I believe it was Coach Wooden who said, “When opportunity knocks, it’s too late to prepare.” The window for an opportunity that shows up in our life is usually very brief. You won’t have time to do all the prep work necessary and seize the opportunity in most cases. We should always be ready by doing the prep work ahead of time. The problem is that human nature doesn’t want to put in the work when there’s not even an opportunity on the horizon. Those who have done the work ahead of time are the ones who make the most of every opportunity that comes their way.
I believe that God presents every one of us with opportunities that we should be prepared for. How can we give to a need if we haven’t saved any money? How can we answer spiritual questions if we haven’t studied the Bible? How can we tear down strongholds if we haven’t fasted? How can we be prepared for His return if we don’t have enough oil in our lamps? There are so many things that I believe God can do through us if only we would spend the time laying the groundwork of preparation.
Proverbs 24:27 says, “First plant your fields; then build your barn” (MSG). We need to make sure we are doing things in the proper order in our life. Too many times we want the barn without taking time to til the soil and plant. That’s not how things work. If you want God to use you in a certain way, there are things you need to be doing today to prepare for it. Be faithful in the preparation and God will trust you with the opportunities that He has for you. Don’t delay. Start today.
Thanks to @JestNinja for making this photo available freely on @unsplash
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
You’ve probably heard someone say, “They’re heart wasn’t in it.” You’ve probably also heard someone say, “Get your mind in the game!” In both of these cases, the person was either distracted or they were not prepared for what was going on and they were suffering the consequences. In many cases, it’s very obvious when a person hasn’t prepared mentally for something. They struggle to get through it and they’re not focused. On the flip side, you can see the determination and focus of someone who came prepared with the intent on winning.
So what does that have to do with us? In John 16:33 jesus said, “In this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrow” (TPT). Somehow many of us are surprised when that happens to us. We haven’t prepared mentally for the difficult times that come into our lives. It shouldn’t come as a shock to us when we face troubles. We need to make sure we are prepared for them and that we have the heart to endure them. 1 Peter 1:13 says, “So then, prepare your hearts and minds for action!“
I know what it’s like to not be prepared for troubles and difficulties. You go through a period of being shell shocked and then it’s like you’re spending all your energy trying to play catch up. If we prepare our hearts and minds ahead of time, we get the strength to endure those times. To do that, we need to have a mindset that is ready for battle at all times. We also need to be vigilant in prayer before something happens. When we are prayed up and full of God’s Word, and when we are ready for action, we won’t be knocked out by what the world throws at us. Remember Jesus concluded John 16:33 with, “Be courageous, for I have conquered the world.”
The Boy Scout’s motto is “Be prepared.” It means that you should always be prepared to do what’s necessary to help others. I think it’s a great motto that we as believers should adopt as well. We should always be willing to help others and to do what is necessary, not just what is expedient. You will never become great by doing what’s easy. You have to be willing to pay a price that others won’t. As a Christian, that often comes in loving others as you love yourself.
Timothy was the Apostle Paul’s apprentice in the faith and in ministry. In his second letter to him, Paul gives him advice similar to the Boy Scout’s motto. II Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching” (NLT). His message then and now is to quit waiting for an opportune time to share your faith or help someone out. Do it now!
The time for preparation is before the times are hard. When a disaster is imminent, people rush to the stores and buy what they can in a panic. They may have what you need or they may be sold out. That is not preparation, that’s desperation. Where I live, we know hurricane season is June 1 – November 30. We know that sooner or later one will come. It’s better to be prepared before one enters the Gulf of Mexico. If you wait until it’s too late, you’re going to suffer.
That was Paul’s message to Timothy. He tołd him there was a storm coming. “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.” Since that time was coming, Timothy needed to be prepared to use the Word of God to correct, rebuke, and encourage. With a storm time coming, the time to prepare was now.
For us, there is a time quickly approaching like there was for Timothy. When that time gets here, it says that people will not listen to sound doctrine. We can no longer afford to wait for an opportune time to correct, rebuke, and encourage our family members, co-workers, or friends. We must get an urgency about us like Noah had to get people into the Ark. The night is coming and we need to be prepared. We need to be prepared to preach the Word of God now with our mouths and our lives. Eternity depends on it.
As I was reading through the story of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17, I was tempted to pass over it. After all, I’ve heard the story since I was a kid and have heard numerous sermons about it. I decided to read it anyway and to not just scroll through it. As I read through it, I stopped often and looked at the words that were used. I tried to imagine myself on the hillside with the army of Israel so I could see what I had never seen before. With that different perspective, I saw three things that I had never seen before in the story. Here are three of them.
For 40 days, Goliath came out every morning and evening to taunt the army Israel. The Philistine army would stand on one hill and the Israelite army would stand on the other ready for battle. No one fought though they were set up to because fear is a paralyzer. Too many times we go to do something and stop before accomplishing it because we allow fear to hold us back. We stand armed and ready to accomplish what God has put before us, but then we allow fear to keep us from action. II Timothy 1:7 says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power love and a sound mind. Take the power God has given you and conquer your fear.
The next thing I saw came from verse 26. David asks, “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” The word that stuck out to me was “allowed”. When I think of times when I haven’t done what God asked of me, it’s because I’ve allowed other voices to be louder than His. We accomplish so little in life because of the things we allow. When we quit allowing the voice of the opposition to dictate our every move, we’ll begin to live a more victorious life and others will follow.
The third thing I saw was in verse 40. It says that David picked up five smooth stones from the stream. I know I’ve heard sermons about Goliath’s four brothers and how David got a stone for each one of them. To me, I think David was being prepared. We fail in life and in doing things because we don’t count the cost ahead of time. David counted the cost and prepared for the worst possible scenario. He grabbed extra stones just in case the first one missed. He knew that God doesn’t always deliver us the first time we ask or open the door the first time we knock. What if He didn’t deliver the giant with the first stone? David had faith, but he also counted the cost.
If you’ve been paralyzed by fear, take a step of faith in the power that God has given you. If you’ve allowed other voices to be louder than God’s, quit listening to them and find that still, small voice that God speaks with. If you’ve gone into things without counting the cost and have tried to get by with the bare minimum, it’s time to get better prepared. God is ready to take care of the Giants that stand in your way, but you’ve got to move past your fear, listen to His voice and step out in faith prepared for whatever God may do.
On one of my previous trips to Haiti, as we were beginning our final decent into Port au Prince, one of the young ladies on our team looked over at me and said, “Listo para Cristo.” If you’re unfamiliar with Spanish, she literally said, “I’m ready for Christ.” What she was saying was that she was ready to see Him and to be used by Him on that trip. She was opening herself up to His will in her life. That’s a great way to live and really should be the mantra for our lives each day.
When I think of bring ready for Christ, I think of the parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25. They were all waiting for the groom to show up for the marriage feast. When he was delayed, they fell asleep. At midnight, the cry rang out that he was coming. Five of them realized that they didn’t have enough oil for their lamps. The other five were ready for whatever. They had extra just in case he was delayed. The five without oil left to buy more, but while they were gone, he showed up. The five who were ready went in with him. Jesus concluded that parable with, “You, too, must be ready.”
Not only do we have to be ready for Him to come, we must be ready to do what He asks when He asks. Romans 12:13 says, “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.” Being ready doesn’t mean when the need arises, you go get everything you need. It means you are prepared beforehand. You need to be mentally prepared to help anyone that God lays on your heart to help. Pray and ask God to keep your eyes open to those who may need your help today. That’s the first step in being ready.
Another step in being ready is to have some funds ready to be disposed of in order to help. I know a man who carries a hundred dollars in his wallet at all times for the sole purpose of giving it away. He wants to be ready to meet the needs of anyone God brings into his path. What he’s doing is not just being ready, he’s putting extra oil in his lamp so that he is ready for whatever. I know a hundred dollars is a lot for many. Pray and ask God how much you should keep on you in order to be ready. You never know when God is going to put someone in your life who needs you to buy some gas, get some groceries, pay for their lunch or to just sit down and listen to them.
Listo para Cristo is a way of life. It’s how God wants each of us to live. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that no matter what your circumstances are, there is always someone who has it worse than you. We are without excuse when it comes to being ready to help others. We have the opportunity right now to do something to get ready to be used by Christ. You can begin by praying and asking God to use you. Then have something on you to give out. It can be cash, it can be a gift card, a stroller you don’t use, a bag of canned goods or anything that God puts on your heart. If you’re going to be used by God in the future, the time to get ready is now.