Every opportunity you receive is double-edged. It is an opportunity for gain or loss, to achieve breakthrough or be overcome, to succeed or fail. If you respond to the opportunity properly it becomes an open door to better things. If you respond poorly it becomes the iron door of a prison cell that traps you.
So, you need to see your challenges in a fresh way, and take care not to respond in a way that will enslave you or limit you for the future. One way to address your challenges and see them in a new light is to ‘personify’ them.
Stop seeing each challenge or problem as an inanimate, isolated entity on its own, but as an assignment sent to create new opportunity for you. To help you retune your thinking as I suggest, read the following situation I have created, to see how your challenges can inform you, “I am your Opportunity”.
The New Man at Church
Imagine a man turning up in a church and introducing himself to the pastor, “I am your Opportunity“. Over the next year the man provides the pastor with many challenges, due to problems created in various ways by this man’s presence in the church. When the pastor talks with the man to work out what is going on the man repeats, “I am your opportunity”.
Confused, the pastor asks the man to explain. The answer goes like this.
“God has great plans for this church and for your future ministry. However, God requires that you and the congregation grow in several key areas. So, the Lord sent me here to provide the opportunity for growth in each of those areas.”
The pastor responds, “But you made nothing but trouble”.
“No,” the man replies, “I have created opportunity. You and the congregation have made the trouble.”
“But you upset the leader of our Bible study group and he quit!”
“I spoke up in the meetings and asked the study leader to explain his theological inconsistency. He claimed to be Biblical, but his values were clearly just a dressed-up version of the local culture. When I challenged him about this he chose to become upset, rather than have a teachable spirit and an open heart. I was his opportunity to move forward, because God needs him to be ready for leadership in a revival that is coming.”
“Then, what about the man who thinks you are stealing his wife?”
“The woman needs much care and healing. Her husband has been neglecting her for years. When I took time to listen to her she became emotionally drawn to me and this has deeply angered her husband. He is stung by his own failure, but, rather than admit his own need, he is directing his anger toward me as a trouble-maker. I have done nothing wrong in action or in heart. I am not stealing the man’s wife. God plans for this couple to move into pastoral ministry, but they must first heal their marriage, and that means the man must humble himself.”
Who is Wrong Here?
“Parents are upset that you are giving wrong advice to their children.”
“Several youth have come to me for advice and I have given them Biblical counsel, including their need to honour their parents. However, several parents do not want their children to find godly wisdom, but simply to help the parents look good according to the local community values. Some youth give me more respect than they do to their parents. This is what is upsetting them.”
The man went on to counsel the pastor. “Pastor, the fact that people are upset at you does not mean you are wrong. People rejected and accused Jesus, Paul, Moses and the apostles. Your congregation are upset by me, just as God planned. They are being given many opportunities, in preparation for some powerful responsibilities and blessings soon to come.”
“If people reject opportunity they make a clear choice to seek something else.”
Are you the trouble maker?
So, friends, consider the troubles you are facing. Who is the trouble maker? You probably think that some other person is the problem or the trouble maker, since their presence has contributed to the upheaval. But that does not make them the trouble maker.
In the church example I have just given you the new man at church was not the cause of the trouble, but the wrong attitudes in the existing congregation with the true trouble makers.
Elijah was accused by King Ahab of being a trouble maker. Elijah had declared there would be no rain until he said so. This caused a severe drought, as God wanted. However, the wicked King Ahab did not humble himself or repent of his idol worship.
When Elijah finally met with King Ahab again Ahab revealed that he saw Elijah as the problem and the trouble maker. A severe drought was clearly a serious problem and that problem had been created at Elijah’s word. So it could be said that Elijah was the source of the problem.
“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, Are you the one who is troubling Israel?” 1Kings 18:17
However, Elijah saw the big picture, from God’s perspective. The localised drought problem was a divine judgement on a nation which had rejected God. So the problem was not caused by Elijah, but by King Ahab and the nation which had fallen into idol worship.
“And Elijah answered, I have not troubled Israel; but you, and your father’s house have done it, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and have followed Baalim.” 1Kings 18:18
Identify the Real Problem
Issues will arise in your family, marriage, career, community and so on, and those issues may be created by you. Yet, like King Ahab, you may point the finger at someone else and say that they are the problem.
Consider what the real problem is in these following simple examples of upset people. What needs to change inside these people so they can experience the same situation but not be upset?
“He makes me so upset. He comes in and shows off his wealth and I feel so humiliated!”
“I tried three times to give my opinion, but everyone was talking too much to listen.”
“The others all have the money for the mission trip, but I’m only half way there!”
“They are going to lay off half the staff and I’m desperately anxious about losing my job!”
“How did that guy get such a beautiful wife? My wife never looked that good.”
“My kids think he is the fount of wisdom, and they never take me seriously.”
Every situation you face is an opportunity knocking at the door of your heart. You can respond in a way that opens up greater growth and Christlike-ness, or you can respond in a way that makes you a slave to destructive things.
Consider the following examples …
A man and woman meet at a conference and both notice how attracted they are to each other. This is their opportunity to affirm their godly character and stand by their marriage vows, or to elevate their fleshly desires over their commitments, marriage, family and future.
A person becomes sick and receives prayer. They are challenged to trust their problem to God. The problem is then their opportunity to develop faith and endurance, or to pander to their fears.
Someone ends up cleaning up the mess from a group gathering, while the others go off to do something interesting. This is an opportunity to build the servant spirit and to bless others by attending to the menial task, or to become resentful, rejected and poisoned in spirit.
We are told in the Bible that negative things are our opportunities. We are to respond positively, since these things lead to the growth and development we need in our lives.
“… we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope” Romans 5:3,4
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2-4
Meet Your Opportunities
Take a moment to list the areas where you feel challenged at present, through your home, work, family, friendships, finances, health and associates. Think of the people, circumstances and internal challenges which are putting pressure on you at this time. As you reflect on each one, imagine they are speaking to you with the following challenge…
“I am your opportunity to respond with humility, faith, grace, wisdom, godly character, freedom, fruit of the Spirit, ministry anointing, consistency, patience, endurance, hope, love, contentment, praise and thankfulness, peace and the expression of Christ formed within you.
Alternatively I am your opportunity to respond with pride, fear, selfishness, hardness, foolishness, vengeance, irresponsibility, slavery, fleshly reactions, human manipulations, madness, exasperation, faithlessness, abandonment of responsibility, covetousness, resentment, bitterness toward God, agitation and the character of the old sinful nature.”
Now, make your decision about how you are going to respond.