When you hear someone mention the phrase “The chance of a lifetime”, what kinds of thoughts come to your mind? An actress being offered the role she always dreamed of? A small businessman being presented with an opportunity to sign a million dollar contract? A first generation college student receiving an offer of admission to a top university? An obscure singer being pursued by a major music company with the offer of a record deal?
For most of us, when we hear the phrase “the chance of a lifetime” these are the types of scenarios that come to mind. We think of that one big break, a happenstance of being at the right place at the right time, that if not seized with all one’s strength, might likely never come again. This week however, I want to challenge us to think about this expression in a way that is more practical. Today I am giving you a new definition to ponder. Think about the chance of a lifetime as a chance that is continually present with us, occurring everyday of our lives. In other words, it is an opportunity for change that is repeatedly happening over the course of our lives.
The chance of a lifetime occurs every time we are brought face to face with the opportunity to acknowledge truth in our lives. In addition, acknowledging truth has the potential to produce lasting change. The Gadarene Demoniac, whose account is recorded in the Gospel of Mark chapter 5, is a wonderful example of someone who was presented with such a moment. In Mark’s account, this man lived among the tombs and was extremely dangerous. There was no level of human restraint that could hold him. Moreover, he wandered throughout the cemetery and countryside wailing and cutting himself with sharp stones. He lived a life engrossed in mental torment and physically self-destructive behavior until the day he encountered the Messiah. the Bible says, “When he saw Jesus, he ran and worshipped Him.” For the Gadarene Demoniac, that was his big break, his “million dollar contract” if you will. Coming face to face with truth, in the person of Jesus Christ, was his chance of a lifetime. He both submitted to truth and embraced it in a single act of worship. When Jesus asked, “What is your name?” He was identifying what had been driving this man to destruction, and would-be death. Because of his response to truth, he was set free, and his life was never the same. In his twisted and dark world, when he could not find his way out of his circumstance, Jesus presented this man with the chance of a lifetime: He brought him face to face with the inside reasons for his outside behavior. This man received all that God had for him when he correctly responded to everything he was presented with.
By contrast, Adam, Eve and Cain represent different ways of responding to truth. When God inquired “Adam where are you?”, he was attempting to bring Adam to a place of truth. The question “Where are you?” was for Adam’s benefit, not God’s. He knew very well where Adam was, but Adam needed to know and admit this truth to himself. The same concept was true for Eve. When God asked “What have you done?”, it wasn’t about what God was trying to extract from her, instead it had everything to do with what He was trying to impart to her. The question was for Eve’s sake, not God’s. When God asked Cain, “Where is your brother?” he retorted, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Again, God was attempting to reveal truth, not for His benefit but for the benefit of the person to whom He was speaking. In each of these situations where man had done wrong, failed, and made tremendous mistakes, God was not after them to punish them. He was coming for them, to love them, to rescue them, to heal them and to set them free. But instead of accepting and embracing the truth, Adam chose to blame his wife. While Eve did admit to the events as they occurred, she failed to acknowledge her actions as a result of those events. And Cain chose to avoid the issue altogether. Instead his tactic was to divert the issue of truth by asking an all-knowing God a rhetorical question.
Seriously think about this statement. Everyday of our lives we are presented at one time or another with the chance of a lifetime because everyday we live, we are confronted with the opportunity to face truth in ways that could potentially change our lives forever. On the flip side exists a concurrent option to reject the truth, which can result in a life that is empty and mundane, full of fear, depression, anxiety, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness (whether against ourselves or others). For some this might mean getting honest with ourselves and God about our part in the breakdown of our family relationships.
What might have happened if Adam, Eve and Cain had faced and embraced the truth God was trying to bring about in each of their lives? While none of us know what might have been, we certainly know what was: Adam became enslaved to the ground. He no longer worked in a way where the earth easily produced food for him. For the rest of his life he would be forced to toil to fulfill his need and the need of his family for food. Eve was brought forth to be co-ruler on the earth. Positionally, in her relationship to her husband she was brought low. She would be ruled over instead of ruling. Furthermore she would bring forth children in pain and suffering. Both Adam and Eve ended up ‘bringing forth fruit’ in suffering to one degree or another. Adam, the fruit of the ground and Eve, the fruit of the womb. As for Cain, he spent the rest of his life, far more days than you or I could ever imagine, wandering on the earth in an unsettled and restless state. The earth would not produce food for him. And it is very likely, that at least some of these consequences were due to the fact that each of these individuals in one way or another failed to recognize their chance of a lifetime.
This Week’s Readings: