Have you ever found yourself in situation like one of these?
Your phone rings at an odd hour. No name shows up, only the number, and you don't recognize it, but you know it's a local number. It could be someone you know. Do you answer?
The place you work for isn’t immune from the stressed economy and you learn you’re losing your job. You have an offer on the table from a different employer for a full-time job in your local area, so you wouldn’t have to relocate. However, the work is something entirely new to you. You would have to train from the ground up and the position (the entire company, really) is not in your field of expertise. Do you take the job?
Your church is looking for volunteers in a few different areas. You’ve been kind of hanging back when it comes to getting involved, but you keep telling yourself that when the opportunity arises, you’ll jump in. Now they’re looking for people to teach Sunday school, help with youth group and organize an event. You have skills and gifts in at least one of those areas. Do you offer to serve?
Chances are if you’ve never found yourself in a situation like one above, you have experienced a new opportunity in another way in your life. All of the situations I described are ones I’ve personally dealt with – and not always very well. While I did take the job and have offered to serve, I admit I haven’t always answered the phone. Why are these things such a big deal?
Maybe to you these specific situations aren’t a big deal. But the opportunities God does place in your life are a big deal. Of course, not all opportunities are good or the best thing for us. We need to have discernment and some trusted people in our lives to help us make those decisions. And the actual opportunity itself may not be the important thing – God may be teaching us something about ourselves and our relationship with Him.
When a new opportunity arises, how we respond speaks volumes about where we are with God.
My knee-jerk reaction when something new comes up in my life is to mentally list all the reasons why I can’t or shouldn’t do the new thing. When my current job came up my mind was stuck on the fact that that line of work was not what I went to school for and I knew nothing about the industry. Thankfully, my husband encouraged me to take the job. I’m learning a lot of new things and meeting some great people because of it.
When my church was looking for Sunday school teachers and a person to head up one of our annual events, I waited. I reasoned that someone else would step up. It takes me about an hour to drive to church, so I told myself I live too far away to volunteer. I didn’t want to take a chance away from someone else who wanted to do it (yes, I really thought that). When it turned out no one else came forward to head the event, I asked about it and ended up doing it, with a ton of help from other people in the church. I didn’t have to do it alone and that made a difference.
So why can’t I answer the phone? I’m not a phone person. I’ll drive to your house to talk to you in person without a second thought, but I have to psych myself up to make a phone call. I don’t know why getting phone calls makes me so nervous, even when I know who’s calling. In those few seconds that the phone is singing to me and I’m staring down the name on the caller I.D. so many thoughts fill my mind – What do they want to talk to me about? What if they need something I can’t help them with? What if they’re upset with me for some reason? What did I do to offend them? Did I forget to do something I promised them I’d do? – Yeah. This is real for me. And it keeps me from picking up sometimes, even though the vast majority of those calls turn out to be very positive.
How does my “can’t do” reaction reveal my relationship with God? When my initial response is essentially fear, a lack of confidence, and a bunch of excuses, God and His promises are the farthest thing from my mind. My weaknesses scream at me and keep me from hearing God whispering for me to trust Him and take the leap into this new thing.
My doubts in myself really reveal my doubt that God will take care of me or has purpose for me.
My fear of failure reveals my lack of trust in my unfailing God.
My laundry list of excuses reveal my misplaced priorities and what I put ahead of Jesus in my life.
And right there - in the middle of our self-doubt, fears, failures and excuses - is where God finds us. He comes to us and changes our hearts, adjusts our attitudes, and gives us the confidence we need to step forward in faith when the opportunity arises. His forgiveness gives us a new start at a better, more complete relationship with Him. His love overflows to us in ways we never imagined it could and that makes our hearts overflow in thankfulness to Him and love toward others.
And suddenly, we're thanks-living in new opportunities!
When we decide to answer the phone on the chance the person on the other side needs to hear a friendly voice leading them to Jesus - we're living a chance to share the Gospel.
When we give due diligence to the fresh start in front of us, seek help from those wiser, and take the leap of faith - we're living a chance to show others what trusting God can look like.
When we recognize the talents and skills God has given us and put them to use serving others in or outside our church - we're living a chance to be a little bit of Jesus in someone else's life.
None of this thanks-living is easy or possible on our own. With God's Spirit living in us, making us more like Him every day, thanks-living gets a little easier. With Jesus' presence with us, forgiveness covering us and grace surrounding us, we can face each new opportunity with an attitude of thanks-living.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
Do all things without grumbling or disputing,that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst ofa crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world... Philippians 2:14-15