In a place where “first come—first serve” is a frequently-overlooked principle, I discovered cans of soup, vegetables, and other assorted items which had long since passed their expiration dates.
These were cans continually pushed to the rear by new arrivals. They looked perfectly normal, except for that expiration date stamped on the bottom. I wondered out loud if they might still be of use, but was quickly corrected of that misguided notion.
Few things are as common place or as tragic as missed opportunities. Visions of expiration dates come to mind as we hear Paul say, “So then while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). “While we have opportunity” suggests that today’s opportunities may no longer be available tomorrow. Opportunities have expiration dates. Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (Jn. 9:4).
Doors once open to the gospel can suddenly slam shut, leaving us alone with our feelings of regret. On the other hand, taking advantage of the opportunities God provides produces great rejoicing. Upon returning to Antioch following their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas reported all the “things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).
Paul’s life was marked by his earnest desire to take advantage of opportunities placed before him through the providence of God. Even in the midst of conflict, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth explaining his decision to remain in Ephesus. He said, “a wide door for effective service has opened to me…” (1 Cor. 16:9). When we feel shut in and isolated because of restrictions placed upon us because of the pandemic, we should consider the fact that, when Paul wrote the Colossian brethren from a Roman prison, His primary concern was not for his physical or emotional well-being but that his brethren should pray that God would “open up…a door for the word…” (Col. 4:3).
According to Solomon, the whole of life is to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13). In many respects, life is one gigantic opportunity to fulfill that purpose. Like sojourners, we are marching along life’s path either taking advantage of opportunities or shoving them to the back until they are no longer viable. As a commendation from the Lord, “Well done” is an expression that will never grace our ears if good intentions are not followed by effective service.
Each day brings opportunity. Each day draws us nearer to our eternal destiny (Rm. 13:11). For each one of us, it is “appointed…to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Likewise, for each of us, there is an expiration date known only in the mind of God. Our times are in His hands (Ps. 31:15), so teach us, Lord, to “number our days” (Ps. 90:12).