“I returned and saw under the sun that— The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance (opportunity) happen to them all.”
According to the dictionary one of the definitions for chance is: â€œA favorable set of circumstances; an opportunity: a chance to escape” (1). Opportunity;.. this is the word that came to my spirit as I was reading (Ecc.9:11) recently; time and opportunity come to all. So if indeed both time (a season, not just a fleeting moment) and opportunity (the favorable circumstances needed to succeed) come to every person, how can we best prepare ourselves to fully take advantage when God causes time and opportunity to come to us? In today’s article I hope to give a few answers to this question.
ONE SEASON PREPARES US FOR THE NEXT
The bible says that it is God who changes the times and the seasons, it is God who removes kings and raises up kings, and it is God who gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding (Dan.2:21). The times and seasons are in God’s hands, so it is not our job to try and control or manipulate the times and seasons. It is our job to discern the times and seasons and do our part during each to flow with the Lord. If you do not do your part in each season, then when the next season comes you will not be ready for it. Spring is the time to plant, summer is the time to water and grow, fall is the time to harvest, and winter is the time to live off the previous seasons’ labors. If you do not do your part during the seasons of planting and growing, then you will not be able to take full advantage of the season God gives for harvesting and living off the rewards of your labor. The same is true in life. As Solomon told us under the spirit of wisdom, “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing” (Prov.20:4).
In (Ecc.9:11), which serves as our key verse for this article, the Lord highlights the qualities of quickness, strength, wisdom, understanding, and skill. The Lord names all of these qualities (which are indeed essential to success and living the life that God intends for you), yet the Lord goes on to reveal that someone can have all of these qualities and still lose out. How can the wise, rich, and strong lose out in the end? If they don’t take advantage of the change of seasons and the opportunities and chances that come their way.
How many professional athletes make their millions too young, and because they were ill-equipped to invest their high income rather than spend it like a rock star they end up broke only a few years after they’re out of the sport? A high number of them. Why? Because strength and speed (two of the qualities the Lord references) get them millions of dollars quickly, but only if they take advantage of that opportunity when it comes does it make a long term difference in their lives. What a sad thing to make millions of dollars and end up broke living in your parents basement only a few years later because you did not take full advantage of the opportunity that came your way in the time it came.
In this wisdom verse I don’t believe the Lord is telling us that being strong, wise, and having developed skills is not important. If that was true then much of what Solomon wrote in the rest of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs would be null and void. No, I believe the Lord is telling us that you can have all of these qualities and still lose out if you don’t take advantage of what God brings into your life. This wisdom scripture also explains how people end up succeeding who are not wise, who are not strong, who are not very skilled at what they do. Some people take advantage when the opportunity comes and that gives way to their success. But in no way is God telling us to abandon the pursuit of sharpening skills, growing in wisdom and understanding, or discipline to become stronger and faster in what we do. By no means. The Lord is simply showing us that having these things affords you nothing in the end if you don’t take advantage of time and opportunity when it comes your way.
UNDERSTANDING OUR ROLE AND GOD’S ROLE
Someone can indeed succeed, at least for a moment, having no developed skills or no having no wisdom and understanding, but how many people have we seen succeed because they took advantage of time and opportunity but could not sustain it? This is the other side of the coin (if you will) to the revelation that is given to us in (Ecc.9:11). I believe the Lord is highlighting the importance of all these traits mentioned in this verse, and how they are ultimately codependent on one another.
The bible teaches us over and over again about the long term success that comes with having discipline, having sharpened skills, and being a man or woman of wisdom and understanding (Prov.4:7; 10:17; 12:1; 22:29). So we need these things, and it is both right and wise to spend our lives developing these things, each and everyday. But never forget: it’s all for nothing if we do not act when our time comes. It’s all for nothing if we do not take full advantage when God changes the times and seasons for our favor and gives us the opportunity that we’ve been needing. This is where framing this verse up (Ecc.9:11) from the perspective of understanding “Our role” vs. “God’s role” comes into play. Both roles are needed and vital.
Our job is to continue to grow, continue to develop, continue to increase in wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and skill everyday. God’s job is to provide you with what you cannot provide yourself with no matter how hard you work or how much you study. God’s job is to change the times and seasons for your favor and provide you with the opportunity you need. Our role is to prepare to take full advantage of the time and opportunities that God brings to us. God’s role allows us to reap all of the blessings that are afforded to those who are diligent in their role; to those who are diligent to sharpen their skills and keep growing everyday. One does not work without the other.
Think of Joseph in the Genesis account. Ultimately, it was God’s call upon his life to become a governor in Egypt, to make a way for the seed of Abraham to inhabit that land, which would ultimately lead to their enslavement, their exodus, and the setting up of the kingdom of Israel in the land of promise. But where Joseph was when He first received dreams concerning this promise did not afford him the time and opportunity needed to be an Egyptian governor. He was not in Egypt, and at the time He was not in a position to become a governor. God changed the times and seasons “for” him, not against him. God orchestrated the circumstances and events of his life to put him in Egypt and to put him in proximity to the throne, but still Joseph had a part to play. It was incumbent upon him to keep growing everyday, to keep honing his skills as a nobleman in that land, to keep growing in wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and skill as He dwelled in that land. Combined with his natural god-given prophetic gifting, Joseph’s commitment to doing his role with excellence qualified him to enter into the next season of his life and take full advantage of the opportunity that God had arranged for him. But do you see how both were needed? Do you see how both the beginning and the end of (Ecc.9:11) were important to Joseph? Yes, ultimately the race was not to the swift, the battle was not to the strong, bread was not to the wise, nor riches to the man of understanding; these things came because God provided them for Joseph in his own time according to his own opportunities that fit the purpose he had for Joseph’s life. But I believe that the development of such virtues (in Potipher’s house in particular) prepared Joseph to take full advantage of God’s opportunities and to occupy the ground that God gave to him through divine process. I believe the same to be true for our lives.
If time and opportunity have not come to you yet, then rest assured God has a plan and they are both coming.
Lately, I’ve been intrigued by the life and story of Winston Churchhill. By the age of sixteen He was convinced by what I believe was divine revelation, that one day England would be invaded by a foreign power, and that it would one day fall to him to save England. He went through his entire life considered by most to be a failure politically. His role on the war council during the battle of Gallipoli in World War One left him in ill repute within the British Parliament, having such a campaign end in what many deemed a disaster. But later on when the next world war came the lessons He had learned through a lifetime of both success and failure proved to be invaluable for defending Britain against their greatest threat in the history of their empire, Hitler’s Nazi Germany. He held to his belief in destiny and He kept moving forward in life even after He had become an elderly man, even after many people saw him as a failure his entire life. After He did his part eventually time and opportunity came to him and he took full advantage. He used all of the power and authority bestowed upon him at that moment to follow his life-long pursuit of destiny, to mount a formidable defence against the Nazis and save England from that tyrannical rule. That battle, the battle for England during WW2, was not to the swift or to the strong, but it was to him whom God had prepared for that time and the opportunity. Amazing!
So once again, the question is posed: How can you be ready when time and chance come your way? I would say do the first part of the verse while understanding that the last part of the verse is ultimately most important to succeed. Get a little stronger everyday. Get a little wiser everyday. Getting a little sharper in your skills everyday. Be diligent to continue growing, continue learning, continuing developing as a Christian and as a wise intelligent man or woman of God. Don’t get frustrated if years go by and you still haven’t seen the time and opportunity come your way that you know in your heart is needed to fulfill your destiny. Winston Churchhill could not manufacture or speed up the conflict He knew in his heart was coming, the conflict needed for Him to fulfill His destiny. All He could do is all we can do: be faithful today and be ready for tomorrow. Tomorrow does come. Time and opportunity do come to all, but not all take advantage of it. What you do today and everyday prepares you for what’s coming, and if you will follow the Lord and take heed to apply the wisdom of such scriptures, you will indeed be ready when the time comes. You will indeed become the man or woman you’ve been called to be and you will do the great things that God has purposed for you to do!
In His Service,
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