optimizing", but be "Seizing Every Opportunity", to live out the life of children of light and to share with non-believers, the reason for it.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - I may not be rich, financially, but I thank God for everything I have, and I sing and make music from my heart to the Lord (Eph 5:19-20).  I am NOT to be passing over opportunities repeatedly (P.O.O.R), but to be seizing every opportunity (S.E.O.), to live the life of children of light, and share the reason for it.

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