It could be that one of the saddest things in life is lost opportunities. Look back on your life and I am sure you will have "book marked" these moments and you may even revisit them from time to time. Perhaps you play the "what if" game, imagining a different outcome if you had only taken advantage of that missed opportunity. Be careful, such games can lead to growing regrets and regrets are hard to let go. Some of these lost opportunities may only be small, insignificant, easily forgotten events. However, there are some, when we remember them, that want to rip the heart out of us as we realize the significance of what we have lost.
If this is true for things in this world, imagine the regret we will have when it comes to eternal matters. Unfortunately most of us are "here and now" people, dealing with situations that effect us today, putting off tomorrow's situations. We are more into damage control then we are into prevention. It means we often do not realize the significance of our decisions and their outcomes until they are already on top of us. Spiritually this will mean absolute disaster for us when we miss the opportunities our Lord provides us with. It will have an impact for all of eternity.
Matthew records a moment when Jesus denounced the cities in which he had performed miracles. The people in their stubbornness refused to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand the opportunity they had to repent and turn to God. In denouncing these cities he was accusing them of this missed opportunity as well as letting them know what lay before them:
"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you." (Matthew 11:21-24)
Sometimes I think that we who have accepted Jesus' gift of free salvation forget the urgency of the matter. Are we more concerned about increasing our numbers to make our churches financially viable? If we are not that crass, could we then say that increased numbers is a measure of success? Or is it just a matter of getting to a place where we are comfortable and happy with our church? Are we forgetting that people missing the opportunity will mean that the eternal consequences will be severe? It's not about numbers but about eternal salvation. How convincing are we in presenting Jesus? I realize that we are not responsible for getting a person saved, that is the work of the Spirit, but we are responsible for telling others about Jesus. Are we convinced about the importance of this; that there is nothing of greater importance in all of life?
We know not everyone will believe. They did not believe Jesus with all the miracles he did and seeing him face to face. They did not believe the disciples after the resurrection, when they were filled by the anointing of the Spirit. But this did not mean Jesus gave up and take note that the disciples pressed on until their lives were taken from them. The disciples worked with earnest urgency, believing that any day could be the last opportunity. We certainly can't claim that we have this same sense of urgency, but we should. What Jesus does through our words and actions may be the only opportunity some people get. Are we working to represent him with that thought in mind? Are we giving our very best?
At the end of the day the decision people make belong to them. Jesus did not wonder if he could have done better because he knew he gave his best. He did not own any regret for the decisions or lack thereof of the people in those cities. He may have mourned their loss but it still comes down to the decision of the individual. You can't force them if they choose to deny the Spirit and that is what they are doing because when you share about Jesus there is anointing in your words that penetrate the heart. It is at that moment that the person makes the decision to open their heart or to close it to the Spirit. Perhaps there will be other opportunities or perhaps this is their last. If it is their last it is the most tragic lost opportunity they will ever regret.
Keep this in mind as you move through your day today. Be sensitive to the Spirit and the people around you. Be willing to be used and to present Christ to the best of your ability. Allow the anointed words of the Holy Spirit to flow out of you and into the heart of the listener. Pray that they will receive and be transformed for eternity. Remember the consequences if they miss the opportunity that will be presented through you.
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. (Colossians 4:5)