Opportunity of a Lifetime
May 25, 2009
Again, I want to say happy Memorial Day weekend. And it is really just amazing to think about what our men and women have done as they have gone before us and sacrificed many of their lives for our freedom.
Whenever it comes to freedom, you always have to talk about opportunity. And today I do want to talk about opportunity because opportunity comes at us at a rapid fire pace. And while I’m talking about opportunity, I want to do a big shout out to all of our campuses in Miami, Plano, Downtown and over in Fort Worth. Welcome and happy Memorial Day! I want you guys to be thinking along with us as I talk about some opportunities.
We have all had opportunities in our lives to do a lot of things. And I think one of the cool things about technology is the fact that it gives us more and more opportunities to make more and more decisions. And I believe we can look back in the rearview mirror of our lives and say, “I have made a lot of good choices. I have made a lot of good decisions. I have taken advantage of certain opportunities and they have served me well.”
But I think we can also say, “I have taken advantage of other opportunities and they have not served me very well.”
And to me, one of the biggest struggles that I have as I look back in the rearview mirror of my life is I like to beat myself up over missed opportunities. I think I do that probably more than anybody. I don’t know if it’s OCD or what, but I do that. And maybe you’re the same.
Maybe you’re thinking, “If I had gone out with that person or if I had gone to that school or if I had worked harder at that talent or if I would have taken that job or if I would have played for that team. Would have, could have, should have.”
And a lot of us live in what I call “scenario sickness.” And it’s a real sickness these days, always playing out these scenarios of what could have happened, what should have happened. “If I had not blown by knee out in the 9th grade I would be in the NBA or NFL.” We have all of these things that we talk about.
But I believe true opportunity is something that emerges from the heart of God. God is a God of opportunity. And it’s one of the ways he expresses his love to all of us. I believe as a parent we have different love languages, different ways that we communicate our love and our care and our compassion to our kids. And I know a lot of kids who are gift givers, a lot of parents like to hug their kids, a lot of parents like to give words of affirmation. And that’s fine and dandy. Some parents, though, tell and show their kids that they love them by giving them opportunities.
God is a perfect God. He is our perfect heavenly parent. He does all of those things. But I think as believers sometimes we miss the fact that our great God is into opportunity. He gives all of us opportunity after opportunity after opportunity because he wants our best in mind.
With opportunity, though, with God-given opportunity you always have opposition. So you show me a phenomenal opportunity in life and I will show you a phenomenal opposition against the opportunity that’s been presented to you. And I firmly believe that the greater the opposition, many times, the greater the opportunity.
So as I have matured in my Christian faith, and believe me I have a long, long way to go; as I see these oppositional forces hit me many times I say, “You know what, that means there is a great opportunity for the power and the grace and the mercy of God to be advertised and to be lived out and to be fully formed in my life.”
So I think we need to change the way we think and change the way we look at life the way God sees it. Because when God gives us opportunities, there’s going to be opposition. Why the opposition? Because the evil one does not want us to discover the potential that our great God has for all of our lives.
So opportunity, great opportunity, God-given opportunity always has opposition.
When I think about this my mind rushes to a text in one of the gospels, specifically Matthew 26:36 and following. Because when you look at opportunity and when you look at opposition I think it’s evidenced so real and raw in this particular text.
I have been in a series on sleep throughout the Bible and we have discovered that a lot of people have slept in Scripture. And I’m going to argue today in this brief time that we have together that sleep, spiritual sleep, parental sleep, leadership sleep, even being asleep to opportunities can be the opposition that keeps you from achieving what God wants you to achieve.
We have seen a guy named Eutychus in Acts 20 who fell asleep when the Apostle Paul was preaching, and he missed hearing this great message from the Apostle Paul. And he’s the first guy we know that went to sleep in church.
We looked at a guy named Eli. Eli slept away opportunity after opportunity to capitalize and to hear the voice of God.
We even brushed over a guy like Jonah who was asleep on this vessel when he should have been in Nineveh teaching people about the good news of the Lord.
We looked at Samson who had a haircut in the devil’s barbershop. He was asleep there on the lap of Delilah when he should have been delivering the children of Israel from the bondage that the Philistines were hoarding over them.
I think about all those different people, all those different examples of sleep and then I go and look at the gospel of Matthew. I mean, this is an opportunity. Jesus knows that the cross is ahead of him. Just think about it. He is in that upper room having the Last Supper with the twelve disciples. And he is already put the cards on the table and said, “Okay, one of you guys is going to betray me.” And we know who that guy was, Judas.
And as I have said before, there is always Judas at our table. And when I make a statement like that, a bold statement like that to business leaders or church leaders or leaders in the athletic world or in the world of academics, people always do the push back and say, “No. Surely there is not a Judas at my table. That is just a good scriptural thing, it sounds good.”
But I’m telling you, you do life for a while, you see opportunities come down the pike and I’m telling you, you will have a Judas at your table who will oppose you.
So Jesus has this opportunity with these twelve. And he calls Judas out. And then, as he continues with the Last Supper, he goes through the wine and the bread and he talks about the new covenant and what these things represent. And every time we take the Lord’s Supper or communion, we remember the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus. And then from there he leads the disciples out of the upper room. And picture this for a second; he leads them down the narrow streets of the Jerusalem outside the city gates. Now only eleven are with him now. We know Judas is not there with the team at this point. We know what he’s doing, right? You talk about opposition; that was Judas.
Jesus, though, the Scriptures say crossed the Brook of Kidron. Now why would the Bible say Jesus crossed over the Brook of Kidron to get to the Garden of Gethsemane? That is pretty interesting. Well during this time; during the time of the Passover, the temple, where they did all of these animal sacrifices, was in full force. And the waste products from the animal, I don’t want to be too gross here, but a lot of the blood and other parts of the animals would be washed in this brook, in this stream down this area. So the imagery is really awesome when you think about it. Here we have the Lamb of God, Jesus, crossing the Brook of Kidron. And probably as he crossed the Brook of Kidron with his disciples in this robe, I’m sure his robe became bloody. It very well could have been as he crossed the brook. And then imagery of him being the final sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the final sacrifice, that is just incredible how the Bible does that.
Anyway. The disciples are following Jesus and he goes to the Garden of Gethsemane. Now, I have been to the Garden of Gethsemane and I have actually spoken there and I have taught from this text in that garden. And years ago, when we took a group of people from our church to Israel, I stood there and some people snapped some pictures of me teaching and the guides pointed out that several of the trees there, most people feel, were actually alive when Jesus was in the garden. Now, I don’t know if that is real or true or not; I guarantee the root systems are still there because the roots are that old. But that was pretty cool. I have the picture of that in my office.
Anyway. Jesus, though, at the gate of the Garden of Gethsemane tells eight of the disciples, “You just stay back; you stay at the gate. Hey you eight, stay at the gate.”
Then he brought the three with him: Peter, James and John. Say it with me: Peter, James and John. Now, these are the inner circle. These are the guys, I mean Simon Peter has already gone on record saying, “These other guys might diss you; they might turn their back on you; they might go this way or that way, but I’m not going to do it, Jesus. I am the man. I am loyal. I am it. I will give my life for you.”
So Jesus is in agony. Now the word Gethsemane, just a little Bible study here, is the word press. It means an olive press. They would take olives and press them and get the oil from the olive. And Jesus was under anxiety and stress like we cannot even imagine. We would go through sensory overload if we had just a scintilla of the stress and the press that he was involved in as he entered the garden. Because again, he knew the opportunity, he saw the opposition; yet he faced it.
And I don’t want to go into the prayer too much, but Jesus even said, “God, if it’s your will, may this whole situation pass from me.” Yet Jesus knew it was the will of God.
So here is what he did. Let’s pick up this text, because this is some cool stuff right here. Matthew 26:36. “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
He basically said, “You guys sit here, Peter, James and John. The other eight of you stay by the gate. But you three just sit here while I go over here and pray.
Verse 37-38, “He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'”
So first he says, “Sit.” Then he says, “Keep watch.” And then he tells them just to pray.
Well take a wild guess at what Peter, James and John, these phenomenal stand-up guys were doing. They weren’t sitting; they were not watching, and they sure weren’t praying. They were sleeping. They were sleeping. And that’s just crazy, isn’t it?
So they’re asleep. And Jesus, at the most critical and crucial hour of his life, is troubled. He is in that press and he sweated drops of blood. He knew what was going to happen. He is in this situation that we cannot even comprehend; the whole sin of the universe and everything was upon him. And here we have Peter, James and John sawing logs.
Well Jesus comes to them, wakes them up, “Guys what are you doing?” Three times this happens. He wakes them up; they go to sleep. He wakes them up; they go to sleep. He wakes them up; they go to sleep. Then Scripture says that they just basically missed their chance to minister to Jesus.
Watch this for a second: The disciples had an opportunity to minister to Jesus, but they were asleep. We have an opportunity to minister for Jesus, yet we are asleep as well.
So we can’t point the finger at them and say, “Peter, James and John, I would have never done that. That is ridiculous. That is a joke.
You just had this great meal with Jesus and you finished it off with the Lord’s Supper, a little wine and bread, the phenomenal food, hummus and figs and all of that. And now you crossed over the brook and Jesus asked you to pray. That’s all he did. Watch and pray. And you’re asleep?!”
I have been guilty of doing the same thing, and I think if you were boldly honest with yourself you have been guilty of doing the same thing as well.
We are asleep to these opportunities to minister for Jesus. Where? In his church, the bride of Christ. We all have unique aptitudes and abilities. And as we wake up to these aptitudes and abilities we need to take advantage of them and utilize them and leverage them within the context of the church. Because the bride is a bunch of people like you and me who have been saved by the grace and the power of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the groom; we are the bride. When we got married to Jesus, the bride doesn’t bolt. We don’t sleep our lives away. We don’t become apathetic. We don’t get comfortable. We don’t just fall asleep. We wake up.
Ephesians 5:14 says, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
We have to wake up.
Now, many times when you read this in the text it says watch and pray or sit and pray. And we think, “Sit and pray. I know what that is. I’m sitting right now. I’m just sitting. Watching and praying, that is just looking around and saying, ‘Lord, thank you for this day. It is beautiful here in the garden. I love it.’”
It is not that. The word sit is not a passive word; it is an active word. The word watch, again is nothing where we put something on pause. It is something where we have great purpose and power. It is being alert. It is being ready. It is being on point.
Here is what the Scriptures say, because the Scriptures basically tell us we’re saved to serve. I’m saved to serve.
1 Corinthians 4:2, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”
How do I prove it? I prove it by ministry. If you’re into ministry, you’re into maturity. The moment you stop ministering is the moment you stop maturing.
1 Thessalonians 5:6, “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.”
That word watch; that word sit in the literal language means to be alert. We need to be self-controlled. We need to be vigilant.
The Bible says that the evil one has devices, he has strategies, he has methodologies to take you down and to take me down. He opposes the opportunities of God. How does he do that? One of the best ways is through sleep.
“Rock‑a‑bye believer in the tree top, snoozing will cause your growth to stop. Ignore the alarm; stay in bed. You’ll never reach your potential you sleepy head.”
He tells us to just stay asleep. And while we’re asleep we can sleep away opportunity after opportunity; chance after chance; windows open, windows closed; doors open, doors closed. And if we’re not careful, we can look back in the rear‑view mirrors of our lives and think, “What did I do? I missed it. I was asleep.”
So the church should not be a place of slumber. It should not be a place of comfort. It should be a place of challenge, a place where we’re uncomfortable enough to get up and to get out there and to minister for Christ, to seize those opportunities for him. So it’s time for us to wake up.
And speaking of waking up, do you remember the story that Jesus told in Matthew 25 about the wedding? People love weddings. I mean, there are whole channels dedicated to weddings and Bride-zilla and all this crazy stuff. And we love weddings, especially women. Women freak over weddings. Ladies, admit it. It will be good. Say, “I’m a lady and I’m addicted to weddings.” Women love weddings.
Jesus told this story about the wedding and don’t you know that all of the women were just leaning in listening. And he told this parable. A parable is basically an illustration. And before I tell you this let me give you the background of the ancient wedding.
Back in the day the groom would come to the bride’s house for the ceremony. And after the ceremony they would have this processional all the way back to the groom’s house. They would have this giant party that lasted for around a week. It was something else.
And people would wait outside to join the processional from the bride’s house to the groom’s house. That’s how the deal worked.
Jesus said there were ten virgins waiting outside the bride’s house for the groom to show up. And don’t you know these women were just absolutely thrilled to be a part of this wedding. The ten virgins. Well Jesus said five of the ten had lamps with them and five of the ten brought oil with their lamps. See, these girls were smart. They were thinking, “If he’s late and the flame goes out, I will have enough oil to keep the lamp on, the lamp lit.”
So they were smart. Now the other five were in such frenzy, they were so excited they just said, “Well girl, I’m just going out with the lamp and that’s it. I don’t need to buy oil. I know this groom’s going to be on time. No big deal.”
So five smart ones with the lamps and oil. The other five, all they brought were just the lamps. Well this time the bride wasn’t late, the groom was late. And Jesus said when the five lamps went out, the virgins who had no oil, it got dark and they fell asleep. Now the other girls; the other five virgins with the oil their lamps went out and they had the oil right there and their lamps stayed lit.
Well guess who shows up? The groom. And the girls with the lamps with the extra oil, they joined the processional. They were so fired up. While the other five were asleep. And finally they wake up, “Wait! Let me go get some oil.” And they went to the store, to the mall to try to get some oil and the mall was closed. They missed it. They weren’t prepared.
So Jesus talked about the danger of being asleep. Throughout Scripture we see the danger of slumber, because people always say, “Well Satan is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”
Yes, he is roaring all right. But while he’s roaring he wants a lot of Christians to get into snoring. We need to wake up, though. We need to wake up to carelessness.
Look at 2 Corinthians 2:11 (NKJV). We should wake up to carelessness, “…lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
Again I tell you, he has devices, he has strategies, he has plans to take you down and me down. And one of the best ways he works is to put us to sleep.
Also, we need to wake up to comfortableness. As I have said many times here from this stage, as believers we’re comforted by Christ but we need to be uncomfortable for him. And I’m just going to tell you something; Fellowship Church; that’s right Fellowship Miami, Fellowship Plano, Fellowship Downtown, Fellowship Fort Worth; Fellowship Church is a church that will challenge you, that will get up in your face. And we’re going to put it out there for you to tell you to get up and mature, to get up and serve, to get up and get outside of yourself. Because that’s where real maturity comes.
It is time to wake up to carelessness, to wake up to comfortableness. I love what Haggai, that’s right H‑A‑G‑G‑A‑I, Haggai 1:4 says, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
This guy is saying, “Is it a time for you to be chilling in your stained glass fortress, in your panel houses, in your places that look so cool when everything else is totally falling apart; when everything else is dilapidated dated? Is it time for you to sleep when everyone else going to hell; when everyone else is missing this incredible opportunity?”
Think about the opportunities in your life. Think about the opportunities that are right here before you at Fellowship Church; opportunities for friendship, opportunities for service, opportunities for ministry, opportunities to work for children and work with children, opportunities to work in the missions area, opportunities for teaching, opportunities for all sorts of areas, because the biggest the church the bigger the opportunity. And the bigger the church and the bigger the opportunity, the bigger the opposition. That is why it’s hard for some of you to step up and to step out and to serve because of the opposition. You’re asleep when you should be awake.
So the alarm is sounding, Ephesians 5:14. Wake up and discover the opportunity that God has for you. And when you experience the opposition just face it and move through it because God will take you to a whole new position in life.
(Ed ends in closing prayer.)