Some time ago, I recently came across a piece he wrote titled “A Gold Mine of Opportunity!” In it, he tells the story about discouragement having caused a man to miss the opportunity of a lifetime.
There once was an old Dutch farmer who owned a farm in a semi-arid part of South Africa which had, over the years, gone from semi-arid to arid. Even though his crop was wheat which required little moisture to grow and his few livestock did not require much in the way of feed and forage, as the land grew more and more arid, it was not long before the wheat that he did plant was stunted and fruitless while his livestock, bereft of adequate pasture, had to be sold.
He loved the land. It had been his father’s and that of his father before him. Y et, he slowly became convinced that his was the last farm on the land. He would have sell and move on. It would not be an easy thing to do since the land was no longer fit for farming or even grazing. Who would buy it?
Day after day he rode his horse out to a ridge in the center of his land, the highest point on his property. From this vantage point he could see his entire ranch, the abandoned fields and the dusty roads leading to and from his ramshackle barns. In the distance he could hear the mournful lowing of the few cattle he had left. It was his custom to ride out to this point, a rocky granite outcropping in the middle of nowhere, dismount and sit. As he sat, he cried.
One day a man drove up from the city. He had seen the ad in the paper for 400 acres of land for sale. The price was right, only $25,000. That came to less than $70 an acre. He seemed all too happy to make the farmer an offer and the farmer was all too happy to accept the money for land that had little or no value to it as it was.
Several weeks later, after the farmer had moved family and goods, the new owner came back to the land. But, this time he did not come alone. He brought with him a geologist and a small mining crew. Less than a month later, news had quickly spread that a great discovery had taken place on an old farmstead near Durban, South Africa.
One of the richest gold mines in Africa had been discovered on a rocky outcropping in the middle of an arid plain. The spot marking the site of the first test core drilling was exactly the same spot that the old farmer used to use as his place to sit, cry, and mourn the uselessness and sterility of the land.
Mark uses this story to illustrate a great tragedy: just how close we often are to new opportunities when in the depths of sorrow and despair. Yes, life can be pretty brutal. Because of this, it is so easy to get discouraged and simply give in and sell out to our fears.
But God often delights in delivering us only when we have reached our own wits end. And He does this simply because he wants us to understand that He and He alone is our deliverer. He and He alone can do what we could never hope to do in our own strength.
Mark uses this story specifically to illustrate the circumstances of Joseph, who can be found in Genesis chapter 41 sitting in a dungeon down in Egypt, and thinking his whole world had come to an ignominious end, as he had been abandoned and all but forgotten. And yet, God was about to open up doors of opportunity for him and his family that he had never foreseen.
Indeed, the old adage is true: it is always darkest just before the dawn. But that does not mean we have been forgotten and/or abandoned by God. What is does so often mean is that God finally has us just where He needs us in order for Him to do some great work in our life.
In our own Wednesday evening Bible study at church, we have been studying the book of Genesis. Long before Joseph all but gave up in desperation, his father Jacob had experienced his own time of despair.
As a young man, Jacob himself had left home and gone to far off Haran to seek a wife. In the process, he had been tricked into fourteen years of bondage by his own uncle Laban. He then worked another six years trying to get on his own two feet. During this period, he had his wages changed ten different times by Laban.
It probably seemed to him as if everyone and everything was stacked against him. Given this, it would have been understandable, perhaps, if he had simply chosen just to give up. Yet, he did not. He chose, rather, to persevere. He dreamed. He innovated. He worked hard. He persisted.
And because of these things, God opened doors of opportunity for him that would soon have many far reaching consequences for him and his family. So much so, that by the end of Genesis chapter 30, Jacob has become the most successful man in all of the land of the Arameans.
And God was just getting started. Jacob would soon have his name changed to Israel. And his twelve sons, each of whom had been born during this extremely difficult time in his life, would go on to found the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel.
And through them, of course, God would ultimately fulfill His promise to Abraham to make his posterity as numerous as the sand of the sea. More importantly, God would use one of these descendants, Jesus of Nazareth, to redeem all of fallen mankind, including you and me. Thank God Jacob never gave up!
Are you currently sitting on a hill of despair? Are you crying the blues? That's okay. It can be therapeutic to have an occasional pity party. A good cry can be quite cathartic. But having done so, be sure to look all around, and especially up above, before you give in and sell out to your fears.
It may just be that God is about to open up a whole new world of opportunity in your life – one you never even saw coming. And who knows? By the end of this particular chapter in your life, you might just find that your entire world has been turned upside down! Jacob did. So did Joseph. The same could have been true for an old Dutch farmer! I hope it will be for you.
*NOTE: Mark’s webpage is: http://www.beechsprings.com/.