Published July 22, 2014

Paul's Epistle...

This week, a guest column. It's a convicting story. But I hope it serves as a very pointed reminder – to you and to me, too – that we shouldn't pass up any opportunity God provides (and He does) to share our faith with others.

- Paul
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Missed Opportunities
By John Avant

If there is any sadness in heaven, it may be when we realize how many opportunities we missed to share the good news of the One who brought us there.

I think every one of us would be stunned if we just saw all the opportunities to impact eternity that are placed in front of us on any one day. We usually don't know when we miss opportunities to share the love of Jesus with someone, but occasionally God may let us discover what we missed so that we won't miss it the next time.

I had an experience like that last year. My wife and I were going fishing one day. We never go fishing together, but I was taking a day off and the weather was beautiful, and we just decided to go on the spur of the moment. I was really excited. I needed a break and I love to fish. As we were walking to our car, my wife slipped on an oil spot in the garage — one that I was supposed to have cleaned up — and fell and injured herself. So instead of heading to the lake, we were heading to the emergency room.

Of course, the emergency room was packed that day and we ended up waiting in a hallway for hours. I just sat there and fumed. I was supposed to be at the lake. I was tired and mad. Now, there were a lot of other people in similar and worse predicaments. The hall was crowded with patients waiting for treatment. Some people were crying. Some were alone. There actually couldn't have been a better time to minister to people and witness. But I was so disgusted I just sat there and played a game on my Blackberry.

During the long wait, a woman was wheeled in and parked right beside me on a rolling gurney. She was very upset and banged up. She called someone on her cell phone and began to tell them about her car wreck. She had flipped over and been trapped in her car. She said several times, using expletives as she spoke, "I almost died! I can't believe it. Some nice teenagers talked to me until the ambulance got there. One of them even prayed for me."

Well, you would think that this witnessing opportunity would be a no-brainer. She hung up and sat there crying. All I had to do was talk to her. I had all the time I needed to get to know her and ask her what would have happened if she had died. But I sat there in my lousy mood and played my game.

Finally, my wife was released and I went home to put her in bed. When we arrived, two of my children had quite a story to tell me. "Dad, we were driving down the road and this lady flipped over in her car right in front of us!" "Uh-oh," I thought. I could see what was coming. "We were the first ones there and she was unconscious. Then she came to and we calmed her down and prayed with her." I couldn't believe it. God had put together a miraculous set of circumstances, dropped it all right in my lap, and I had completely blown it.

I am afraid that things like this happen to us all the time. We just usually don't see what we missed. I hope someone will take the opportunity I missed to share with that hurting woman. Maybe you know her. Maybe you won't be too angry or too busy or be playing too many games to get to know her, love her and share Jesus with her.

It still hurts that I didn't follow Jesus that day. But here's the good news. He's at work today, too! He loves lost people more than I do. And if I will watch and be ready, He will give me a new chance — today and every day — to help change someone's eternity. And He will do the same for you. If you are ready to quit playing games, and ready to make a real difference, then you can make evangelism good news again!
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John Avant has served as vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. Provided through Baptist Press, used by permission.
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