There is nobody who has ever lived past the age of 12 who can look at his life and say that he didn’t miss a golden opportunity. We can all recognize that we made poor decisions that would prove costly later.
When I joined the military, new recruits were given the chance to join the GI Bill. For an initial investment of around $1000.00, paid out in 24 installments, we could enroll in the program. We were told we could use it later for any kind of education when we got out of the military. It would pay for books, tuition, rent, and a variety of other things for any school we wanted to attend, including things like learning how to fly. You could pay for your whole education, including a PhD. That initial $1000.00 could easily wind up paying out well over $100,000.00 of benefits in the future.
I don’t know what the percentages were, but a large number of new recruits did not enroll. They could not see that far into the future. A thousand dollars in the next two years was more important to them than a sizeable fortune ten years or so in the future. Not surprisingly, there were many who would later look back on that decision as a missed opportunity.
In the Free Grace movement, we are often asked why believers should “invest” in doing good works. We know we have eternal life that can never be lost. Since following the Lord in obedience comes with cost, why do it? There are many answers to that question. We want to show our love for what the Lord has done for us. There will be eternal rewards in the kingdom for such obedience. We want to avoid the discipline of our heavenly Father. We want to experience intimacy with the Lord.
I would like to briefly discuss an aspect of that last reason. In the case of the GI Bill, many ex-soldiers who did not take advantage of it would find themselves in the future, asking themselves, “Where would I be if I had those benefits today?” They would see many things that they could have done with the fortune the GI Bill could have provided them. The opportunities would seem endless.
In the case of Joseph of Arimathea, we see a man who missed a golden opportunity. He was a believer, but a secret one (John 19:38). He did not want to spend time with the Lord and did not want to be publicly associated with Him. He thought the cost of that would be too high at the time. What did he miss? He missed the chance to travel with, eat with, and learn from the Lord face to face. We can be sure that for the rest of his life he regretted not making that initial investment in the Lord. He would always wonder what things he would have learned and experienced if he had. What kind of man and believer would he have become with that investment? How different his life would have been!
The same thing is true for us. When we walk with the Lord, we certainly enjoy closer intimacy with Him. But there is more to it than that. When we are obedient, we learn things from Him that changes us in so many ways. We mature spiritually. The Lord leads us into ministry and experiences with people that we would not have had. This results in knowledge we could not obtain in any other way and even causes us to see the world we live in in a different way.
But let’s say we don’t want to make that investment. If ten years down the road we see the error of our way, what will be the result? We can certainly repent and follow the Lord. The Lord is gracious and will allow us to do so.
But in situations like that, which one of us would not look back and realize what a great opportunity we missed? Where would we be spiritually if we had followed Him earlier? What wisdom would we have and what kind of ministry would we be having for the Lord today if we had? Where would the Lord have taken us and what impact could we be having today in the lives of others?
Of course, ex-soldiers who looked back on their GI Bill decision with regret would need to forget the past and move on. Formerly disobedient believers should as well. But there is a lesson for us. Today, we are given the opportunity to invest our lives in the Lord. What will that investment bring? Let’s not make a dumb decision. The opportunity is staring us in the face.