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Opportunities
1 Cor. 16: 5-9

Introduction

We are now on the end part of this beautiful letter of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian Church. A
church full of carnal believers yet showered with spiritual gifts. There is still a lot we can learn and
we continue our study prayerfully that the Holy Spirit will enlighten us and help us understand His
word. Most of all, apply it into our lives.

Illustration 1: Let There Be Light
A young girl once consulted with her minister. “I cannot stick it out any longer. I am the only
Christian in the factory where I work. I get nothing but taunts and sneers. It is more than I can stand.
I am going to resign.”
“Will you tell me,” asked the minister, “where lights are placed?”
“What has that to do with it?” the young Christian asked him rather bluntly.
“Never mind,” the minister replied. “Answer my question: ‘Where are lights placed?’ ”
“I suppose in dark places,” she replied.
“Yes, and that is why you have been put in that factory where there is such spiritual darkness and
where there is no other Christian to shine for the Lord.”
The young Christian realized for the first time the opportunity that was hers. She felt she could not
fail God by allowing her light to go out. She went back to the factory with renewed determination to
let her light shine in that dark corner. Before long, she was the means of leading nine other girls to
the Light. A Treasury of Bible Illustrations.

I. Plans for the Future (1 Cor. 16:5-8)
A. Paul is in Ephesus while he is writing the Epistle to the Corinthians. He now at this
point is telling the Corinthian brethren about his travel plans including his intention
to visit and spend winter with them. He must first go to Macedonia where churches
in places like Berea, Thessalonica, and Philippi are located. After that he would go to
Judea carrying with him the collection money.
B. In the Book of Acts, Paul receives a revelation from the Lord on several occasions
1. He saw the Lord Jesus Christ on his way to Damascus
2. Paul is given the Macedonian vision whereby he and his traveling party are
directed to cross over to Macedonia. Acts 16:9).
3. Then at Corinth, the Lord appears to Paul in a vision after opposition from
unbelieving Jews forces him to cease his ministry in the synagogue and move
next door to the house of Justus. (Acts 18: 6-9).
4. In Acts 27:23, an angel told Paul that He would be brought before Caesar and all
of them that was sailing with Him will not perish due to storm.
C. Despite of the above facts we can still see that Paul makes his plans. He doesn’t
want to leave things on “chance”.
D. He also left the future in the Lord’s hands (“if the Lord permit,” 1 Cor. 16:7). Even
though he was an apostle and ministered in miraculous sign gifts (2 Cor. 12:12) he
was careful to leave the future in God’s hands.
E. He says that the church might have the privilege of bringing him on his journey (1
Cor. 16:6). This means that they were expected to meet his needs. See Titus 3:13; 3
John 5-8.
F. His plan however, did not come to pass, for some events happened beyond his
control.
G. Various circumstances forced Paul to revise his plans at least twice. His alternative
plan was to visit Corinth, then travel through Macedonia, passing through Corinth a
second time on his way to Judea (2 Cor 1:15-16). Instead of one long visit, he
planned two shorter visits; but even this plan did not materialize. Another alternate
plan turned out to be a quick and painful visit to Corinth, after which he returned to
Ephesus. He then went to Troas to wait for Titus (who had been sent to Corinth, 2
Cor 2:12-13; 7:5 ff), visited Macedonia, and then went to Judea. He did not spend as
much time at Corinth as he had hoped or as they had expected.

Illustration 2: Hudson Taylor
Hudson Taylor had definite convictions about how God’s work should be done. We can make our
best plans and try to carry them out in our own strength. Or we can make careful plans and ask God
to bless them. “Yet another way of working is to begin with God; to ask His plans, and to offer
ourselves to Him to carry out His purposes.” Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers

Illustration 3: Follow the Architect’s Plan
Beecher, that great preacher, once said, “If the architect of a house had one plan and the contractor
had another, what conflicts would there be! How many walls would have to come down, how many
doors and windows would need to be altered before the two could harmonize! Of the building of
life, God is the architect, and man is the contractor. God has one plan, and man has another. Is it
strange that there are clashings and collisions?” How much better if the contractor follows the
Architect’s plan. How wonderful for man to accept God’s will for his life without any questioning
whatsoever. Illustrations of Bible Truths.

II. Lesson learned
A. What do we learn from this difficult experience of Paul’s? For one thing, a Christian
must use his common sense, pray, study the situation, and seek the best he can to
determine the will of God. Prov. 3:5-6 (“lean not unto thine own understanding”)
must not be interpreted to mean, “Put your brain in neutral and don’t think!” God
gave us our minds and He expects us to think but He does not want us to depend
only on our own reasoning. We must pray, meditate on the Word, and even seek
the counsel of mature Christian friends.
B. Second, our decisions may not always be in the Will of God. We may make promises
that we cannot keep and plans that we cannot fulfil. Does this mean that we are liars
or failures? (Some of the believers at Corinth thought Paul was deceptive and not to
be trusted. See 2 Cor 1:12-2:13.) In my own ministry, I have had to change my plans
and alter my schedule because of situations over which I had no control. Did this
mean I had been out of the will of God in making my plans? Not necessarily. Even an
apostle (who had been to heaven and back) occasionally had to revise his schedule.
C. There are two extremes we must avoid in this important matter of seeking God’s
will.
1. To be so frightened at making a mistake that we make no decisions at all.
2. To make impulsive decisions and rush ahead, without taking time to wait on the
Lord.
After we have done all we can to determine the leading of the Lord, we must decide
and act, and leave the rest to the Lord. If we are in some way out of His will, He will
so work that we will finally have His guidance. The important thing is that we
sincerely want to do His will (John 7:17). After all, He guides us “for His name’s sake”
(Ps. 23:3), and it is His reputation that is at stake.

III. Open doors. (1 Cor. 16: 9)
A. Not every door that opens is of God. The Prophet Jonah had a door opened to him.
Door of opportunity to serve the Lord and preach to the unsaved people of Nineveh.
He disobeyed the Lord and he found a ship going to Tarshish. A good way of scape
and getaway. However, it was only an open door to the to a great storm and to the
belly of a big fish. Let us be careful of the doors that men open, even though they
seem to be, humanly, good and promising.
B. The doors which God opens are effectual. In verse 9 Paul says, “For a great door and
effectual is opened unto me.” The word effectual here means producing an effect,
or the effect desired or intended; or having adequate power or force to produce the
effect. Praise the Lord, He is able to give real opportunities for effectual service. The
child of God, walking in the will of God, will find something definite to do, for every
door that God opens is effectual.
If He sends us into a service, He will go before us; if He tells us to talk to an individual
about his soul, we will find that He has already been talking to him, in one way or
another. The work that drags and is ineffective, is not the work of the Holy Ghost.
C. Doors opened of God may have many adversaries.
1. Whenever God works, the devil opposes. This is why gospel preaching and
church planting are always attended with difficulties
2. Paul did not consider opposition a sign that he should move or stop preaching.
“This was regarded by Paul as no reason why he should leave Ephesus, but
rather as a reason why he should remain there. It was regarded by him as an
evidence that the Holy Spirit was there. It was proof that the enemies of God
were alarmed, and that the kingdom of Christ was advancing” (Barnes).
D. We are called to go forth to fulfil the Great Commission, to preach the gospel to
every creature and every nation and to baptize and disciple those that believe (Mat.
28:29-20; Mk. 16:15); but not every individual or place is as responsive as others.
Only the Spirit of God can make the gospel effectual. This shows the desperate need
of prayer and dependency upon God in the context of this great work (Eph. 6:18-20).
E. Paul had an open door of ministry in Ephesus, and this was important to him. He
wanted to win the lost in Ephesus, not go to Corinth to pamper the saved. (Acts
14:27; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3; Rev. 3:8.) Paul was neither an optimist nor a pessimist
he was a realist. He saw both the opportunities and the obstacles. God had opened
“a great door for effective work” and Paul wanted to seize the opportunities while
they were still there.
F. An ancient Roman proverb says, “While we stop to think we often miss our
opportunity.” Once we know what to do, we must do it and not delay We can
usually think of many reasons (or excuses) not to act. Even though Paul was in
danger in Ephesus (1 Cor 15:32), he planned to remain there while the door was
open. Like a wise merchant he had to “buy up the opportunity” before it vanished
and would never return.
G. The stewardship of opportunity is important. The individual believer, and the
church family, must constantly ask, What opportunities is God giving us today?
Instead of complaining about the obstacles, we must take advantage of the
opportunities, and leave the results with the Lord. (Bible Exposition Commentary)

Illustration 4: Opportunity Lost
In 1269 Kublai Khan sent a request from Peking to Rome for “a hundred wise men of the Christian
religion…And so I shall be baptized, and when I shall be baptized all my baron and great men will be
baptized, and their subjects baptized, and so there will be more Christians here than there are in
your parts.”
The Mongols were then wavering in the choice of a religion. It might have been, as Kublai forecast,
the greatest mass religious movement the world has ever seen. The history of all Asia would have
been changed. But what actually happened? Pope Gregory X answered by sending two Dominican
friars. They got as far as Armenia, could endure no longer and returned home. So passed the great
missionary opportunity in the history of the church. R. Dunkerly, in Resource.

IV. Conclusion:
The Lord opens the door of opportunity to serve Him and to bring to Him the unsaved.
There will always be opposition and the work will never be easy. The question is, will you
take the opportunity to do it?

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