My wife and I are so privileged to attend a church where the message of biblical faith is the central theme of just about every teaching. Our home church is a large Calvary Chapel in Central Florida. Every Sunday, whomever is teaching offers those listening the chance to receive Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Since the Pandemic started, more than 1,400 people have responded. What a tremendous blessing for so many lives!
This past Sunday was no exception. The gospel was woven into the sermon. As part of the teaching, our Pastor spent a good deal of time highlighting Ephesians 5:15-16. In the NIV, this reads:
Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Our Pastor shared that before he leaves his home, he prays for opportunities to share his faith in Christ with the individuals he may meet during the day. He simply asks the Lord for the chance to make a difference in someone’s life. He’s careful to share only when it’s appropriate. He’s not a fan of being overly aggressive with the gospel. He’s shared that praying for opportunities sometimes results in someone else bringing up spiritual topics as part of a very casual conversation. This opens a door for him to speak about his faith in a natural way.
Even if we don’t often have the chance to share our faith in words, Christ followers can always make an impact through our lifestyles and attitudes. We can also pray for specific people to have a deep hunger to be closer to God. I was doing this very thing this past Sunday evening. I was praying for individuals by name. When I came to a particular person, I paused and thought for a moment how much she needs the Lord. She has struggled for years with drug addiction. This has led to a horrific lifestyle.
Just a few hours later, I received a call about this very person. My sister was distraught, and said that the individual had died. She didn’t have any details, yet since the woman is only in her thirties, I was shocked. Yes, her lifestyle made something like this far more probable than it otherwise would have been, yet I was certainly not ready for this news.
I started thinking back to the last time I saw her. It was on Christmas day. She was clean and sober because she had just been released from six months in jail. We talked about a lot of things, and it would have been natural and appropriate for me to bring up the Lord in this conversation. We had talked about the Lord in the past, but I did not take the opportunity to do so again at Christmas when she and I talked for some time. I was heartsick about this, and saw it as an opportunity missed. Only the Lord knows if a conversation about his grace and love for her may have had an impact for eternity.
While I was still thinking about this and praying for those who would miss this dear young woman, my sister called to say that she was, after all, still alive. The father of her children, who also struggles with addiction, had apparently chosen to tell others that she had died. We don’t yet know the reason why he did so.
What an amazing turn of events. After thanking the Lord that this individual is still alive, the first thing I did was ask my sister if she could arrange for her and me to meet with this young woman to talk about what she wants for her future, and to ensure that she knows how to seek the Lord if she chooses to do so. By God’s grace, it looks like we may have an opportunity to meet with her soon.
This was a real wake-up call for me. Our Pastor’s gentle reminder to make the most of the opportunities we have, coupled with what happened Monday morning, reminded me that moments matter. Opportunities to make a difference for eternity don’t come along very often. Second chances are even more rare. I pray that the Lord would help me to be more sensitive to the opportunities he provides, and that I would be faithful to ask him for more chances to share my faith in Jesus in appropriate ways.
I share this situation so that you also can learn from what took place. Are there people whom you love who need to be encouraged in the Lord? If you heard today that they passed away, would you be heart-sick about opportunities missed to share the Lord with them? If so, please consider praying that the Lord would open an opportunity soon for you and that person to meet, or at least to talk or correspond in some other way. Let them know that you love them, and that God does as well.
I praise the Lord for his love, and thank him for second chances!