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Toward the Port!

My wife tells wonderful stories of being raised on a steady diet of simple Sunday School songs that were not only doctrinally rich, they also stuck in your mind like glue.  I didn’t encounter such songs until I was in my early 20’s but their simple message and catchy tune can bring a smile to a believer of any age.  One of my early favourites was called “The Countdown Song”.  In one of the verses, it reads: “Soon will the trumpet sound, and we’ll rise off the ground; with Christ forever will we be.  Children, where will you be, throughout eternity? The countdown’s getting lower every day!” 


That song sums up a simple truth: the countdown is indeed getting lower every day.  For believers, that is exciting.  However, this leads (or should lead) to believers asking themselves a question.  If the Lord will indeed catch His bride away soon, how should I be spending my days?  Ephesians 5 leaves us in no doubt because verses 15 to 17 say this:  See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  A similar admonition is given in Colossians 4:5: Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.  In both passages, we see reference to a “walk”.  In other words, how we live. 


In the Ephesians passage, the word “circumspect” comes from two Latin words that mean “looking around”.  The term carries with it the idea of precision and accuracy.  The opposite of that would be to walk carelessly and without proper forethought.  In Australia, there is an expression we use that characterises the laid-back nature of the country – “she’ll be right, mate”.  In other words, somehow, somewhere, everything will work out and I won’t need to lift a finger to do anything.  Perhaps that attitude may work for some people, but Paul would contend otherwise.  If we are to walk earnestly in this Christian life, it must be with our eyes fixed on Jesus and our heart attuned to the will of God.  Sadly though, we see many believers who drift through life, never really making the most of opportunities to live for Christ. 


I mention the word “opportunity” for good reason.  Do you notice the word “port” in the middle?  That should give you a clue as to its origins.  The word “opportunity” comes from an old Middle French term (“opportune”) which hails from a Latin word (“opportunus”) which literally means: “toward the port”.  It was a term used by sailors to describe that time when the wind changed its direction and started to blow towards the port.  This was the time when it was most favourable to steer the ship into the harbour.  The ship’s captain would have needed to develop the skills of navigation, vision, communication and leadership in order to take full advantage of the winds of opportunity. 


Today, spiritually speaking, we also see winds blowing.  However, they are not necessarily refreshing winds, but harsh winds of evil that are blowing across our nations.  Perhaps we feel victimised by them, particularly if those winds are blowing believers into the fires of persecution, suffering and evil.  But just as the ancient sailor waited for his “opportunity”, what if this is ours?  Because of the prevalence of evil in Paul’s day (and ours) the danger is that the sight of evil may cool the love and diminish the zeal of the believer to contend for the faith and proclaim the gospel.  Hence the need for a determined eagerness in the face of such winds.  You see, the Greek word for “time” is referring to opportunities.  In other words, be alert to God’s will and be ready to grab those opportunities when presented.  Think of a shrewd merchant who sees opportunity for a profit and grabs hold of it.  As C T Studd once said, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” 


But as the days roll on, I am sensitive to the fact that many are growing weary.  We lift our eyes to the sky and wonder aloud, “How long, o Lord, how long?”  In October 1968, the Olympic Games were staged in Latin America.  It was one of the hottest afternoons of Mexico City when the men’s marathon started at 3pm.  Out of the 74 participants, 17 could not finish the race.  At 7pm that evening, almost an hour since all marathon runners had crossed the finish line of the 26-mile marathon, a lone runner emerged through the stadium gate.  This man could no longer run, so he hobbled.  Many spectators had since gone home, but some remained to witness Tanzanian runner John Stephen Akhwari cross the finish line in bad shape.  Earlier in the race, he had fallen and hurt himself badly.  He was bruised, bleeding and in significant pain from a knee injury.  Considering the severity of his injuries, Akhwari was repeatedly asked to quit the race, but he rejected those pleas.  When asked what on earth compelled him to continue even though he was in no condition to race, he replied: “My country did not send me 5,000 miles just to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.” 


Dear believer, you were born for such a time as this.  You may feel like that runner – alone, bruised, hurt, defeated, not knowing how on earth you are going to make it across that finish line.  But God did not send you to this age so you could simply start the race and then quit.  He sent you here so you could run the race He set for you and grab hold of the prize.  So, the message is clear: fix your eyes on Jesus, take the opportunities presented and run, dear Christian, run.  The finish line is just ahead.  

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