Sunday School Lessons


Commentary by Walter Albritton


June 1


Embracing Opportunities for Ministry that God Provides


Ezra 1

Key Verse: Any of those among you who are of his people – may their God be with them! – are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel – he is the God who is in Jerusalem.  

--Ezra 1:3


            A half century after the Babylonian captivity of the Jews began, the Persian King Cyrus conquered the Babylonians and opened the way for the Jews to return home. Though he was not a worshiper of God, Cyrus offered goodwill to all the people under his rule. He even assisted the Jews by returning sacred Temple items that had been plundered by the Babylonians.

            The Jews saw the kindness of the King as the handiwork of God. They believed the Lord had “stirred up” King Cyrus, thus demonstrating God’s power to use even pagans to accomplish his will.

            For the Jews, this was a God-given opportunity to rebuild the house of the Lord and enjoy their new freedom to worship in the holy city of Jerusalem. Though some of them balked at the idea of returning home, many of them eagerly embraced the opportunity God had provided.

            The word opportunity comes from two words which mean “at the gate,” which suggests why we use the phrase “opportunity knocking.” A chance to do something is knocking at the gate of our lives!

            Opportunities come to each of us. As Christians, we choose to believe that God offers us opportunities to serve him. Even so, we need the wisdom and discernment to understand which “openings” for service God has provided for us. Some, of course, may have nothing to do with the will of God.

            “Get rich quick” schemes may at first glance appear to be excellent opportunities to make money. Most of them, however, turn out to be swindles that rob innocent people of money they can ill afford to lose. Scam artists are opportunistic people!

            God-given opportunities can arise out of tragedy and disappointment. A good example is what happened when a little boy called “TJ” drowned after falling through the ice on a creek near his home.

            His parents realized the need for a ministry to offer support to parents who had lost a child. They used the boy’s initials, TJ, and named the ministry “Through Jesus.” To date several hundred grieving families have received comfort from a work begun in memory of “TJ.” Tragedy became an opportunity to serve others.

            God gives us opportunities by making us aware of the needs of others. We may hear of a family whose home burned, and we are moved to share clothes, food, or furniture with that family.

            An invitation to teach a Sunday school class may be an opportunity both to serve others and to learn more about the Holy Scriptures. God’s opportunities for us will usually allow us to be blessed as well as to be a blessing to others.

            Here are some questions that can help us determine if our opportunities are God-given:

1.      Is it an opportunity to offer Christlike service to others? We know that he has called us to servanthood, not to self-serving endeavors.

2.      Does it give us a chance to honor Christ with our resources or gifts? Our goal should be to point people to Jesus, not to gain glory for ourselves.

3.      Is it something we can imagine Jesus doing? The Bible teaches us that Jesus is our example.

4.      Is it something we can accomplish only with the help of the Lord? He expects us to work in concert with him, dependent upon his grace!

5.      Does it give us a chance to encourage others or to build up the Body of Christ? God calls us all to the ministry of encouragement.

6.      Is it something that, with the help of God, we can do that will benefit others? This is the key to genuine missionary service.

7.      Can we feel comfortable asking God to provide the resources to enable us to embrace this opportunity to serve others? We know that money follows mission and that where God guides, he provides.

            Let us pray for grace not to miss the opportunities that God gives us – to serve him in ministry to people in need! May we have eyes to see clearly, and faith to respond quickly, when God himself is at the gate! + + + +