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Charles Stanley - When Opportunities Appear


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We are continually being confronted with all kinds of opportunities and yet a lot of folks just walk right through life and miss most of them for the simple reason, they're not looking. They're not expecting. They sort of see themselves as sort of outside the realm of the blessing of God and every once in a while they sense a little bit. That's not the way life is. You see, God gives us opportunities to guide us and to lead us and also makes our life very interesting and exciting as a result of opportunities because nobody likes sameness.

Sameness creates a dullness. And when we have opportunities that challenge us, they oftentimes stretch us. We begin to be excited about things in life we didn't know existed. Of all the people who ought to be sensitive to opportunities, God's children should be. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, giving us direction. He's the one who gives us spiritual eye to see these things that other people do not see. And when you think about the fact that you and I have trusted Christ as our Savior, he is our very life, we're going to heaven when we die. But he has an exciting life down here before he takes us home. Because we have the privilege of walking with him, living with him, listening to him, absorbing him. Understanding him. Getting a glimpse of what God is really all about.

You say you know I've been a Christian a pretty good while but I never thought of having all these opportunities. You do. What I want to do in this message is give you a series of opportunities from the scripture that will give you an idea that may be you're missing some opportunities in your life. If you've never trusted Christ as your Savior, so far you have missed the most important opportunity you'll ever have. And I trust that before this time is over, you'll make a decision. You'll take advantage of the opportunity of trusting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Well, I want you to turn if you will to Ephesians 5 and Paul in this chapter has been talking about the Christian life and how to live a godly life. He talks about walking in love. And the life that we used to live is a life of walking in the darkness. And we're not to participate in the life of darkness any longer. He comes down to 15, 16, 17 I want to mention a couple of things about. He says in 15, therefore, be careful how you walk. When he uses the term walk it's a term that simply means walk about. It's a way of life for you. Be careful how you live out your life. Not as unwise men and women. But as wise. Making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

Now when he says making the most of your time there's two Greek words in the scripture for time, one is like your watch. There's watches that have that name in them. And then... Which is simply a matter of an opportunity. Make the most of your opportunity is what he's saying, which, of course is your time. Because the days are evil. So then, do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. I want to say something, I'll say it probably after every point in this message.

And that is, we are to be careful how we walk. We're to be wise about our decisions. And we're to be alert to opportunities. We're to be wise about how we make decisions. We're to be alert to our opportunities. Because many people live in the midst of opportunities every day and never somehow are able to recognize them. They think of opportunities as making lots of money or having a new house or going here and going there. There's opportunities in life that are far more important than those. And if you miss them, you'll miss some of the most exciting times in your life. And if your life is boring, and you're sort of settled down into a rut, it's because your eyes are closed because you're not being able to see what God has right before you.

And I trust that in this passage and these passages you'll begin to see some opportunities that may be you've been overlooking and once you begin to get engaged and seize these opportunities, your life is going to be exciting. I want to turn to all of these passages are familiar on purpose. I try to choose the ones I think most people will be conscious of. And so I want to begin with the first one in John chapter 6, if you'll turn there. John chapter 6. And it's a passage that most people are familiar with. And it just so happens, this is the only, this is the only miracle that Jesus performed that's found in all four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

So if you'll notice, beginning in this, in this first verse. The scripture says, after these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to Tiberius, trying to get away from the crowd a little bit. A large crowd followed him. They saw the signs he was performing on those who were sick. Then Jesus went up on the mountains and there he sat down with his disciples. The passover the feast of the Jews was near therefore Jesus lifting up his eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Phillip, where are we to buy bread so these may eat? This he was saying to test him. For he himself knew what he was intended to do. Phillip said 200 Denari is not sufficient for them for everyone to receive a little. Simon Peter's brother said to him, there's a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish but what are they amongst so many? Jesus said, have the people sit down.

Now there was much grass in the place and so the men sat down in the number was about five thousand. So if you add all the ladies to that, it had to be a crowd. Jesus then took the loaves and having given thanks he distributed to those who were seated and likewise the fish as much as they wanted. When they were filled, he said to his disciples, gather up the leftovers fragments so nothing will be lost. So they gathered them up and filled the 12 baskets with fragments from five barley loaves left over from those that had eaten and when the disciples saw what he had performed they said this is the prophet that's come into the world.

You say , what does that have to do with opportunities? Let's think about it for a moment. Here's a huge crowd of people men and women. And Jesus being sensitive to who they were and what was going on said we have to feed these people. Phillip said it would take 200 Denari, that wouldn't even do it. A Denari was 17 cents a day labor of salary and it would take eight months to get 200. That wouldn't work. Then Andrew says, by the way, there's a lad here. And looking around and talking to the people, he has five barley loaves and two fish. And so, Jesus said, well, why don't you bring him over here.

So Andrew went to find the young lad. And he said to him, the master would like to have your five loaves and two fish. Now a loaf was a round barley loaf made out of the cheapest kind of wheat. And I'm sure his mother had prepared it for him before he left home that morning, and two little fish which more like hors d'oeuvres because they had been pickled because they didn't know how long they would be out there in the hot weather and so forth. So he brings him to Jesus. And Jesus must have had a little conversation with him. And probably talked to him as he would, a young lad like that and said to him, you know, I would like to have this in order to feed these people. He wouldn't possibly understand that. Jesus blessed it and began to break it and that little boy sat there and watched them and the disciples break bread until finally they fed everybody in the whole crowd.

Now you say, what does that got to do with opportunities some think about this. When that little boy left home that morning, the only thing he knew he was going to find Jesus and he wanted to hear what he had to say. And so, little did he realize on this day he would experience the greatest opportunity of his lifetime. But he didn't know that. So when Jesus asked for his bread and his fish and he gave it to him and he began to multiply it, he saw a miracle take place right before his eyes. Think about this. He had the opportunity to give Jesus something that Jesus used. He had the opportunity of watching a miracle take place. He had the opportunity of watching all these people fed because of his little five loaves and his two fish. Can you imagine that he ran all the way home to tell his mother? He must have ran as fast as he possibly could. You would not believe what I saw?

Now, that's a simple opportunity. But look what happened. 2000 years later we're still talking about the little boy who had five loaves and two fish. Why? Because he took advantage of an opportunity. He could have kept the five loaves and two fish for himself. He could have. But he said, no, I'm willing to give them up. He had the opportunity to give away something that he had. And watch what happened. And what happened was God performed a miracle. And he performed a miracle right in front of that little lad. He would never see anything to match that in his entire life. So what did he do? He simply took advantage of an opportunity.

Now, he didn't expect it. He didn't plan it. And he didn't anticipate it. That's why I come back to the verse in Ephesians. That we are to walk in such a way, we walk a godly life. And we are to be wise about our decisions and we are to be, listen, alert to opportunities. And when we are, what we'll do, we'll begin to see opportunities around us we've never seen before. We never thought about it before. Never thought about that. He couldn't have planned that. More than likely, you walk right by opportunities every day. You don't plan. You couldn't. You wouldn't know it. But there it is staring you in the face to do one of a number of things.

What I want you to see in these passages is this. God wants us to learn to be alert to his opportunities, because one of the ways he guides us and leads us in our life is he guides us and leads us by opportunities. He gives us an opportunity to go here. We go there. We hear something that changes our life. Or we may see something we think maybe one of these days I could possibly enjoy something like that and God opens the doors. He creates desires in our heart. Doesn't he say if we delight ourselves in him he'll give us the desires of our heart. He's a good God. He wants to see us. Listen. Interested in life. He wants to see us excited about life.

When people who call themselves Christians are bored with life and sort of dissatisfied living in a rut, there's something wrong with your vision around you, in front of you. There's opportunities to do things, listen, that would turn your life inside out, upside down and right side up because that's who he is. Listen. A bored Christian is a bad testimony, an excited Christian is a powerful testimony. There are opportunities all around you if you stop and open your eyes and think and become alert. Alert to what God wants to do in your life and maybe what God wants to do in someone else's life.

When you go to work tomorrow morning, you will have an opportunity. There's no question in my mind. You'll have an opportunity to say something, do something, act in a certain way that God, listen, will make you a blessing. And the person or the business you help. In other words, he's full of opportunities for us. Think about this. You have eight hours you work or 24 hours in a day, does God want you the flounder around and walk around? No. He has opportunities he provides for you to seize for your own good and to be a blessing.

Now there's a second passage I want you to notice here because when I think about all these different ones and this is certainly one people say o he would never do that. I want you to turn to Matthew 4 for a moment. And the day before probably, Peter has, he's watched this awesome miracle that Jesus has performed when he was standing on the seashore trying to teach and they were crowding him into the water. He said can I borrow your boat, Peter? He said sure. Remember he took him out for a little fishing trip and the nets couldn't hold the fish.

Now, on this day Jesus walks by and says, follow me. And I'll make you fishers of men. Well, first of all, let's see who Peter was. Peter was a very successful fisherman. And he and Andrew together and their friends, James and John, they were successful fishermen. And the sea of Galilee was flourishing with fish in those days. So they didn't need anything. They were very successful fishermen. And so Jesus comes along and says, follow me. And I'll make you fishers of men. Wait. Wait a minute now. You want me to follow you to do what? When you say, fishers of men, I know how to fish. I'm happy fishing right here. You asking me to leave my family, to follow you without telling me where, or how long or what it's going to cost. That's right. All of a sudden, Peter was facing an unbelievable opportunity. To him at first I'm sure was a challenge. You want me to leave everything boats, nets everything and my fishing business and follow you. How will we make a living? A thousand questions. He was confronted with if opportunity. He didn't expect. He would have said I'm totally unprepared to do this. There's no way you could ask me to do something like this.

Now the reason I'm saying this is because God still works in the same way. He still works in the same way. He will confront you with an opportunity you're not prepared for, in your thinking. He'll confront you with an opportunity that may scare you at first. Peter had a choice to make. He and Andrew, the Bible doesn't have everything in it but more than likely they looked at each other and thought, what's this all about? And probably had to have a little conversation between them. Naturally they followed him. We know that. But look at the opportunity they had. What they didn't realize was this. Peter didn't realize that this tough fisherman would one day stand in one of the most awesome sermons ever preached on a day called Pentecost when three thousand people were saved which was only the beginning of what God would do in his life. And so here on this particular occasion, he's facing this opportunity. An opportunity to follow the Son of God. And to become an apostle. And to be walking by his side. To defend him. And to preach the truth he was preaching. And the message he would send around the world. He would never imagine the fact his name would be repeated thousands and thousands and thousands of times every single Sunday in the world worldwide. He was a fisherman. Who was he? He wasn't prepared to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Listen. Jesus will oftentimes give you opportunities in your life that you do not feel qualified for. I didn't say you weren't qualified. I said you would feel it. Or you don't feel like it fits you. That's what you feel. He will, listen, he'll never give you an opportunity he doesn't intend you to walk through. He'll never intend you to walk through something he doesn't enable you to do well at it. There's opportunities all around us. And this is an opportunity to serve the Lord. And sometimes a person says, well, I go to church. And you know, I read the Bible and pray and so forth. But now don't ask me to do thus and so. Why not? And I think, as I was growing up, I still remember this. It used to bother me. That I went to a church where there was lots and lots of people. And a lot of people that I knew in the town that I lived in. And they would sit in the same seat every Sunday. And a lot of them had a little age on them. Some of them didn't. I would watch these people.

And think sometimes, I wonder what they're doing. Because I happen to know a few of them in their business and so forth later on. I remember on several occasions, talking to the pastor, and he never named anybody but we were talking about Sunday school teachers and workers and choir members and so forth and how many were sitting out there wouldn't do anything. And I remember looking around thinking, uh-huh, they've been sitting here 57 years and haven't done a thing yet. Think about this. Think about people sitting in church week after week. Listen to this sermon, that sermon, this sermon, that sermon year after year after year after year after truth after truth after truth after truth and then say, don't call on me because I can't. It is an insult to God to listen to the truth over and over and over again. That builds you up and strengthens you and increases your faith and gives you confidence and equips you to be what God wants you to be and then you won't do it.

You say I can't do that. You're saying to me that God has given me an opportunity, he should know better because I can't do it. God would never give you an opportunity he will not equip you, strengthen you, enable you. All you have to do is grasp it, seize it. Say yes. Remember what we said? Walking in a way wise and alert to opportunities. Peter was alert to this opportunity because what happened? He laid it awesome down. He followed Jesus. He took advantage of the greatest opportunity he could have. And that is to be one of the close followers of Jesus Christ. He was one of the intimates. Peter James John, not favorites, intimates. Favorites is something else. When he wanted the small group with him, Peter was always there. He could still be fishing if he had missed the opportunity. If he had rationalized it away. If he said no, I can't do that.

When God calls you do something it's an opportunity. It's not just a responsibility. It's not just a calling from God. It's an opportunity to serve the living God. Tell me something any higher in life than that. You say, well serve him how? It doesn't make any difference what he called you do. For example, every choir member is important and every teacher. In other words, every single person is important. What he called you to do is important in the eyes of God. So, if you're alert, you'll not be saying, well that's not an opportunity. Yes, it is. All right. Let's look at something else here. Because, I just want you to see all the different kinds of opportunities that God may send your way.

Now, here's one. Listen carefully. I want you to listen very carefully because you're going to think, well what's that? Every woman in here will identify with this. Look at Luke 10 for example, and I want you to look at just a few verses in this passage. And this is, one day Jesus is traveling along and he and his disciples. Can you imagine Jesus sending somebody along? He was always sending messengers before he was going somewhere. And can you imagine him coming to your house and saying, well, dear, let me tell you, the master has said, we're coming to lunch at your house. Who is we? Well Jesus and all 12 of us. 13.

Now the Bible doesn't say that, but it implies that. And they must have been preparing. So look if you will in this 38 verse of this 10th chapter of Luke. Scripture says, now as they were traveling along he entered a village and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She was the elder woman of the two. She had a sister Mary sitting at the Lord's feet listening to his words but Martha was distracted with all her preparations so he came up to him and said, Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Can you identify with that? Some of you can. The others can but you won't admit it. Then tell her to help me. The Lord answered her and said, Martha, Martha you're worried and bothered about so many things but only one thing is necessary for Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her. Now, Martha is the one been in the kitchen preparing for Jesus to come.

So that was not a surprise. And Mary had been helping her or she would not have said she left me. So she had been helping her. Jesus and the disciples arrive. And so as soon as Jesus sat down pretty quickly after that, Mary sits down at his feet and begins to listen to him. And the Bible says in the 12th chapter of John that Jesus loved Mary, Martha, Lazarus so they had a wonderful relationship, a godly relationship. So Mary shirks her responsibility as far as attitude is concerned. When you see what Martha came out and said. She was the only one like Peter who would say something like this. She said Lord. She didn't say now Lord. No. Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me. She was reprimanding Jesus. He was reprimanding him saying, how can you sit there and talk to her when she ought to be in the kitchen helping me?

Here's the difference. When Jesus showed up, Mary immediately saw this awesome opportunity to be close to him. To listen to him. To learn if him. To watch him. To feel his love. To be sensitive to him. She saw this as an opportunity. Now, it would have been fine if Martha came sit down beside her. In other words, food to Jesus wasn't all that important. When they were finished they could have finished with the meal. Martha couldn't handle that. Mary saw that as an opportunity. I want you to listen carefully. She saw it as an opportunity to get to know him better. To learn he's really like on a one to one basis just the two of you talking. Wouldn't you love to sit down with Jesus just you and him and just talk and listen to him. Not much talking but a whole lot of listening. And feel his compassion and his love? Let me talk to you about an opportunity you have.

Every single one of us has the same opportunity every day. When you get up in the morning. You have a copy of the Word of God. You can open this book and you can read some of the things Jesus said. You can see how he responded. You can see how he treated people. You can see how he forgave. You can see who he criticized. You can learn an enormous amount sitting with Jesus Christ by yourself if necessary. Listen. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Four gospels that tell us everything God knew we needed to know about what Jesus said, how he responded in situations. And circumstances. Every single one of us has the opportunity. She didn't have a bit more opportunity than we have. We have a better opportunity. She was taught up in her society. In the surroundings which she lived, in the age which she lived. You and I have 2000 years of history and experience. And we have this awesome book called the Word of God, the Bible. So everything I need to know about him is in here.

Now let me ask you a question. Are you taking advantage of that opportunity? Do you start your day with the Lord Jesus Christ and his word and do you read his word and ask him to give you direction for the day and give you guidance and make you sensitive to his will and purpose and plan? Make you sensitive to opportunities that come your way. In other words, do you begin the day sitting at the feet of Jesus? That's 2000 years. Uh-uh. You have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. You have the Word of God lying before you. You can talk to the Lord Jesus Christ personally and he listens to you personally. He'll meet every single need that you have. He'll give you guidance and direction. He'll bring you to some passage, something he said. Or maybe something one of his apostles said to give you guidance for that day. You have the same opportunity that Mary had only you have it a little bit better. Because watch this. Her conversation with Jesus was limited. Your conversation with Jesus and his word is unlimited. You can read as long as you want to. You can come back to it during day or nighttime. You wake up in the middle of the night and talk to him. He's listening. You have that opportunity. Probably one of the greatest sins of believers today is we are too busy to seize the opportunity of spending time with the Son of God. Which affects every aspect of your life.

Now, you spend time with your wife, your husband, your children. You spend time with your friends you either play golf, fish, do this, do that, whatever committee you may be on or whatever group you may belong to. How much time do you spend with the Son of God? Do you take advantage of the most wonderful opportunity you could possibly have? If you're sitting here and you're under conviction, that is the proper response to this message. For the simple reason you have an opportunity. Listen. Nobody will take that away from you at least not now. You have an opportunity with him every day. Well, let's move on to some of these others, because they all apply to us in different ways.

And I think about this, Luke 5 for a moment another incident that is familiar and I chose the familiar ones on purpose. One day Jesus was teaching and there were some pharisees and teachers of the law, scribes sitting there. He was in this house. And the house is full of people. Jammed full and so the scripture says that in the 18th verse, some men were carrying on a bed, a man who was paralyzed and they were trying to bring him in and sit him down before the Lord. But not finding out anyway to bring him in because of the crowd they went up on the roof and let him down into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith he said, friend your sins are forgiven you.

Here's the issue. These guys knew their friend was a paralytic, could not walk, could not. They loved him. They said Jesus is close by. We're going to get you to Jesus. We hear he heals people from all kinds of disease and sickness and he can raise them from the dead. We'll get you there. So they get to the house. House is full. People standing outside probably. So they couldn't get in. Now the normal reaction would have been well I'm sorry we couldn't get you in. We tried. We thought we got here on time. The place is full. He has all these scribes and pharisees and other folks in there. Take you back home. Really sorry. No. They saw this an opportunity.

Here's what I want you to see. Some opportunities will be difficult to deal with. Some opportunities will be hard. Some opportunities will be a challenge. Now what you have to ask is this. If this is an opportunity am I going give up and quit just because it's difficult? Am I going to give up and quit because there seems to be a hindrance and barrier here. These folks said no there is not. What do they do? Climb up on the roof and tear the roof up. They could have said we couldn't possibly do that. Jesus would get so upset he's the Son of God and Messiah and teaching all these important people and surely we're not going to break up and we're not going to disturb him. They saw an opportunity for him to heal their friend and they weren't quitting. They just start pulling the tiles loose and I suppose Jesus began to see the dust coming down of the heard all that. He sort of stopped. Everybody stopped. They just kept pulling the tiles away. Then they let him down right in front of Jesus. Did that disturb Jesus? No. He was blessed blessed blessed because he saw that these men had saw an opportunity for him to heal their friend and they weren't going to stop under any condition until they got him to Jesus.

Now, you say, you think I'm going to have an opportunity like that? No, yours will be harder probably. I can think of things much harder. Here's the issue. When you see an opportunity, watch this, an opportunity to do the right thing, an opportunity to do a good thing, an opportunity to do what God's called you to do, an opportunity to affect somebody else's life, are you going to see it as an opportunity and have a little handicap here and there and so forth and you'll say, well, may be I misread God. That's the poorest excuse. That is a pure compromise. That's the work of the devil. I guess I made a mistake. I guess God didn't want us to bring you over here, the Lord knew he would be busy and wouldn't have time for you an we're causing all this commotion. They didn't say that. They saw an opportunity, watch this, and they loved this man. Enough to listen to be rejected, to cost them money whatever is necessary. They loved him enough to get him to Jesus to get healed. And not only did he get healed. He got saved. Sins were for given.

Jesus healed him right in front of everybody. The person who got rejected was not those guys. The person who got rejected was Jesus for healing him and forgiving him of his sins. You say I don't think I would get in that situation. You don't know that. Let me ask you a question. If you knew you could take one of your friends, somebody that you loved dearly and you had to travel a very, very wrong ways to get him healed , would you do it? I tell you how you'll answer that question. It depends on how much you love him. If you really love him you'll do whatever is necessary. The more you love him, the further you'll travel. The more you love him the more money you're willing to pay. Jesus gives us awesome opportunities. And then we have to decide. Am I going to seize it.

Not how much do I have? In other words, all the excuses we can come up with, we have to lay that down. An opportunity is a favorable time in which God wants to work in our life for us, but also for someone else. What do you think those guys thought about on their way home rejoicing? They threw that cot away. They were going home praising God and thanking him for healing. Do you know what? We don't care how much it cost to put the tiles back and our friend is healed, praise the Lord. They took advantage of an opportunity that looked like it couldn't work. And what I'm saying to you again and again and again and that's this. And that is, we're to be careful about the life we live and how we walk it. We're to be wise about our decisions and we're to be, listen, we're to be alert to opportunities God just stares us right in the face. Most of the time there's no warning, most of the time all of a sudden you see there's an opportunity.

For example, you go to work tomorrow morning and someone walks in and says, I've had the most difficult weekend of my entire life. Boing. Do your antennas go out? Are you alert to an opportunity right then for God to use you to encourage somebody? Opportunities are all around you. One of the reasons that some people's lives are so dull is because their eyes are closed. They walk around like this all the time and wonder why God isn't doing something fantastic in their life. Because they're not seeing the opportunities. We all have them. They're all around us. We can miss them. If we are so wrapped up in ourselves. Or we can miss an opportunity by excusing ourselves or defending some reason that we don't have. A man's life was changed. But those four men, their life was changed, their life was changed likewise.

So then I think about this whole opportunity to witness. Think about this. The apostle Paul. I'll mention several things. First of all, when he was in jail in Philippi and the jailer came out and said, what must I do to be saved? Well there's an opportunity for the apostle Paul right in his face. Here's a man saying, tell me how to get right with Jesus Christ. Took advantage of it. Paul traveled the whole roman world. What did he do in the world which he traveled? He was continually sharing Jesus Christ. In all kinds of situations. The Philippians jailer that was an easy one for him. When he got to Athens for example and Greece he knew about these philosophers meeting on mars hill and all the talk and acropolis and on and on and on and he had seen these statues say to an unknown God and they were up there with their philosophy about life so Paul he just sees this as an opportunity. He could have said they're not going to listen to me. They have so many Gods already they have one they don't know who he is so they say to an unknown God. Why would I want to get in the middle of that?

Paul said this is a great opportunity. Walks in the middle of them and stirs up a conversation and he preaches this awesome sermon in acts to them. And takes advantage of an opportunity. He said, look, you don't know who this God is. You have this statue to an unknown God. I've come to tell you who he is. He is Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Son of God. And the only Savior of the world. And talk about the cross and what Jesus Christ did. He took advantage of an opportunity that didn't look like one, because it was so shut and dried up with these philosophers who thought, who is this guy? Showing up telling us about a man who was crucified and rose from the grave. So they didn't listen to him very well. An when he left. But what did he do? Here's what Paul didn't do. He didn't say, well now, if I think they'll listen to me, I'll talk to them. If I don't think they will, I'm not going to. That's not the issue. The issue was this. He had an opportunity to say to a group of men who did not believe in Jesus Christ, who were not really aware of who he was, he just said here's an opportunity and I'm going in and he told them exactly the message they needed to hear.

Now, everybody that you meet who needs Jesus is not going to be all that pleasant. In other words, they're not always going to want to hear what you have to say. You have to ask yourself this question. I meet somebody who is unsaved. This is an opportunity. It doesn't mean I only have an opportunity if I can get them saved. If they're not saved and I know it, I have an opportunity. I may only be able to say to them, tell me where you're from. Where do you go to church? They don't go to church. Well how is everything going with you? Pretty good. Not too good. In other words, listen, you start with anybody who is unsaved and if you have the right spirit and understand it's an opportunity God will use your fumbling and bumbling to do something in their heart. They'll think, they're not very smart but I really couldn't argue about that. I'm not impressed by that so-called Christian but I did hear with he said. You're not responsible for that. You and I are responsible for telling it. We're responsible for living it and telling it. They're responsible for their response.

And so if you and I are not taking opportunities to tell people about Christ it's because either we feel there's something in your life that's not right or we're afraid or we think that somehow, somebody is not going to listen and that's not an issue at all. We're not responsible for that. Let me give you a couple more right quick. The 19th chapter of Luke is another story we know really well. I want you to turn there just a moment. Because here's another opportunity of a different kind. Jesus is passing through Jericho. And as a result, there's a man there by the name of Zacchaeus, he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. And he was trying to see who Jesus was and was unable because of the crowd because he was small of stature and he ran ahead and climbed into a sycamore tree in order to see him because he was about to pass through that way.

Let me tell you about something who he was. Zacchaeus wasn't just a guy who climbed a tree. Zacchaeus was a tax collector collecting taxes from the Israelites for roman government and they called him a publican and a sinner because they saw him as a trader. If somebody said do you know who Zacchaeus is? Yes. He's a trader. He's an extortioner, they took more than they should have, that's how they got their part. He's a sinner. He's a publican and working with the roman government against his own people. Yeah we know him and we hate him. They hated tax collectors. So, that's how popular he was. So he hears about Jesus coming and he has an opportunity maybe to see him. Hadn't seen him before. Didn't know about him much, just the things he heard. But here was an opportunity for him to see Jesus. And he had strong curiosity.

So he goes out in the street and because the Bible says he's real short and he couldn't see over the crowd so he tries to get up in the front. They see who he is. You're not getting by me. Because they hated him. In other words, they saw him as a thief to some degree. So nobody let him in. So he could have said, there goes my opportunity to ever see Jesus, may not come back this way again, which he didn't. But he refused to give up his opportunity. He ran ahead the scripture says, and climbed up into a sycamore tree. A sycamore tree would be easy to climb. He climbed up so he was above everybody else. And so here's his opportunity. Isn't this just like Jesus? I love this. Remember Bartimaeus story, here he was walking among, Jesus walking among crowds and poor blind Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus and Jesus stopped. Called him to him and healed him.

Now, here is the most hated man in town. Up a tree. And remember in those days, no dignified person would ever even run in public, let alone climb trees. So here's Zacchaeus up the tree watching Jesus pass by. And what do you think happened? Of all the people in town, when he saw Zacchaeus, he stopped and said, Zacchaeus, come on down. I'm going home to eat lunch with you today. He came down. And what happened? You say, how do we know he really got saved? Here's how you know. He said I'll give back four times what I've taken. He talked about how he was going to give away so much of what he had because he knew some of it was dishonest. And when he finished confessing and repenting of his sins, Jesus said, this man, he's become a believer.

Now suppose Zacchaeus said, crowds are too big. I can't get in. I guess this was my chance and I missed it. And so I'll just go back. He saw an opportunity and he wasn't going to let some excuse keep him from seeing the Lord Jesus. Changed his life. And think about it. We're still talking about him. We didn't know any of those pharisees and Sadducees we don't know anybody else's name in the whole crowd. The only person we know is Zacchaeus. He took advantage of an opportunity to meet Jesus. And we're still talking about him. What would you have done that day? Well, we might as well go home. We can't see him. Or would you have said, here's an opportunity of a lifetime and I'm not going to miss it? I wonder how many times you did miss because somebody didn't like it, somebody was in the way, you thought it cost too much? In other words you missed a wonderful, wonderful opportunity. And you see, it changed his life.

Can you imagine the testimony that he had in town when he started giving people back what he had taken from them because of his relationship to Jesus Christ? Listen, think about this. Not only did he get right with God he became the most popular man in town and the strongest witness to who Jesus was by a transformed life. Opportunities every day. Every different facet of life and every situation and circumstances and then I would just come to one last one and that is, everybody knows him. We don't know him for a good reason but we know him in the tenth chapter of Mark. You remember what's going on. Scripture says in the 17th verse, Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to him and knelt down before him, good teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life? What about the Ten Commandments? He listed a few of those, not the first ones but the last six. He said what else can I do? It was all doing. Here's the things I have done so to speak to deserve it. What must I do? And Jesus knowing what the issue was. He not only had riches. His riches had him. And so he said to him. He said, sell what you have. Give it to the poor and come follow me.

Look at the difference. Here was an opportunity to have the gift of eternity life through Jesus Christ and he rejected it over something material that would one day pass away and he had nothing left. So I want to ask you a question. Would you happen to be one of those persons who has heard the gospel many, many times? But you have refused the opportunity to ask Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins and repent of them. You have turned down Christ offered of salvation. You have refused to seize an opportunity to have the gift of eternal life. I don't know what your reason has been. Doesn't make any difference. It's a poor decision.

Let me just say this. It's one opportunity if you miss, you'll spend eternity suffering the consequences. That's not what I think. That's what God says. And the reason is this man is in the scriptures is a warning to where riches can capture a person's life, blind them to truth. Blind them to reality. Blind them to the consequences of disobedience and sin. Jesus never criticized him. He just knew his God was in his hands and he could count it and he walked away and turned down the most opportunity anyone ever faces. The opportunity to receive Christ. To have the gift of eternal life. And to have Christ as your friend. Your Savior and your Lord. Is that where you are? You've heard the gospel many times. You say I never saw it as an opportunity. It's an opportunity. It's a passing opportunity. You'll not always have the opportunity.

So what will you do about it? The wisest thing you can do is this. Is confess to Jesus that you're a sinner, because you know you are. Confess to him you wasted a lot of your life. That you let other things take place in your life. That you've rejected over and over again the message of the gospel. You've heard it on television and radio and friends. But you've never been willing to take advantage of the opportunities. If you're willing to ask him to forgive you of that and tell him you believe his death on the cross was for your sins and he paid your sin debt in full on the cross and that he's the Son of God, and that you're accepting him as your personal Savior and surrendering your life to him, that will be taking advantage of the most important decision you'll have to take. To turn it down could be your last opportunity. You say, are you trying to scare me? If it could to get you into heaven, I would, but I can't. But you have no assurance you'll ever hear it again. The wisest thing you can do, wherever you are. Is to make a decision right now to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, surrender your life to him and let him work and live through your life. And that is my prayer.

Father, how grateful we are that you're patient with us, that you're loving, you're kind, you're forgiving. And I pray the Holy Spirit this morning not will, but has already deeply penetrated every single heart to think about these opportunities that we've mentioned knowing that there's numerous opportunities that are unmentioned. I pray that every person here could consider seriously each of these especially what Jesus said to Mary and to Martha. This is the most important. Let there be confession and repentance this morning over failure to spend time each day with you in meditation and prayer and learning from you. Let there be repentance and confession, God, over opportunities to bear witness but failed to do so. And many other things come into our life. We want to be godly people. We want you to have your way in every single opportunity. And we want to seize them courageously, confidently that you would work great benefit to us and the people involved. We love you and praise you in Jesus' name, amen.

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