The Opportunity Which Escaped
1 Kings 20:40
And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said to him, So shall your judgment be…

Arab had been faithless to his trust. He had had the opportunity to crush out the enemy of Israel, but he had let him live for his own selfish purpose, and in sentencing the pretended soldier who had been faithless he was in reality uttering sentence against himself. It is my purpose to compare the opportunities of life to a prisoner given to us to keep, in which if we are faithful to our trust we shall secure eternal promotion and blessing;. and if we are careless and indifferent and neglectful, our opportunities will all escape and leave us poverty-stricken indeed. Every period of life has its special opportunity, which if not used at that time escapes for ever. It can never be recaptured. Youth has opportunities peculiar to itself; it is like the spring-time in nature. If a farmer lets spring-time escape him, and leave his fields unploughed and his gardens unplanted, however remorseful he may be about it he cannot capture that opportunity after spring-time has passed. Youth is like that — a time for sowing, a time when the mind readily grasps its lessons, and seizes with firm hold upon new truths; it is the time when we make most of our friends, and when the affections have the strong grip that hold for ever. It is a terrible thing to let youth go by and not become a Christian. To return to the parable of which our text is a part, one would suppose that a man having been put in charge of a prisoner to keep, with so terrible a warning that his life depended upon his being faithful to his trust, would have seen to it that the man did not escape. But when we compare it to our own lives, we can see how easy it was for the man to become careless, and to be taken up with other things which may have amounted to very little indeed, but which took his mind off the matter of greatest importance to him and thus endangered his life. The story is told of Henry IV. of France, that he asked the Duke of Alva if he had observed the eclipses happening in that year. He replied that he had so much business on earth that he had no leisure to look up to heaven. What sad folly it is for men born with the possibility of immortal Joy to so bend themselves towards the earth and so set their hearts on the things of this world as scarcely to cast a look to the things belonging to the world to come. How much wiser was Zeuxis, the famous painter of his day, who, when somebody observed that he was very slow at his work, and let no painting of his go abroad into the world to be seen of men until he had tried it in every light and given it long consideration to see if he could find any fault in it, replied to an inquiry as to his conduct, "I am long in doing what I take in hand because what I paint I paint for eternity." So what we do has to stand the test of eternity. If it is rubbish, it will be burned up in the judgment fires. An old historian tells us that Alexander the Great, being much taken with the witty answers of Diogenes, bade him ask what he would and he should have it. The philosopher demanded the least proportion of immortality. "That is not my gift," said Alexander. "No?" asked Diogenes. "Then why doth Alexander take such pains to conquer the world, when he cannot assure himself of one moment to enjoy it?" What the cynic said to this great conqueror might well be said to every man who is giving himself so earnestly to the business of this world that he is running the risk of losing the infinitely greater values of eternity. Comparatively few men and women deliberately set out to make great fortunes, or to win for themselves great worldly triumph at the cost of their spiritual welfare. The great majority who are fatally deceived by the enemy of their souls are seduced into evil ways and into fatal neglect by the desire for the simplest physical pleasures and adornment. There is only one way to make sure of your salvation, and that is to improve the present opportunity and thus make certain that it will not escape. A friend of mine overheard one young girl saying to another in the saddest tone, thinking about her friend: "I think she regretted it afterwards; she said it should be different next time. But then," with a little sigh, "so many things haven't any next time." If it should happen to be that way with you that there should be no "next time." with the offer of mercy to your soul, I want to so speak and so do my duty by you that I shall not be responsible for your failure to gain heaven.

(L A. Banks, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it.

WEB: As your servant was busy here and there, he was gone." The king of Israel said to him, "So your judgment shall be; yourself have decided it."

The Neglected Opportunity
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