Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. … Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. [James 4:13-14,17 (NLT)]
Last week, I missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—the longest lunar eclipse to occur in a span of 1,000 years. The last time a lengthy lunar eclipse happened was in 1440 and the next one won’t occur until 2669! Although I woke in the middle of the night and remembered the eclipse, I let the threat of clouds, the inconvenience of going outside in the middle of the night, and the lure of sleep deter me. Instead of seizing the opportunity, I rolled over and went back to sleep. Although it will be much shorter, I can always see another lunar eclipse next year. Then again, there’s no guarantee that the sky will be clear that night or that I’ll be awake (or even alive) between midnight and 3:00 AM on May 22! A missed opportunity is missed forever!
When pondering once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, I think of the time Jesus passed through Jericho on His way to Jerusalem. A blind man named Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that Jesus was passing by, he called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Annoyed by his cries, the crowd following Jesus yelled at him to be quiet. Perhaps, like many of their time, they considered illness and disability God’s punishment for one’s sins and didn’t think the blind man deserved Jesus’ attention. In any case, Bartimaeus was not to be deterred. Taking the opportunity before him, he called out so loudly and persistently that Jesus heard the blind man’s voice, called to him, and restored the man’s sight.
As Jesus walked through Jericho, a wealthy tax collector named Zacchaeus wanted to catch a glimpse of the famous rabbi. A little man, Zacchaeus was too short to see over people’s heads and couldn’t push his way to the front of the crowd. As the chief tax-collector, he probably was the most hated man in Jericho and no one was about to make way for the man. In fact, Zacchaeus probably was shoved around by the crowd and may have encountered a few deliberate pokes in his ribs. Like Bartimaeus, however, the publican was not about to be deterred. He ran ahead (a very undignified thing for a government official) and climbed up a sycamore tree to get a view of Jesus as He passed. Seeing his determination, Jesus called him down and invited himself to the tax man’s house.
That day, Jesus restored the sight of Bartimaeus and brought salvation to the home of Zacchaeus but what if those two men had allowed the opportunity to know Jesus slip past them? Like most, they thought Jesus was going to Jerusalem for Passover and would be passing back through town again. Thinking they’d catch Jesus next time He came through town, they easily could have allowed the crowd to deter them. Jesus, however, was on His way to the cross and that one day in Jericho was their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Regretfully, I’ve missed far more important opportunities than seeing a six-hour lunar eclipse—opportunities to be kind, helpful, compassionate, and generous. I’ve allowed myself to be deterred from opportunities to witness, defend, advocate, assist, and support. Like Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus, we don’t know if today is the last day a particular opportunity will arise nor do we know what tomorrow will bring. Today, let us take advantage of all the God-given opportunities it offers.
If today were your last, would you do what you’re doing? Or would you love more, give more, forgive more? Then do so! Forgive and give as if it were your last opportunity. Love like there’s no tomorrow, and if tomorrow comes, love again. [Max Lucado]