Responding to Lost Opportunity
There I sat, watching opportunity walk away from me, with a thousand regrets of "I should have said this instead" or "What if I would have fought harder for that chance, surely that would have made a difference."
There I sat, watching opportunity walk away from me, with a thousand regrets of "I should have said this instead" or "What if I would have fought harder for that chance, surely that would have made a difference." There is a fine line between contentment with where God has placed you and satisfaction with where you currently are and I wanted to make sure that I was on the correct side of it. So, when I was passed over for an opportunity that ultimately went to another minister in our Church I wanted to be sure that my motives for desiring it was more selfish ambition. Deeper than that, I wanted to explore what inside of me would keep me from being joyful that my fellow laborer in Christ had an opportunity to minister to God's people (even if it was "another opportunity among several opportunities" ).
One lesson that I have begun to learn and am putting into routine practice is that it is always a good idea to ask yourself the question of "Why?" , "Why do I feel this way?", "Why am I responding negatively or positively to this specific situation?", "Why did I take this so hard?", etc. (I am a firm believer that every Christian leader should strive to be an expert in studying God, His Word, and themselves). As I asked myself several "why" questions similar to the ones listed above, 3 thoughts provided clarity for me and allowed me to have a more Gospel-centered response to what I had initially perceived as being “slighted.”
I have heard it said, "If you want to move a Christian minister's focus from what God is doing in the Church, have him obsess on what he is doing in the Church and his performance doing it. This sounds like something out of "Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis, because it is exactly what a "Screwtape" would advise to a "Wormwood" if attempting to slow down the spiritual development of the "Patient."
One bit of counsel that has always served me well in various scenarios is to "keep first things first." If God's Kingdom is first and only, then surely mine should not even be considered. If James 4 teaches us anything, it is that God is predisposed to those who are humble before and actively seek His glory above and to the sacrifice of their own. One of my lifelong passions has been basketball (both playing and watching) and to put it in those terms - sometimes in ministry, you have to decide whether you are happier scoring a highlight-filled 40 points while the team loses or if you would be ok scoring an efficient 10 points in a blowout win. Just as Chauncey Billups recently commented regarding Carmelo Anthony, "scoring 30 was just too important to him." Was scoring 30 in ministry too important to me? Can I take on another role with this team if it meant that the team would be more successful? (verses to consider - James 4:6 & Philippians 2:3-4)
Life and opportunity do not have to be a zero-sum game. For someone else to win, does not mean that you have to lose. God has promised a harvest of abundance and not scarcity. Even in a "crowded" room, he assures us that our gifts will make room for us. After all, He did say that the harvest was plentiful but the laborers are few - there is sufficient room for us all and always will be. Beyond this, just because people are happy for someone else does not mean that they are unhappy with you. Just because people are proud of someone else does not mean that they are disappointed with you. Also, life is much better by comparison when you actively seek ways to be happy for other people. Ironically, I am learning that as I seek to create more opportunities for others; others seek to create and find opportunities for me. Please carefully consider, even if that last sentence were not true, would that be ok?
(verses to consider - Proverbs 18:16, Luke 10:2, Luke 6:38)
There are times where even if we are on the same page with God on the "What", we may not be seeing eye to eye on the "When." If you find that to be the case, just always default to God's "when,"it will inevitably be the correct choice. His timing may be different from our timing but his perspective is always more complete than ours. As a God of omnipresence that is not bound by trivial things such as space and time, He is with you both "now" in your dejected confusion and frustration as well as "then" in the triumphant realization of the purpose that He has planted inside of you.
In the end, it is a matter of trust. Can you trust that the God that saw man fall in Genesis will see it through to the ultimate redemption given in Revelation? In other words, do you trust that the God who is there in your beginning is also there at the end and all points in between? (verses to consider - Ephesians 3:20, Philippians 1:6, Isaiah 46:10)
I write this with the sincere hope that it might be an encouragement to those that have found themselves in a place of waiting or being overlooked. Even in my own life, I have seen that is a shift in perspective that has been most needed as it has always been more about God's complete protection of me from opportunities that were not meant for me. What He designed for me was abundantly better than what I could have asked or thought of - a promise that I would have been able to enjoy to the fullest had I just assumed the good from those that He placed in my life to lead me during this season.
Lastly, in no way am I advocating that we all refuse to desire opportunity and even pursue it healthily; I would just argue on the side of trusting God with your opportunities as He opens doors that no man could open for you nor close on you.