On Opportunities

When Ordell announced he accepted a new job in Virginia and we’d be leaving our home of ten years in southern Illinois not everyone was pleased with our decision to move. One person explained that we were not following God’s will because our house, which we had yet to list for sale, hadn’t sold. Moving without our house selling was proof God was telling us we should stay. Others told us we were selfish to move because it was in their best interest for us to stay put. Some expressed their displeasure by refusing to speak to us.

Others were delighted with our announcement. They expressed their joy by using the opportunity to publically express their true beliefs about minorities. Over the following months and years, I discovered we’d hosted people in our home who, generally choose demeaning language when speaking to minorities; people who look like my husband and children. These are the same people we studied the Bible and prayed with and sat beside in church. Knowing the true thoughts of people who once shared dinner at our table for the first time was startling. Even though we were now hundreds of miles away I found myself fighting a range of emotions including fear.

Very few considered that Ordell and I prayed about the opportunity God was placing in front of us or that our conversations with God might have led us to understand that our decision was an act of obedience. While many had opinions about our decision which they openly shared, it was rare we had the chance to share about the intentional, prayerful conversations that led up to this step of faith in our lives. When I had the chance to sit with someone and share the specific prayers we had spent the previous ten, five, and three years praying it would then become clear to the person listening that our decision was anything but impulsive and that we were fully aware that every step we were taking was a blind step of faith in partnership with God. 

When someone chose to pause, listen, hear our hearts, and believe our words they could see God’s hand in our journey the same way we could.

Luke 6:45 says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Change is difficult for many people to embrace. The lesson the experience moving to Virginia confirmed for me is that we should never shy away from an opportunity God is asking us to embrace because we’re concerned about letting someone else down. The truth is, some of the people I was heartbroken to leave behind began to express the good and evil stored in their hearts publically and the more that bubbled to the surface the clearer the reality of our previous surroundings became. People will often choose their personal preferences and comfort over what God says is best. This doesn’t mean you need to settle for a lesser opportunity.

Don’t Settle for Lesser Opportunities

Joshua and Caleb along with 10 other Israelites were sent into Caanan ahead of everyone else. Numbers 13:2 says, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.’”

Numbers 13:17-25 says:

When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country.  See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many.  What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified?  How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)

So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.)  When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.

Moses gave the leaders of the tribe specific things to look for as they observed the land God had promised to his chosen people. The spies were obedient. They only observed God was telling the truth and brought back visual proof for everyone to see. Numbers 13:27 says “They gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.'”

Even though the spies saw exactly God told the truth they were also filled with fear. Numbers 13:28-33 says:

But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.

Click here for more information on the ACCURATE application of Nephilim

The Israelites were scared. They were still learning about the One True God and they were still learning to trust Moses. Similarly to every other human on the face of the earth they wrestled with the illusion of control versus surrender and obedience. In Numbers 14:5-12 the tribe leaders gather to decide if they should move forward and take the land God promised to them.

Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?  I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”

DID YOU CATCH THAT? They were sitting around talking and God appeared in the tent and started talking to Moses!! I don’t know about you, but since none of the other gods had spoken back to the Israelites up until this point I think this would have been enough for me to join Caleb and Joshua and saying we don’t need to settle here!!!

Unfortunately, the tribes fear and unwillingness to trust God caused them to wander in the desert for an additional forty years.

It’s Not a Promise of an Easy Life

Even when you know God is with you as you take a new leap of faith it doesn’t make things easy. Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem when she was pregnant at their own expense and when they arrived they had to sleep in a stable. After Jesus’ birth, Herod ordered the death of all males born. An angel woke Joseph up and sent them hustling to Egypt to wait for Herod’s death. (Matthew 1-2)

Rather than waiting around in Egypt, wallowing in self-pity, I believe Joseph began to earn a living and provide for his family. As a new husband and father, he had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. The angel told them to go to Egypt but didn’t say how long they would be there. They needed food and shelter and Egypt was an opportunity for this young couple to establish themselves away from the gossip that could have come from those who didn’t understand Joseph’s willingness to believe Mary’s story of an immaculate conception. It’s logical to expect that Joseph stepped up and provided for this family. Eventually, Herod died and the angel returned and told Joseph it was safe to return. Matthew 2:19-23 says:

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt  and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Every time Mary and Joseph said yes to God they were fulfilling a prophecy. Matthew notes prophecies from Micah, Isaiah, Hosea, and Jeremiah within the first two chapters of his gospel. As Mary and Josephy faithfully followed the instructions from God’s messengers their faith was strengthened each time they saw a promise fulfilled.

It’s our choice as to whether we settle or seize an opportunity God places in front of us. Further, we must take care to make sure our words and actions match. This is a lesson the Israelites learned the hard way. It cost them 40 additional years in the desert. We may not realize the impact of lack of faith as immediately as the Israelites, however that doesn’t ensure we won’t be seen hypocrites James 1:2-8 says:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

  • If you lack wisdom you should ASK God (action on your part) who GIVES generously (action on God’s part)
  • But WHEN you ASK (action on your part) you must believe (choice on your part)

So here’s my encouragement to you. Take the courageous next step. It’s worth it when you partner with God. When it comes to opportunities, don’t settle. It doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else. It’s between you and God.

What if the only thing holding you back from pursuing your calling is your unwillingness to step outside your comfort zone into the unknown?

This post was originally published on April 7, 2017 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy in August 2020.