Summary: This sermon is taken from the Latin expression, "Carpe Diem," or "Seize the Day." It's about seizing those opportunities God gives to us. It extracts nuggets of information about Jonathan's victory over the Philistines found in 1 Samuel 14. (This sermon has been updated)
Seizing God’s Opportunities
John Wycliffe lived 200 years before the Protestant Reformation, which ushered in a belief system that moved the church away from Roman Catholicism, and towards a belief in God and the Scriptures as the source of divine revelation.
Wycliffe, and others like him, seized the opportunities provided by God and helped to shape the eventual Protestant Reformation.
The opportunity came when he pastored a church in Luterworth, England. At this time the church in Rome was demanding money from England. It seems that they were struggling through a serious financial downturn.
Wycliffe advised the local officials to tell Parliament not to comply, and it was these sorts of opinions and advice that eventually saw him on trial for heresy.
The Pope issued five “Bulls,” or what is known today as indictments, against Wycliffe. And so Wycliffe took the “bulls by the horns,” so to speak, and told Rome that it was full of bull, (puns intended).
Wycliffe said, “I am ready to defend my convictions even unto death … I have followed the Sacred Scriptures…”
He went on to say that the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church were second in authority to the Scriptures.
This didn’t sit well in Rome, but because Wycliffe was so popular in England they put him under house arrest. This presented Wycliffe another divine opportunity, as he was now able to write against Catholic doctrines like Transubstantiation, the Catholic belief that the bread and wine literally turn into the body and blood of Jesus. He also wrote against “indulgences,” or a person’s giving money to the church as a way of buying favor with God.
This was the catalyst that eventually led to the Protestant Reformation, and because of it Wycliffe is called the “Morning Star of the Reformation.”
There’s a saying that came into my realm of thinking back in the early 90’s when I saw the show, “Dead Poets Society.” It’s “Seize the Day,” or in Latin, “Carpe Diem.”
If I were to put a definition on what it means, I would say that it’s to take advantage of each day and the opportunities that present themselves as if it were the last day. It’s to squeeze out of each day all that we can, and all that the day affords us. It means not to waste a single day, because once that day is gone, it can never be retrieved.
For believers in Jesus Christ, it means that each day should be used to its fullest potential for God’s purposes and kingdom. Therefore, we are to seize every day for God, and make every opportunity that presents itself, count.
The choices we make concerning the opportunities God places before us determine which road we travel in this divine adventure God has called us to take.
Basically it means that every one of us has a divine mission in life.
Today’s message centers on King Saul’s son, Jonathan, and his faith journey when he picked a fight with the Philistine army.
God wanted to deliver the Philistines into the hands of Israel. In fact, God delivered the Philistine army on Israel’s front doorstep. It was like God as saying, “Here Israel, these Philistines that have been tormenting you for all these years, well here they are, all wrapped up and ready to be defeated.”
Saul, being King, had the power to act, but chose not to seize the opportunity, but rather to sit under a pomegranate tree and wait it out. He saw an impossible situation since Israel only had two weapons collectively, that is, only he and his son had a sword, and that every Philistine soldier was armed to the teeth. Saul failed to see this as a divine opportunity, and thus failed to seize the day for God.
On the other hand, Jonathan saw it differently. So he slips away from his father and the Israelite army and picks a fight with the Philistines.
Both Saul and Jonathan had the same opportunity, but Saul missed it, while Jonathan walked right into it, seized it, and won a great victory.
Many of us know people like Jonathan. They see an opportunity and flourish in difficult situations. We read their stories, stories like Wycliffe and others, and that’s what we want, but at the same time we don’t want to pay the cost that such faith demands.
Instead, what we end up doing is settling for knock off copies of the original. We go for the Louie Vatont, rather than the Louis Vuitton. We settle for a faith that makes us look good, but it doesn’t do anything for the Kingdom of God.
We experience what I would like to call, “The Pomegranate Effect.” This is where, like Saul, we sit and wait, and then torment ourselves later on, because we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself.