Making the Most of Every Opportunity
June 2, 2002
Have you ever walked away from a situation frustrated because you realize you just missed an opportunity?
Maybe it was to make a sale, or make an improvement, or maybe even make a point.
Maybe it was an opportunity to minister to someone you haven’t seen in a while, or to give someone a quick word of encouragement.
Maybe it was an opportunity to learn from someone who had something to contribute to your life, either for your career or family life.
Don’t you just hate that? Especially when you don’t realize it until it’s about 2:30 in the morning when you wake up to get a drink of water or something?
You slap your forehead and go, “What a fool I was to not take advantage of that! Why didn’t I recognize that when I had the chance?”
Today I hope to help you lessen those occurrences a bit, and I want to do that by looking at a small, two-verse passage of Scripture that I think will be very helpful.
I have it printed in your bulletin, so just follow along as I read it aloud.
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.
I want to help you become someone who is able to recognize and take advantage of opportunities when they come your way, no matter what they might be.
In doing that I want to show you three actions to take from this passage of Scripture that will give you a leg up in this area.
Let’s get started, shall we? The first action we need to take in order to make the most of opportunities is to…
I. Be Careful.
How many of you grew up singing the song…
“Be careful little ears what you hear…eyes – see…”
Why do we need to be careful? What’s the big deal?
The issue is the mind. Be careful what goes in your mind, because it’s there forever. You think you’ve forgotten it, and then something triggers the memory, and it’s staring you in the face.
Your brain retains what goes in. You might be able to delete your computer files, but you will never be able to totally delete what has gone into your brain.
Be careful what you read. Be careful what you watch. Be careful who you hang out with. Be careful what you put into your body, because it can effect your mind.
What you put into your mind can dull the brain into missing opportunities or ways to make the most out of them.
To me, this is one of the most convincing arguments against drug and alcohol use.
I know it’s true that there is nothing in Scripture that specifically says, “Thou shalt not use drugs,” and the debate rages about whether or not Jesus turned water into real wine or just grape juice. That’s not an argument I care to get into, so don’t bother coming up to me with your opinion, okay?
Verse 18, right after our key Scripture here does say to not get drunk with wine, but to be filled with the Spirit.
I’m convinced that the issue isn’t having a beer or two, but the fact that drunkenness and drug use cause you to surrender your mind and will.
You simply cannot think clearly when you are under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The issue of control is so key. Why choose to give control of your mind over to a chemical or a weed? Does that make a lot of sense? I don’t think so.
I gotta tell you I just laugh when I hear people telling me we should legalize marijuana. They say that they’re not hurting anybody when they’re smoking in their basement, so it’s not a big deal.
Well, let me tell you from the viewpoint of someone who’s been there, that’s a stupid argument.
When you’re stoned, you get very hungry. We called it, “getting the munchies.” What happens if you run out of your food before you run out of hunger? You go out and get some more.
Now you’re either out walking, or worse, driving to get more food. Then you’ve placed lives in jeopardy just as surely as if you were drunk.
When you’re drunk or stoned, you don’t think clearly. You can’t be careful when you surrender your mind to chemicals, folks, it’s just that simple.
God wants us to be clear of mind, filled with God’s Spirit, rather than distilled spirits.
When in doubt about something, don’t. Get advice from godly people before making important decisions.
Be careful in your speech and in your work habits. Consider others before yourself.
Be careful, if you want to make the most of opportunities
Next, to make the most of opportunities, we need to…
II. Be Wise.
When I say, “be wise,” I am not necessarily saying, “be smart.” You see, there can be a huge difference between being smart and being wise.
What do I mean?
Simply this: there are a lot of intelligent people who are fools. They deny truth, and they live foolish and sinful lives.
Someone I love dearly has a Ph.D., and is incredibly intelligent. But he foolishly pursues a sinful lifestyle. Brains do not necessarily equal wisdom.
Do any of you remember the game show, “Twenty-one” and the scandal that followed?
“Twenty-One” was a television quiz show, in which last week’s winner was invited back to be challenged by a new contestant, and stayed week after week until he or she lost.
The questions were supposedly locked in a Manhattan bank vault, so no one could cheat and get the questions.
Unfortunately, it was learned that the game was fixed, week after week. The producers of the show provided the answers to contestants they wanted to win, and in at least one instance, directed the current week’s champion to purposely answer wrongly, so a new champion could start.
At the center of the scandal was a man named Charles Van Doren, an instructor at prestigious Columbia University. He went on to win over $100,000 on the show before he exited.
After the scandal broke, Mr. Van Doren at first denied his involvement, then finally told the truth to a congressional sub-committee.
Mr. Van Doren was extremely smart, but was not wise in this instance.
There are some incredibly wise people who have little or no formal education. They choose to live lives that honor God and other people.
And there are some incredibly wise people who are also incredibly intelligent. Guys like C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Isaac Newton, Charles Colson, and Josh MacDowell come to mind.
I think wisdom could be defined as “knowledge applied and used in the best possible way.”
What I mean by that is that even though you may know what you should do or not do, you have the knowledge, but you choose not to act on it, that is foolishness. If you act on what you know you should do or not do, that is wisdom.
So how do we gain wisdom?
1. We gain wisdom by spending time with God.
2. Spending time with godly people.
I harp on this quite a bit, but just allow me say that if you’re not willing to listen to the wisdom of God Almighty, then who do you think is worth listening to?
If God’s Word isn’t good enough, whose word is? Get in the Bible to get wisdom.
As for spending time with godly people, just let me read a quick verse from Proverbs 13:20 -
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
You become like the people you hang around, for better or for worse. So why don’t you make it easier on everybody and just hang out with the wise folks?
Want to improve your job performance? Hang out with people who are skilled and knowledgeable in their areas, and who are respected. Find out what makes them tick – and watch what happens.
Wisdom pays off in your own life, and in the lives of others you’re around. Be wise if you want to make the most of your opportunities.
The last action to take in order to make the most of opportunities is to…
III. Be Alert.
There’s a popular misconception that some people have regarding Christians, and that is that we are blind followers, totally out of touch with reality.
Unfortunately, there are just enough Christians who fit the bill that it’s hard for the rest of us to shake the image.
We need to be alert, not blind, not out of touch with reality. There are three areas in particular we need to be aware of. The first is…
You’re probably already aware of this, but you don’t live all by yourself in this part of the country.
You live in a society, whether you live in the country or the city. You have neighbors, friends, family, co-workers, or whatever.
And if we hope to impact these people with the hope we have in Christ, we need to be aware first of all that they exist, and second that they have needs that God can meet.
One of the reasons I like to read the paper is the funnies. Right now I’m hooked on that Mary Worth comic strip.
But the other reason I read the paper is to see what’s going on in the society God has put me in.
I read about the WEB water debate, the City Commissioner’s race, and the social issues that are important to our area.
Get involved in the community by having your kids involved in activities, or by being active yourself in community affairs.
We have a rather important primary election coming up on Tuesday; if you are registered, vote. If you are not registered to vote in this election, get registered so you can vote in November.
Be alert and involved in your society, so you can find out about what this area is going through, and be relevant in your ministry.
I want to be alert to my society so I can minister to the people more effectively.
Second, we need to be alert to…
B. The times.
There’s a series of car commercials touting the fact that “this isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile.”
Well, guess what? This isn’t your father’s time, either.
Sin has always been rampant, but the types of sin we see nowadays are things we almost couldn’t dream of a generation ago. No need to get into details.
When I was a kid, we started the school day saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Now a school can be sued for making a child do that.
The Boy Scouts were pillars of society, and now they are lionized because they refuse to hire homosexual leaders.
People are killing themselves in suicide missions in the Middle East, and flying airliners into buildings.
People used to come to church just because the doors were open. Now you have to make a real effort to let people know that the gospel and the church is relevant to everyday needs for everyday people.
There is less respect for life than ever before, and less respect for absolute truth.
This means that we have to minister in ways that are different than we did 20 or thirty years ago.
We need to make sure that the unchanging truth of the Word of God is communicated clearly to the constantly changing times in which we live and minister.
The last area we need to be alert to is…
C. The signs.
I mean here the signs of Christ’s return.
I want to be quick to say here that I do not pretend to know when that’s going to happen, okay?
What I want to emphasize here is that Jesus could return anytime, and we need to recognize that.
We’ve had a tremendous increase in earthquakes, warfare, and famine, all signs of the imminent return of Jesus.
Events in Israel have Biblical significance.
Jesus talks about these, and we need to be aware of them, so we’re not caught like the foolish servants who the Lord talked about in the parables, who thought they had all the time in the world, so they were lazy and abusive, only to be surprised by the master and punished for it.
If you want to make the most of opportunities, be alert to society, to the times, and to the signs of Christ’s return.
And another thing. If you adopt the mind-set that Christ could be coming back soon, it will help you recognize those opportunities.
I said earlier that the purpose of this message was to give you some help in becoming someone who is able to take advantage of opportunities that come your way, no matter what they may be.
But I also want to help us as a church and individuals in the church to take advantage of opportunities to minister in the society and times in which we live.
As God brings people into your lives and into the life of this church, are we going to take advantage of those chances, or are we going to just let them go by the wayside, figuring someone else can have the job of ministering?
Let me ask you a tough question related to this:
If this church were to fold up, would Aberdeen weep? Would they even notice? Have we made enough of an impact that if we were to pull out people would miss us?
Folks, I think that is the main reason God called me to this church – to help us make a difference for God, bringing many people to Christ and impacting our society with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I hope that’s your game plan, and I hope you can catch the vision.
I’ve mentioned a few times previously that the purpose of Scripture is not to merely inform, but to transform, to change lives. And for that to happen, we need to bring it to the people who need to hear it.
Purpose to take advantage of opportunities God brings your way this week. I challenge you to take one or more of the tracts on the back table, or some of the invitation cards, or even some of my business cards if you want, and give them away to someone you are able to visit with this week.
Take advantage of opportunities to pray for loved ones who don’t know Christ.
Take advantage of opportunities to tell someone they can go to heaven, or give them my name and number, or have them go to the website and contact me there.
Take advantage of opportunities to show the love of God in action, by serving in the community, donating to the Salvation Army, helping with Habitat for Humanity, or whatever.
Take advantage of opportunities to bless your employers and employees. Take advantage of opportunities to bless customers or clients.
Take advantage of opportunities to let your good works bring praise to the Father.
Take advantage of the opportunities, and watch God work!
Shall we pray.