OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew


            Webster defines “opportunity” as a “fit or convenient time; a time favorable for the purpose.”  Sometimes opportunities present themselves often.  At other times, opportunities only come once in a lifetime.  Because we never know if an opportunity will come again, it is essential to take advantage of each opportunity presented.  This is especially true with regard to the preaching of the gospel.

            In the book of Acts, we see courageous man of God taking advantage of their opportunities to convict men of sin and bring them to Jesus Christ.  One the day of Pentecost, Peter and the other apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:1-4).  Being able to speak in foreign languages aroused the interest of the Jews gathered in the Holy City for the festival day.  Peter’s sermon is recorded for us.  In this sermon, he takes advantage of the opportunity he had to speak forth the truth.  Let’s listen to some of his words:  “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:  him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:  whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death:  because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:22-24).  Peter’s boldness is manifested in the three subjects he set before his Jewish audience:  Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Christ.  The Jews did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  They had called for His death by crucifixion.  They also refused to believe that he was raised from the dead.  Peter took advantage of this opportunity by naming Jesus as his topic, by convicting these Jews of being the murderers of the Christ, and by affirming the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  These words were not pleasant to the hearers.  They did not necessarily create goodwill.  Yet, this is what the audience needed to hear.  Peter did not neglect this opportunity to preach the gospel of Christ.

            Another who took advantage of the opportunity to preach to the needs of his audience was Stephen.  In Acts 6:12, Stephen is arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin court, the supreme court of the Jews.  After hearing the charges of the false witnesses, the high priest asks Stephen:  “’Are these things so?”  Here was Stephen’s opportunity.  Stephen’s reply was well accepted until he neared the conclusion of his speech.  This is what he said:  “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost:  as your father’s did, so do ye.  Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?  And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:  who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:51-53).  These are strong words.  They were intended to cut to the hearts of the listeners.  Because of his words, the Jews stoned Stephen to death.  He never had another opportunity to preach to these Jews again.  Some would fault Stephen for this.  They would chastise him for an inappropriate approach.  The truth is that he took advantage of his opportunity.  He preached to the needs of his audience.  At his death, the Lord stood at the right hand of the throne of God to observe the demise of His faithful servant (Acts 7:55-56).  Does anyone think Jesus faulted His noble spokesman in any way?

            A third example of one who took advantage of his opportunity is Paul.  In Acts 17, Paul is alone in the Greek city of Athens.  Here’s how Paul’s famous sermon on Mars’ hill originated.  “Now while Paul waited for them in Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.  Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him” (Acts 17:16-17).  Paul’s words about Jesus and the resurrection caught the attention of the philosophers.  They invited him to speak on Mars hill.  What does one say go a group of idol worshippers?  What should be the subject of a preacher’s lesson who may only have one opportunity to speak to those who bowed to false gods?  “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.  For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.  Whom ye therefore ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:22-23).  Paul taught the Athenians about the one true, living God.  Can anyone believe it?  He struck at the very heart of the error these individuals believed in and practiced.  Wouldn’t they be offended?  Wouldn’t they turn from him?  Wouldn’t they refuse to hear him again?  These things were not the point.  Paul took advantage of his opportunity to preach the truth to them.  Those Athenians who heard him will stand before God having heard what they needed to hear.

            These examples are of extreme importance to every preacher and teacher of the gospel.  A faithful child of God will follow these examples.  He will speak to the needs of his audience.  He will convict men of sin.  He will seek to bring men to repentance.  He will lead men to a relationship with the resurrected Christ.  Anything less than this is to fail as a steward of God.  An individual may teach the truth, but if the audience is left unaware of their sin and what God requires of them to be right with Him, the teacher has failed.  He has not taken advantage of his opportunity.  Let all preachers and teachers of the gospel beware!!!