Seizing Our Opportunities”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

1ST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

DECEMBER 30, 2018

 

Title: “Seizing Our Opportunities”

 

Text: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 RSV).

 

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:15-20.

 

Tomorrow night we will stand on the edge of a new year.  It is my thinking that many here today are wondering what the New Year will bring.  Some of us are wondering the new year would bring joy or sorrow, increase or decline, grief or happiness, the list goes on.  One thing I would remind you of is the New Year could be a time of new beginning when we leave the past behind and turn the corner.  The fact is there is little we can do about the past, yet many spend their time living in the past, seeking to relive its joy and sorrows only to come to the realization that there is nothing we can do physically.

We certainly cannot return to past glories or grief.  The past is gone. God is going to hold us accountable for the past.  The only way we can deal with the past is through the Cross of Calvary and to realize the child of Bethlehem was to become our redeemer, shedding His blood for all the bad things we have done, that we can realize a position that we have been justified by Christ before Almighty God.  This means that I can sleep at night secure in the knowledge that my past is forgiven, my present secured, and my future certain. So no matter what way the wind blows, I am centered in Christ and in Him I am anchored in life and certain in death which leads to eternal life.

Since this is the last Sunday in 2018, I wanted to bring a message that would encourage us as we wrap up one year and prepare to enter another.  My mind was drawn to the words of Paul the apostle in Ephesians 5:15-16. Actually I found myself using these words to critically appraise my actions in the past year and encourage myself through the difficult ones.

In today’s text Paul was calling on the disciples of Jesus Christ in the city of Ephesus to walk in a manner worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1-16), to walk differently from the pagan world about them (verse 17-24), to walk in love (4:25-5:2).  During our Bible studies of the Book of Ephesians, those of us who attended learned that in the first part of Ephesians chapter five, Paul urged them to walk in the light as sons of the light (Ephesians 5:5-14). In the words of our text, he encouraged them to walk with wisdom, seizing every opportunity to render service to God and to others.

Billy Graham told a story about a conversation he had with president John F. Kennedy shortly after his election.  In his autobiography, Just As I Am, Billy explains the impact of a miss opportunity to hear what the president had to say.

According to the book, the president elect Kennedy stop the car and turned to Minister Graham and said, “Do you believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? I most certainly do,” answered minister Graham.” Well, does my church believe it?’ They have it in their creeds.’They don’t preach it,’ he said. They don’t tell us much about it. I’d like to know what you think.’

Minister Graham explained what the Bible said about Christ coming the first time, dying on the Cross, rising from the dead, and then promising that he would come back again. Minister Graham asked the president, “Are we going to have permanent world peace.” The president said, “We’ll have to talk more about that someday.” And he drove on.

Several years later, the two met again, at the 1963 National Prayer Breakfast. At that meeting, minister Graham remembers having the flu. After giving his short talk, and the president gave his, they walked out of the hotel to his car together, as was always our custom. At the curb, the president turned to minister Graham. “Billy, could you ride back to the White House with me? I’d like to see you for a minute. Minister Graham told the  President he had the fever. Not only was he weak, but he didn’t want to give the president the flu. He asked the president, “Couldn’t we talk another time? It was a cold, snowy day, and I was freezing as I stood there without my overcoat,” minister Graham wrote in his book. The president accepted graciously.

But the two would never meet again. Later that year, Kennedy was shot dead. Graham wrote that His hesitation at the car door, and the president’s request, haunt him still. “What was on his mind? Should I have gone with him? It was an irrecoverable moment.” We all have miss opportunities to serve God and humankind in the past that we cannot recover.

 

Paul issued a call to walk in wisdom over against the folly of a pagan world.  Here, wisdom is not an intellectual achievement but it is a mind set in which one seeks to do only those things that are pleasing to God.  We are to snatch up all opportunities that are available for doing God’s will. Paul uses the commercial vocabulary of the marketplace to describe the intense activity that he was encouraging each of them and us to put forth.

Some people watch the stock market with intense interest because they are eager to seize bargains.  They try to buy at the ri9ght time and sell at the right time in order to experience a profit. The apostle Paul was encouraging this type interest, energy, and ingenuity concerning spiritual opportunities for service.  We are to seize an opportunity for service in the same manner that we would seize a bargain in the marketplace. The early Christians outlived, outthought, and outdid their contemporaries. That is what our present generation needs.

This test is a call to a serious acceptance of our stewardship and time.  Not one of us has as much time as we think we have. It is much later than we think.  Our opportunities are rapidly slipping away from us. Each of us has an equal amount of time everyday, and each must make the most of it.

Orville Kelly was the founder of an organization called Make the Day Count.  Kelly founded this organization after discovering he was terminally ill with cancer.  The purpose of the organization was to help those who were fatally ill face the realities of both their disease and their remaining time.  We need to stress the importance of the present and become intensely aware of the value of life and time. This would help us to learn what really matters and what doesn’t.  What matters is how we live our lives. In our text, Paul is urging us to live our lives with wisdom. Why should we live a life of wisdom?

Life is a gift. Verse sixteen gives us the answer as to how we should live our lives.  It calls us to “make most of our time.” To make most of our time is to understand what we do with our lives.  It is talking about the relationships we form, the work we undertake, the good things and the bad things in life, and the joy and the sorrows.  The life that we live is associated with time. The time we live is loan to us by God, so is the life we have. It is a gift given to us by God.

The book of James is a practical gospel. It is down to earth about daily living.  This book relates the teaching of Jesus Christ to the affairs of daily life. In the fourth chapter of this book, James the half brother of Jesus Christ talks about those who are spiritually short sighted: “Come now, you who say, today or tomorrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade and get gain”: whereas you know not what shall be tomorrow.  What is your life? For you are a vapor, that appear for a little time, and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “if the Lord wills, we shall both live, or do this or that” (James 4:13-15).  From an immediate context, one can see that James question is one that emphasizes the brevity of human life to those who look at time instead of eternity.  Life is short.  If this gift of life is short, how seriously should it be viewed? How desperately should it moments be treasured?

We should view it seriously seizing every opportunity to serve God. Moses lived 120 years (Deuteronomy 34:7). He lamented that man’s day “are soon gone and we fly away” (Psalms 90:10).  There is no one among us who has reached the maturity of his life and has not reflected on the times of his youth as if it was but a moment ago? Play around the yard, walking down a dusty road to the fishing hole, the smell of mother’s baking bread-where has time gone?

Perhaps, though, the most haunting of all thoughts is the reality that we’ve let life slip away quickly, having neglected so many grand opportunities for advancing ourselves spiritually and for helping others. Oh, if we could but rescue some of those times.  Let us rescue those times by seizing the opportunity to know God more fully. Let us know, love and serve God this new year. God made and fashioned each person in his own image and after his likeness (Genesis 1:26-27: 9:7). In verse 17 of our passage this morning, Paul says, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” It is important to know the purpose of your life.

When one reflect on the fact that life is a gift from God, one cannot ponder the purpose of his existence.  Church, Isaiah declared that man was fashioned to glorified his maker (Isaiah 43:7). Why do we live as if God has no claim on us?  On the contrary, Solomon, in the weaning days of his life explored the purpose of his existence. In retrospect, Solomon surveyed the folly of his youth in search for happiness.  All the solution he sought prove to be fruitless. Solomon concluded that the purpose of life is to reverence God, and submit to his command (Ecclesiastes 12:13). There is no way we can find contentment.

As we entered the new year, let us seize our opportunities by treasuring the gift of life.  Let us seize the opportunity of using our life to extol God. Read your Bible, find time to spend with God through prayers and devotions.  Serve God by serving your church and humankind. In such a pursuit, we will find that which is blessed both in time and eternity. I wish you a happy New Year, and God bless you!