• Making the most of every opportunity

    Posted by John

    1 April, 2014

    One of the greatest discoveries of my adult Christian life has been the idea that God’s plan is not all about me. Most people probably learnt that pretty early on, but I’m a slow learner. This discovery has been at the forefront of my mind as we have been planning our campaigns for 2014.

    At the end of each year at Micah Challenge we take a look forward to the coming year and try to work out where our time and resources would be best spent. As we looked at this year, we had a clear sense that this is a year of opportunity. In light of that, we have decided to use a passage from Eph 5:15-16 as one of our motivations for the year.

     Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

    I’m always wary of using passages like this as a simple justification for a campaign message. The word ‘opportunity’ doesn’t turn up many times in the Bible. Does it really make sense to use this reference as a justification to engage people in issues of global justice?

    We are focused on trying to make the most of three specific opportunities this year:

    1. We have an opportunity - to shine the light on tax evasion and corruptionThe current global rules around taxation, and particularly the practices of multinational companies who exploit these rules, are robbing billions of dollars (more than $160 billion) from poor nations. This is money that could be used to provide essential services like healthcare, education and water and lift millions out of poverty. With this issue on the agenda for the G20 hosted in Brisbane this November, Australia has an opportunity to play a key role in breaking down the walls of financial secrecy. 
    2. We have an opportunity - to build a generous and effective aid program for the benefit of the world’s poor. We know that effective aid works and we need to respond to the deep cuts and changes Australian aid has experienced to make sure that it remains focused on poverty reduction.
    3. We have an opportunity - to change the conversation on climate change. Australia and the world continue to experience the climate impacts of a warming world. Sadly, most of these impacts are already affecting, and will continue to have the greatest effect, on the world’s poorest people. What would it look like for Christians in Australia to consider the needs of these people when we talk about climate change?

    So does the passage in Ephesians really have anything to do with these opportunities?

    If I can paraphrase and simplify the message of Ephesians, it is this:

    God calls us, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, out of death and into new life. When we receive this new life, we join in a community that is led by Jesus and together, we take up our role in God’s plan for all of creation. You are/I am/We are a vital part of God’s plan.

    Every Sunday night through my teenage years I would sit with my thighs sticking to the brown vinyl ‘pews’ (i.e. benches) lined up facing the front of the local Anglican church where my dad was the minister. And every week we would run through the liturgy. At a particular point in the prayer book the minister could choose to read from a number of verses, each of which gave an assurance of salvation. The favourite choice for my dad, almost undoubtedly because it was the shortest of the options, was this verse  ‘It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God’ (Eph 2:8).

    I became very familiar with that verse growing up. The reality of God’s salvation, freely offered as a gift of grace, achieved by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and accessed through faith, has been formative in my life.

    But that verse sits in a bigger story, just as our lives form part of a bigger story. I can’t read the book of Ephesians without realising that there is a purpose to Jesus’ death and resurrection that lies beyond me and my salvation. It is not all about me!

    Yet at the same time, you can’t read the book of Ephesians without discovering that how you live and what you do matter. It’s not all about me.... but my life does have a purpose beyond me. I believe that knowledge invests meaning into all the tasks on our to-do list, and into all the moments of our lives.

    The whole of the second half of Ephesians (chapters 4- 6) are a call to live lives that are worthy of this great calling that we have received. When we learn to understand what the will of God is, and then seek to live in accordance with that will, we will be people who make the most of every opportunity to be light and expose darkness.

    How we live and what we do matter. We are designed with purpose - to live light (Eph 5:8) into the dark places of this world. This doesn’t mean we have to love the whole world or bear the burden of the world’s problems. We are never called in scripture to love the whole world. That is God’s responsibility.

    We are called to make the most of every opportunity that the Spirit of God leads us into.

    Far from making me tired, this energises me. I know that I’ll fail at times. When I do, God’s grace is as consistent, overwhelming and magnificent as ever.

    So our focus at Micah Challenge for 2014 is to let people know that there are some significant opportunities before us this year to make a difference in this world, and to make it as simple as possible for followers of Jesus in this country to make the most of those opportunities.

    Our simple prayer is that we will.

    Over the next fortnight we will be exploring this theme of opportunity, as well as the characteristics we require for Christian action (such as unity, courage, perseverance), on our blog and social media to give context and motivation to our campaigning in 2014. Please join us in reading, praying & sharing these posts with others, that we may all be inspired to play our role in God's plan for all creation.

    ------

    John Beckett is the National Coordinator for Micah Challenge Australia.