Living in Faith, Scripture Lessons, Scripture verses

Looking Back on Missed Opportunities

When was the last time you had an opportunity to try something new, something that might have seemed scary but had the potential to be amazing – and you couldn’t take the step in that direction?

Road signpost with text "looking back on missed opportunity"I shared a few weeks ago that I’ve been reading through the Gospel of John just a few verses at a time, going slowly and trying to soak in new things. One of those “new things” struck me toward the end of the first chapter and continues to run through my mind.

John 1:35-42 tells the story of Jesus calling His first disciples. It’s a story I’ve heard and read too many times to count, thanks to being part of a church my entire life. But this time I found a new gem.

Two of John the Baptist’s disciples were standing with him when Jesus walked by and John proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:37 ESV)

Jesus asked what they were looking for. They asked Jesus where He was staying, and He invited them to come with him.

So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him for that day, for it was about the tenth hour. (John 1:39b ESV)

One of these two men was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He told Simon they had found the Messiah and brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (John 1:42 ESV)

The next day Jesus decided to travel to Galilee. He called Philip and Nathanael to follow Him, and they did. By the next chapter in John, Jesus and His disciples are at a wedding and He is performing His first miracle of turning water into wine.

Here’s the question that keeps nagging me:

What happened to the first man who was with Andrew? The one who was a disciple of John the Baptist and went with Andrew to spend the day with Jesus?

crossrods signpost with text reading we can't stay hung on the pastJohn is the only Gospel writer who mentions this man. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell of Jesus calling Andrew and Simon Peter to be his disciples, then James and John. What happened to the unnamed man? Did he follow Jesus toward Galilee? Or did he stay with John the Baptist? We don’t know because (to my knowledge, which I fully realize could be wrong) he isn’t mentioned again.

As I think about this man, I compare him to myself.

How many times has an opportunity presented itself and seemed interesting enough that I followed it a bit to learn more – and then walked away?

If that’s what happened with this man, I’m sure he had his reasons. Maybe the timing felt wrong or following Jesus didn’t interest him as much as he expected or he didn’t want to seem disloyal to John by leaving.

Maybe he didn’t feel brave enough to follow that new opportunity.

Jesus’ ministry was just about to begin and word of everything He did or said spread like wildfire. Even if the man returned home or kept following John the Baptist, it would have been hard for him to be unaware of what Jesus did during the next three years. Or maybe he did follow Jesus as one of the many people who heard Jesus teach and witnessed His miracles but wasn’t part of His inner circle of disciples.

In either scenario, how often did he think back on the day he and Andrew spent with Jesus? Was he content with the choices he made, or did he look back and wish he’d taken a different path?

The “what if’s” of life can be cruel company. I’ve let them take over my thoughts more often than I should, especially when things might not be going the way I had hoped.

It’s not easy to look back and realize you’ve lost an opportunity, but we can’t stay hung on the past. We have to trust that we did the right thing at the time and remember that God will work everything out for His plan in the end (see Romans 8:28).

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself again and we can go down a path we thought was gone forever. Did that happen with the unnamed man in this story? I don’t know, but I do know this: what a beautiful gift it is when God gives us those second chances.

My prayer for myself – and for you – is that we hear God’s direction whenever an opportunity arises and follow whichever way He leads. His path for us is always good and will always take us where He wants us to be.

Your turn: How do you know when God is steering you in a particular direction? Or, how have you seen God take a missed opportunity and turn it into something good? Leave a comment so we can encourage each other.

P.S. – I’ll be taking a road trip next weekend to attend the Asheville Christian Writers Conference Feb. 18-20. I’m thrilled about the chance to spend time with other Christian writers and to listen, learn, and grow. Prayers for safe travel and for whatever God wants for me and my writing would be appreciated. Thanks so much.

Looking back on missed opportunities: learning from an unnamed man with Jesus' first disciples Click To Tweet

8 thoughts on “Looking Back on Missed Opportunities”

  1. Leigh, I love finding those missed nuggets. Thanks for sharing that undiscovered person I have never seen before either. And it does remind us of those missed opportunities we can regret if we let our mind go there. But it also urges me to keep my eyes open for avenues that cross my path. Thanks for sharing this inspiration!

    1. Yes, Barbara, I agree — I hope one of my lessons from this is to pay closer attention and be more aware of how valuable opportunities in front of me truly are. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love looking between the lines. Thank you for helping me do that. There are so many hidden gems we miss when we don’t slow down.

    1. Jennifer, you’re so right — we can learn so much when we just slow down for a few minutes and pay attention. I’m glad we can help each other remember to do that. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I think we probably all look back and remember those missed opportunities, yet if we had made a different decision then, how would that change what we have now? The wonderful news is that our Father is the God of second (and many more) chances and if the pathway we might have missed is the one He wants us to take, He will provide another opportunity. Thank you for this inspiring message.

    1. Katherine, you’re exactly right. We’re who we are because of the choices we make and would be different “selves” if we’d taken different paths. And yes, what a beautiful thing to know that God will help get us where He wants us to be even if we don’t make the “right” choice the first time. He shows us so much grace and patience. Thank you for that reminder!

  4. Leigh, I never noticed that missing man either. How interesting! To quote an old Adventures in Odyssey episode, there are no “what-ifs” with God (I’m sure that didn’t originate there 😊). It’s difficult to wrap your mind around the concept that He knew every part our stories before the even began.

    1. Exactly, Annie — no “what if’s” at all. It’s comforting to know that even if we do miss that opportunity God puts in front of us, He’ll still work things out the way He intends for them to be. Noticing this man also has been a good reminder for me that there are always new things for us to learn, no matter how many times we’ve dug into the Bible. Thanks for sharing!

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