Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Sunday School Lesson: Taking Advantage of Opportunities

A few weeks ago I was tasked with preparing and delivering the Sunday School lesson for our Men's class (the regular teacher was on vacation, and his fill-in got called into work, so I was the substitute fill-in teacher for the day). This was the week of the "great ice storm of the SouthEast" (which pretty much destroyed Birmingham and Atlanta, due to the realization of the weather that was supposed to have reached further south, but left us some icy precipitation, and icy streets, in the deep south as well). What did I do? I based the SS lesson off the kids' activities during the snowstorm, and here's (more or less) how it went:

“Opportunity” - what is that? It’s what we make of it. We had ice falling from the sky, and we live on a hill, and the boys had a couple of old skateboard decks without trucks & wheels on it, and a box. So, what did they do? They took a situation that was unlikely (ice in south Alabama), the tools they had on hand, and they made the most of it - in this case, “sledding,” south Alabama style! And enjoyable time, and something they don’t get to do very often.

Why does it matter? It doesn’t, really. Shortly after that first video, they were doing this:

Ecclesiastes 3:1 - “There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:”

Seems like a good fit. But there’s more:

Ecclesiastes 3:11-14 - “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.”

Later that evening the boys were out playing on the driveway again, and our neighbor diagonal across the street came out and asked them what they were doing. “Sliding on the ice on our skateboards,” they replied. The neighbor went back inside… and came out a short while later all bundled up, with her kids, and boogie boards, and they, too, started sliding down a nearby hill (at 1:30 or so in the “boys, ice, hill” video). Our boys went and played with them while they were out (Ninfa and I stayed inside, where the warm was!).

What’s so special about that? Well, our neighbor is a lady who lost her husband a little over three years ago, and has three young children. She doesn’t get out much, mostly staying inside, and she doesn’t attend church. The boys, in this little episode of “playing,” opened a channel of communication with our neighbor, a lady who mostly keeps to herself (with the exception of the lady next door to her). She’s pleasant on the few time I or my wife have actually been able to converse with her, but pleasant doesn’t save you.

(Aside: that’s another topic: “will a good man go to heaven?” The answer, “It depends” - the question is exactly the same as “will a man go to heaven?” because “good” doesn’t save you, and it’s not “good” that gets you into heaven.)

So, this “opportunity” - for fun - turned into another potential tool in the arsenal of spreading the gospel. Did the boys actually witness to our neighbor or her family the other night? No. But that circumstance, event, whatever may lead to another opportunity, such as inviting the kids to an AWANA event or another children’s event like VBS. I did not take advantage of the opportunity to engage our neighbor in communication that night. Whether that is a lost opportunity or whether exactly the correct sequence of events played out, I don’t know.

But things like this, even little things that you may not even consider an a “heavenly opportunity,” when they come along, we should take advantage of them. Who knows the next time the kids will have an opportunity to go “sledding” (even if it’s sliding down an ice-covered hill/driveway on skateboards without wheels), especially while they’re still young and “invincible.”

Paul, in his letter to the church at Colossae, said this: (Colossians 4:2-6) “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

That seems appropriate, and is good advice - “make the most of every opportunity.” In the context, he’s talking about making the most of opportunities in the way we act toward outsiders, to the non-believers. But you never know when the opportunities you take will provide the opportunity to share the gospel, or even just encouragement and joy, with someone who is in need of the gospel. And that, sharing the encouragement and joy, can open doors for sharing the gospel that otherwise you’d have missed.

Even Jesus did that; Luke 19:1-10 tells the story of Jesus passing through Jericho, when he saw Zaccheus. Jesus was just “passing through” - but took the time out of his journey to stop and visit with Zack, and through that visit, brought the gospel - and its salvation - to the formerly lost and sinful man. Or consider in John 4, where Jesus is passing through Samaria, and he’s tired, so he stopped to rest at the well. That stopping to rest was an appointment to minister to the Samaritan woman. He summed it up in Matthew 25:40, where he says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Some need food, some need shelter, some need clothing... some need fun. All need the gospel.

So… take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. (Sometimes, you never know what true opportunities may come from even the "little things"!)


Lydia said...

That sounds like a lot of fun! =) Thanks for Sharing!

Mom said...

You make a mom so proud, Tony, through your actions, words, and loving concern for your own kids. God has truly blessed your dad and me with you three sons, your wives, and your children.

Tony M said...

Thanks, mom!