SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY
M. J. Jacob
There are times in your life and mine when we look back over life's various situations where we have missed an opportunity. It may be a kindly word in season or a timely help which we could have rendered, but we failed to seize the opportunity. At times it comes as a haunting memory too. In the Bible we come across God's children who have seized the opportunity. We also read of those who failed to avail of the opportunity.
The Jews scattered all over the world were facing a grave situation. Queen Esther seized the opportunity to approach the king, risking her own life. She seized the moment, not only to save the life of her cousin, Mordecai, but also of the lives of thousands of Jews (Esth.4:14-16). When Mordecai apprised her of the grave situation by saying, "Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this," Queen Esther told him, "I will go to the king, which is against the law, and if I perish, I perish." She seized the moment.
Not Mere Spectator
When our Lord was passing through agonising moments on the cross, as His parched lips were yearning for water, we read of a man who ran to quench the thirst of our suffering Saviour (Mk.15:36). There was one man in that crowd who could not bear this awful scene. We do not know who he was. We are only told how his kindness drove him to prompt action. His action was instant. He may have thought, "This Man is suffering intensely now. Not only so, but if I do not help Him now, I can never help Him because the end is very near." So we read, he ran. Who was this bold and courageous man who served the Lord so sensitively in His last moments? We do not know his name. But it is certain that his name is recorded in the Lamb's book of remembrance. Jesus would have thanked him later when they met in heaven, "I was thirsty and you gave Me drink." The soldier did not want to be a mere spectator in this awful scene. He was able to sense the thirst of the suffering Saviour, and he desired to quench it. He responded at once. This was his opportunity. He swung into swift action without hesitation. OPPORTUNITIES! They come and go; some linger for a short time only, opportunities never wait for us. If we do not seize them, we will find them gone forever.
A long time ago in one of the ancient Greek cities, there stood a statue called Opportunity. Every trace of the statue has vanished due to exposure to rain, sun and wind. But there is still in existence an epigram which excellently describes it. It depicts an important lesson which those wise old Greeks wanted to teach every passerby. It describes the statue of a person, with wings on his feet, standing on his toes. The head was bald behind, but a long lock of hair blew across his forehead. The epigram is in the form of a dialogue between the traveller and the statue:
"What is your name, O Statue?"
"I am called opportunity."
"Who made you?"
"Why are you standing on your toes?"
"To show that I stay but for a moment."
"Why do you have wings on your feet?"
"To show how quickly I pass by."
"But why is your hair so long on the forehead?"
"That men may seize me when they meet me."
"Why then is your head so bald behind?"
"To show when I have passed, I cannot be caught."
Today we do not see statues of opportunity on our highways or where we live. Often these opportunities are there, but for a moment. If we let them go, they are gone forever. Opportunities do not wait for us; we must do all the good we can to all the people we can, in all the things we can (Life Lines from the Cross).
Do Good To All
Paul says, "As we have opportunities, let us do good to all the people" (Gal.6:10). Paul availed of the opportunity when he boldly presented his witness and the Gospel to King Agrippa, Festus and all the group assembled there (Acts 26). It was such a challenging and appealing message that King Agrippa said to him, "Do you think in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"
When we look at the life of Jacob, I wonder if the patriarch failed to seize a golden opportunity when he was called to meet Pharaoh (Gen.47). Jacob blessed Pharaoh and told him, "The years of my pilgrimage are 130 years. My years have been few and difficult…" But there is no mention of the Living Mighty God who transformed him and of His wondrous acts in his life. It was an opportune moment to present to Pharaoh the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Did he fail? Or did the historians miss to quote it? We do not know.
Life itself is an opportunity. In this short span of life, God gives us many opportune moments. Are we seizing them? Dave Egner of RBC ministries has stated a pathetic incident in the life of Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle. He married his secretary Jane Welsh. She devoted her life to him and to his work. Thomas Carlyle loved her deeply, but was so busy with his writing and speaking that he often neglected her. Some time into their marriage, she became ill and suddenly died. It is told that after the funeral, Thomas went alone to Jane's room and looked at her diary. He found there were words she had written about him. "Yesterday, he spent an hour with me and it was like heaven. I told him so." On another day she wrote, "I have listened all day to hear his steps in the hall, but now it is late, I guess he will not come today." Thomas wept bitterly, realising his neglect of her and her desire just to talk with him. The famous essayist missed the golden opportunity to express love and concern to his wife during her life with him.
Samuel Johnson, the great literary genius, lamented in the evening of his life over the haunting memory of a lost opportunity. It was 1727 when he was living with his father, who owned a small book stall. One day his Dad was selecting books from a bookshop to sell in his stall. While picking up the books, he had a violent fit of coughing. Samuel was in the book shop at that time. Between coughs, his father requested the 18-year old Samuel to carry the books. But Samuel, deeply engrossed in reading, ignored his father's plea. Suddenly, it began to rain heavily. His father stepped into the stage coach with the load of books to take the 20 mile ride to the market stall. The young boy at that time did not consider his little impulsive act of disobedience a serious crime. Yet it was this memory which haunted his thoughts for a long period. After 50 years, Samuel Johnson, an elderly man now, stood for hours in the pouring rain at the book stall in the same place, reliving that last scene. When the storm finally subsided, he slowly walked to a waiting carriage, and returned home. There he bowed his head and sobbed. His flat refusal to help his father had cost him his life.
May God grant us the passion to avail the opportunities He grants us on this life's journey.