Thankful for Opportunities
Imagine waking up one morning and everything is lovely. You’ve just spent the night with a family who had just given their hearts to the Lord and you are just so thankful. You wake up that morning contemplating God’s many blessings. You take note of the singing birds, the smell of the morning dew on the earth, and the taste of your freshly brewed coffee. Life is grand!
You leave the house and are met with that one person decides to make it their mission to pester and annoy you. All. Day. Long. And. For. Days. You do well for the first few days, still riding the thankful wave, but soon this person truly does annoy you. You make a split-second decision that benefits the annoying person greatly, but it lands you in hot water.
You’re publicly humiliated and beaten. You’ve landed in prison.
Now, how’s that thankful wave feeling? Still feeling it? Or have you gone down that slippery slope of anger, grumbling, and even regret over having done a nice thing?
Most of us would focus on the injustice of our situation. Most of us would focus on our physical pain from having been beaten or our wounded ego from having been humiliated.
Would any of us look at that situation as an opportunity for ministry?
Read Acts 16:16-40
Paul and Silas, by any standards, seemed to be having a bad day. Any day that includes humiliation, being beaten with rods, and imprisonment, just doesn’t seem to have the marks of a good day, wouldn’t you agree?
Even in the midst of what I would call a bad day, it doesn’t really look like Paul and Silas would agree with me. Why? Because they responded in a way that was counter-intuitive. If they can respond to their situation with worship, then they weren’t looking at their situation the way we might be.
They weren’t looking at a bad day, but they were looking at opportunities.
The first opportunity they took was to go to God with prayer and worship. I believe it was through these two actions that they encouraged themselves in the Lord. They relied on His strength, His encouragement, His truth, and His presence. Paul and Silas may have been physically imprisoned, but they were spiritually FREE. Their spiritual life informed their physical one. They acted as free men, not as imprisoned men.
The second opportunity they took was to minister to the jailer. Paul and Silas could have walked right out of the prison cell, but they didn’t. Instead, they turned their attention to the jailer who was about to kill himself. They saw the opportunity to save his life and they grabbed it. They saw the opportunity to introduce the jailer and his family to Jesus and they took it.
The third opportunity they took was to encourage others. After being released from prison, they returned to Lydia’s family (Acts 16:11-15, 40). Where most of us would see the opportunity to talk about how unfair our situation was, Paul and Silas took the opportunity to encourage others.
Paul and Silas were focused on the Lord. They were focused on being about His business. They were focused not on their own discomfort, but on the mission that God had set before them.
Maybe that’s where they might differ from our usual reactions to an unjust situation. They focused on the Lord where we might focus on the injustice. To them, it wasn’t necessarily about being “right” but about taking every opportunity to look around them for people who needed Jesus. God’s mission trumped their comfort. Notice that they didn’t take advantage of these opportunities with an attitude of grudging obedience, but with joy and gratitude. They were happy to be used by God to introduce the world around them to Him!
Next time you find yourself weathering a bad day of injustice, look for the opportunities:
- Look for the opportunity to strengthen and encourage yourself in the Lord through prayer and worship.
- Look for the opportunity to introduce others to Jesus.
- Look for the opportunity to encourage others.