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I’ve been meeting with my Wednesday morning men’s Bible study for the past 18 years, and for the last year we’ve been studying the book of Ephesians. In this post I want to focus on three verses from Ephesians 5 that are very applicable for the season in which we find ourselves.
Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
Paul calls us to be careful in how we’re using the time we’ve been given. He wants us to understand and to focus on God’s will, regardless of the circumstances. He wants us to understand the times in which we live and be wise in how we navigate each day.
How do we do that? By making the most of every opportunity, because, Paul says, “the days are evil!” What does he mean by this? He means there are a lot of temptations that can cause us to waste our time by drawing us into sin. And because these temptations are everywhere, we need to be even more cautious. So how can we take advantage of evil days? The Bible wants us to Change our Perspective.
The reason many business people are rich is because they look for, and take advantage of, new opportunities during life’s ups and downs. When the economy is weak, they take advantage of lower interest rates and refinance, or buy new property. They’re wise, they study the economic climate, and make the most of every opportunity. They’re able to see things from a different perspective.
When many people are faced with a challenge they just whine and give up. But when you find yourself in the pit of despair, Paul says you need to be wise and figure a way out. It reminds me of the story of the old donkey who fell into an empty well. The farmer who owns the donkey tried to figure out how to rescue it, but he couldn’t think of anything, so he decided to simply kill two birds with one stone. He would fill the empty well and bury the old donkey at the same time. So, the farmer called his neighbors to help him shovel dirt into the well. At first the donkey got overwhelmed and panicked. But after some time, the old donkey looked at the situation from a different perspective. He realized that if he shook the dirt off his back, the ground under him got higher. So, he continued to shake the dirt off his back and step up until the well was full. And then he just walked out.
From a spiritual standpoint, when things are darkest it creates new opportunities. When things are darkest, the light shines the brightest. This is a principle that very few Christians seem to really grasp.
What Paul’s saying is that evil days create opportunities, and we should make the most of those opportunities. The word for “making the most” is one of the words that is used in the New Testament for redeeming. It means to “buy up.” It’s a marketplace term. You go down to the store and look for bargains, and when you find one you “buy up” what you can because you know they won’t last long; the bargains are always changing. Paul is saying we need to buy up the opportunities that are created by the evil days. We need to look for ways to do God’s will in the midst of life’s challenges.
But how? And what is God’s will? To make it simple, it’s the Great Commission and Great Commandment. The Great Commandment tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The Great Commission says to go into all the world and make disciples. Share the Gospel!
Most Christians aren’t looking at “evil days” as opportunities to share the love of Christ. That’s because we don’t have an eternal perspective. Most of us look at evil days as obstacles. We become paralyzed and are unable to live out our faith. We’re like that donkey when it first falls into the well. We make excuses as to why it’s not the right time to do this or try that. Instead, we need to see obstacles as opportunities for our capacities to be stretched. We need to use our creativity. We need to find our courage. We need to love people more than we love our comfort. We need to shake the dirt off our backs and keep climbing.
Paul wants us to be wise. He wants us to make the most of the days we’ve been given, because the situation around us, which seems to be against us, is really creating new opportunities for us. I read a statistic that said 20% more people are open to talking about God now than before the pandemic. That should motivate us to share the Gospel. When people are in a dark place, they search for the light.
Listen, the Bible teaches that pressure and challenges make us stronger. It calls us to turn obstacles into opportunities. Trials shape us into the person God designed us to be. If you never experienced trials, how would you ever know that Christ is sufficient for every trial? If you never needed help, how would you know that he is an ever-present help in times of trouble? How do you know He’ll be there when you’ve reached the end of your resources, if you’ve never been at the bottom of the well and had dirt thrown on you? It is the evil days that create these opportunities.
We’re facing the same test today that they faced in Ephesus. And the biggest test is one you may not have considered. At the time Paul wrote this letter, the people were prosperous. There was incredible commercial activity and material abundance. But they were also living in a carnal, sinful culture. Paul is saying that whenever you live in an affluent culture where creature comforts are everywhere, life’s real value is lost. Our spirits are often empty and hollow. It explains why in our own affluent culture people feel so hopeless.
These are evil days not only because of the widespread tension, fear, and violence, but also because of the materialism that creates the emptiness. It doesn’t matter what you have if you don’t know who you are or why you’re here. Paul is saying, You have the answer, and there may never be a better time to share it.
When you see things from an eternal perspective you realize every dark cloud has a silver lining. You begin to understand it’s the evil days that drive people to seek God. It’s the evil days that give us opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ. So, we need to be wise, we need to see things from an eternal perspective and we need to redeem, buy up the opportunities. We need to use these difficult times to drive us forward, not set us back. Don’t see them as a horrible waste of time, waiting for better days; take advantage of the days you’ve been given!
We shouldn’t be walking around like lost sheep looking for greener pastures—as though we’re confused by what’s happening. First Peter 4:12 reminds us, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” God has gifted us this time. And it’s our chance to shine. Evil days give us the chance show the world what it means to be a Christian. So, be wise, understand the times. Don’t be foolish, don’t whine and complain because of the challenges we face. Instead see them for what they are: God-given opportunities.
Pastor Jeff Greer