Updated: Aug 5, 2022
“Therefore, since we have opportunity ,let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10)
Coming from an agnostic family, one of my greatest challenges has always been sensing the unseen potential good in my surroundings, and moreover, in myself. This was magnified by many less than ideal factors I faced in my everyday life: physical challenges, social awkwardness, financial struggles, criticism. I was raised in the mindset that I couldn’t believe with absolute confidence that things were a certain way without visible proof.
Shaking this conviction has been difficult, to say the least. But this is the very struggle that is at the center of our Christian lives as we strive to walk with the Lord every day. Paul writes that we must “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18) When we go through heavily stressful or discouraging times, or bear witness to unfulfilled needs, evil acts, or extensive pain and suffering, it is all too easy for us to be overwhelmed by circumstance and focus on our own sense of limitations and feelings that nothing we could do would make much of a difference.
What we should see in these circumstances is opportunity. Here is a chance for us, through prayer and empowerment from God, to conquer the things holding us back. We can reach out to help those in need, and in so doing, be living examples of God’s love and perhaps even draw others to Him. We can live more fully by allowing Christ to live in us and through us. We may not understand why God allows certain things to happen, or why He chooses to place us in certain situations, but He will never give us anything that He does not know we can handle. He can teach us something about ourselves that can enable us to overcome our doubts.
In the movie Evan Almighty, there is a memorable scene in which God (played by Morgan Freeman) asks, “If someone prays for courage, do you think God would just give them courage? Or would He give them the opportunity to be courageous? If someone prayed for a family to be closer, do you think God would just zap them with warm and fuzzy feelings, or would He give them opportunities to grow closer together?” Whether or not the screenwriters intended it, they hit the nail on the head with that line. God will provide the means and inspiration to answer our prayers, but we must respond accordingly. Jesus died so that we might live in a loving relationship with Him, and this is His desire, but He does not force Himself into our lives. No, He says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) Taking advantage of opportunity requires action.
The advent season, in which we celebrate and await the coming of Christ, is a wonderful time to seize new opportunities to reach out and proclaim the love of Christ in numerous ways. Even the simplest acts of giving or even mere acceptance can go a long way toward providing the tangible evidence of hope and love in the life of someone in need. Jesus affirms this when He says, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
To offer another perspective, the economic term “opportunity cost” refers to the cost of any activity measured in terms of the next best alternative not chosen. For example, if you invested money in a new business, the opportunity cost would be how much money you would have now if you had just left it in the bank. If that is less than what you have made through the business, then you know in retrospect that you made the right choice. Think of the opportunity costs of passing up opportunities from God! This is beyond measurement since we are talking about sharing the kingdom of Heaven!
So as we worship in this season of advent, I hope and pray that all of us will see new opportunities and respond with thankful heart and joyful mind. We may just be giving people like my younger self the proof they need to join in the celebration.
Daniel can be reached via email here.