Opportunity Taking Advantage of Each Moment

opportunistic

An Opportunity Missed

I’m not even sure that I can tabulate the number of times that I’ve missed out on chances that were right in front of my face.  Tons.  Every day.  From the time I was young up until today.

Today.

I parked my car and walked to our house.  As I did I walked by my neighbors’ place.  They had just moved in and one of them was working in the garage.  I had a thousand things to do, sure, but I could have offered to help.

Or I could have at least said hello.

But I didn’t.

I let the opportunity slip right by.

And what makes this especially bad is twofold:

First, I said hi to two other neighbors and even had a brief conversation with a third.  Why couldn’t I at least say hello to the new neighbor?

And second, I’m the guy that encourages people to be missional and to live life like God has set up divine appointments for us.  Honestly, I feel a little hypocritical right now.

But this little anecdote is serving (and will hopefully continue to serve) as a kick in the pants to take advantage of each opportunity that comes my way!

Jesus Faces an Awkward Opportunity

In John 4 Jesus and his closest friends were tired (even Jesus got tired…see, he was fully human!).  They had been traveling all day and Jesus’ disciples went to go get some food.  Jesus didn’t go with them, instead he went and sat by the well in the Samaritan town named Sychar.

It was the middle of the day.  This wasn’t the time of day that folks generally went to the well to get water.  That activity was usually reserved for cooler parts of the day, like the morning or just before sunset.

But as Jesus sat by the well, a woman came up to draw water.  Even if Jesus wasn’t the second Person of the Trinity, he could have worked out that this woman was not well-liked by many people in town.  If she was, she would have drawn water when others did so that they could say hi to one another and catch up on the latest news and gossip.

But here she was.  In the middle of the day.  By herself.

Clearly she was a bit of an outcast.

And Jesus was the leader of a new religious movement and was considered by many to be a rabbi, or a traveling teacher.  And in his day, religious movement leaders and rabbis did not associate with the type of women that drew water in the middle of the day.

And to make this an even more awkward opportunity for the two of them, Jesus was a man and the woman was, well, a woman.  Men and women typically did not have much public interaction, and a rabbi certainly would try to avoid such a scandalous action.

And culturally there was a barrier too: Jesus was a Jew and this woman was a Samaritan.  These two groups had a nasty history and did not get along at all!

But the cherry on the top of this banana split of an opportunity was the fact that Jesus was tired.  He could have totally checked out and no one would have blamed him.  He had been traveling all day.  He needed some “me time.”

But Jesus didn’t let all of these hurdles prevent him from taking advantage of this opportunity.

He asked her for a drink.

He started a conversation.

He made an intentional act to reach out to her.

We Need To Take Advantage of Each Opportunity Too

Here’s the call to action: Let’s be like Jesus and take advantage of each opportunity that we face!

Here are some ways forward:

  1. Pay Attention — It’s so easy these days to completely check out of the reality around us.  We can chat on our phones, text, check Facebook, play music, etc., etc.  We all have a thousand and one ways we can stay completely distracted from our surroundings.  If we’re distracted, it’s going to be hard to even see an opportunity, much less take advantage of one.  So maybe we all need to put our phones down, take our headphones off, and pay a bit more attention to our surroundings.
  2. Start Simple — Jesus asked for a drink.  I should have just said hello.  We’re not talking about rocket science or brain surgery here!  When an opportunity arises, simply start somewhere comfortable and natural.  Here’s an example: you’re walking in the mall and someone drops their bags.  You can help them pick their stuff up and say something like, “Man, I do that all the time.”  That may start an important conversation that could change the course of both of your lives.  Or it may lead no where else.  Either is fine!
  3. Practice Makes Perfect — Over time these sorts of encounters will become more natural and more a part of our routines.  We won’t feel so awkward when we’re faced with an opportunity.  We’ll just take it!  But in order to get there we need to feel our way through that awkward phase first.  And that’s okay.  For some of us, like me, it might always be a bit awkward.  For others, like my wonderful wife Alida, being set free to take advantage of each opportunity sounds amazing.  Persistence is the key for all of us though!  It will get easier and more natural!  And when we fail to take advantage of each opportunity, which will happen, we can’t beat ourselves up.  Let’s just admit our mistake and move on!
  4. Don’t Discriminate — Even though none of us like to admit it, we all pick and choose who to talk to, who to smile at, and who to invest in.  Those of us who follow Jesus, however, shouldn’t pick and choose.  We shouldn’t try to stay away from certain people, no matter the reason.  We should reach out and connect with whomever when given the opportunity!
  5. Pray — Lastly, we should pray.  First, we should pray that God will bring people across our paths so that we can connect with.  Second, we should pray that the Spirit of God would aid us as we attempt to take advantage of each opportunity.  And third, as we are engaging in conversation, we should be internally praying that God would inspire us to share the good news with those we come into contact with, in tangible ways and by using our words too.

 

So, what do you think?  What about taking advantage of each opportunity seems hard to you?  What seems easy?  How should a follower of Jesus go about taking advantage of each opportunity?  Let me know in the comments below!

Praying on the Spot

Maybe you’re like me and you have a hard time remembering things.  I’m horrible with dates, names, places, directions, and on and on.

In fact, I was so nervous that I would forget my wife’s birthday that I set it as my password for everything when we were dating.  Then I did the same thing with our anniversary date when we first got married.  (I have since changed it, so don’t try to log-in to my stuff!)

So it should come as no surprise that I almost never remember to pray for someone when I tell them I’m going to.

 

Praying on the Spot

So, in response to my poor memory, I started praying for people on the spot.  I began with my close friends and family.

Sure, it was a bit awkward at first, but once we all got used to it, things were great!

I then extended the “praying on the spot” circle to include other people in our church community.  That went well too.

But lately I’ve started praying for people I barely know, like cashiers and other people I run into in my daily life.

Well, as many of you already know, my wife and I are in the process of finalizing the adoption of our little boy Jude Myron.  Here’s an obligatory picture:

praying

Jude Myron, posing for his newborn pics.

For part of Myron’s time in the hospital after he was born, he had to stay in the NICU’s nursery due to some particular adoption regulations.  Well, as you might imagine, we saw some tired and stressed out parents and family members in the NICU (which is short for neo-natal intensive care unit).

Praying in the Hospital

On one particular day a woman walked out of the NICU and it was clear that she was really shaken up.  She was sobbing as she walked by in her hospital-issued gown to go back to her labor recovery room.  My instincts were telling me to reach out to her, to console her, and to pray for her.

But I thought it would be awkward, her being in a gown and all.  So I let the moment slip by.

I saw her early the next day and she was with a friend.  They were chatting and things seemed better.  I naively thought, Well, I guess the worst times are behind her.  I felt okay about passing on the opportunity to pray for her the day before.

Then, later on that same day, I saw her exiting the NICU again.  She was in tears once more, but this time she was wearing street clothes.

All the excuses were gone.  Now was the time.  And since Myron was about to be discharged, I wasn’t going to get another opportunity.

As she approached the area where I was seated we made eye contact.  When she was right in front of me I finally gathered the courage to talk to her:

“Are you okay?”

“Not really.”

“I’m sorry.  How long does your baby have to be here?” I asked.

“Eight and a half more weeks,” she replied.

I knew at that point only one tiny drop of the pain she was feeling.  Myron had been in the NICU for three days and that felt horrible…and he was healthy.  My heart broke for her.

“I saw you the other day and I wanted to talk to you but I didn’t,” I said.

“Was I crying then too?”

“Yeah.”

“Sorry about that.”

“No.  Don’t be sorry,” I responded.  Then I paused for a second or two.  We were still making eye contact.  I knew that I was about to ask her if I could pray for her but I was scared.

“I know this might sound weird…but can I pray for you?”

“Sure,” she said as she brightened up ever-so-slightly.

I motioned her to move closer to me since there were half a dozen people in the waiting room.

“What’s your name?” I asked.  She told me.  “What’s your baby’s name?”  She shared that information with me too.

Then I offered my hand to her and she took it.  I paused, trying to gather my strength, and I prayed.

I simply offered a prayer for her recovery and the health of her child.  I had a really hard time holding it together though.

I finished praying and I looked up and we shared a nice little moment together.  She then told me some more of her story and how hard it was to have such a tiny baby.  I wished her the best and told her I would continue to pray for her.

 

Conclusion

For every one story like this that I have, I have twenty where I did nothing.  Praying for someone you don’t know can be difficult and weird.

But praying for a stranger can sometimes be the best missional ice breaker ever.

What’s the worst that could happen?  Someone could ask you not to pray for them?

The missional benefits outweigh the “risks.”

Praying for someone who is far from God can be the catalyst to put them on the path toward Jesus!

 

What do you think about praying for people on the spot?  Is praying in this manner difficult or weird for you?  Or do you find it easy and natural?

 

If you’d like to help us with our adoption finalization costs or if you want to read more of our adoption story, then please CLICK HERE.  Thanks!