Two illustrations of opportunities missed is sufficient to demonstrate the issues associated with thus. One a recent local situation and the other, an international one from a few years ago with long term ramifications.
The first, a local situation. This is an extract from the current ACC Catalyst magazine (Uniting Church Confessing Congregations) from an article by Monica Doumit titled “Protection of Religious Freedoms”. Monica sites:
“Last year, friends of mine who organise an event called Theology on Tap were told they could not make a booking for a space in a pub in Surry Hills because of the nature of the event, and there was absolutely no recourse for them at law. If the same pub refused service to an LGBTI group, they could – and would – be sued.”
What if the Christian group got activated – picketed the pub, made a loud noise, called the media, held a press conference, shouted long and noisily. An opportunity missed. It could be said, leaving with their tails between their legs is like another nail in Australian Christianity’s own coffin.
An international illustration. Some years ago Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was reported as saying that he regrets the lost opportunity to have a separate Palestinian State, that could have resulted if the 1947 United Nations plan to partition Palestine had proceeded. (www.smh.com.au)
This was a brave comment because the disastrous consequences for the Palestinians are still being felt today. The Palestinian and Arab refusal to accept a UN plan to partition the then British-controlled mandate of Palestine sparked widespread fighting then Arab military intervention after Israel declared independence the following year.
The Arabs lost the war. 'It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole,' Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Channel 2 TV on Friday (28 October 2011), in a rare interview to the Israeli media. 'But do they [the Israelis] punish us for this mistake 64 years?'
Such missed opportunities are nothing new. The examples of people who have regretted decisions they made, the effects of which lasted their entire lifetime and even further to the following generation, are legion.
It is not 'always' like the beautiful sunset endings in the movies. How do we choose wisely? What criteria do we use to evaluate, to discern the best course of action? Clearly, gathering information and carefully analysing our options is essential. Beyond that, we need wisdom and clarity of thought in order to make prudent decisions based upon the facts at hand and our understanding of God's will.
Kenneth Boa writing on decision-making comments:
"The only basis for really good decisions is correct thinking. This kind of wisdom comes from above and is given to us through four primary avenues God's Word, God's Spirit, God's Providence and God's people. In other words, to ensure good decision-making habits, we must be people whose minds are consistently being renewed by God's Word.
“We must also be people who walk in step with the Spirit of God, paying attention to his promptings and leadings. We must watch carefully and understand how God works providentially in our circumstances. And we must live in community with other faithful believers." (bible.org/seriespage/decision-making)
Nehemiah chapter 1 verses 1-11, he suggests, provides one of our best patterns for doing it right and gives a case study. Nehemiah was faced with a huge challenge. The walls of Jerusalem were in disrepair, and the returned exiles were vulnerable and disheartened. When Nehemiah got this news, we see his four-step process to approach the problem.
First, he carefully studied the situation (vv. 2-3). Second, he empathised with those who were hurting (v. 4). Third, he humbled himself before God (v. 4). Fourth, he prayed (vv. 5-11). And what a prayer! Nehemiah adored God (v. 5), confessed his nation's sin to the Lord (vv. 6-7) and finally petitioned God for help (vv. 8-11).
Things happen in life. We face a crossroad in life and everyone of us makes decisions, and sadly, some of them engulf missed opportunities. They range from matters of the heart to choosing one career over another, selecting one candidate for a job rather than others going for that position, choosing one holiday destination over against another resort, choosing one house over another, and the list goes on.
When it goes wrong, it seems to go horribly wrong and one simply rues one's error or mistaken judgement at the time.
This is precisely the reason, why in Christian evangelism, the sentiment is pushed and pushed, that today is the day of Salvation, and not to put it off, it could be the worst mistake of your life to lose such an opportunity.
There are numerous stories of evangelists giving such clarion calls to Salvation where the Holy Spirit tugged at someone's heart, but they rejected the invitation to repent, and fall at the Cross and become a follower of Jesus.
I recount numbers of stories over my 42 years of ministry where I heard how a young person rejected Jesus - but found themselves losing their lives not that long after through a car accident or other such calamity and being called to account as to their decisions.
Missed opportunities are the rue of the evangelist broken heart where they know in their inner spirit, when a young person is challenged to follow Jesus.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html