Opportunity or Possibility…Know the Difference

In making decisions whether or not to take on a new project, adopt a new stance, or move forward in a new direction…

Wise leaders never confuse a possibility for an opportunity.

There is a huge difference in the two.

I remember once our church was approached with what we thought was a great opportunity to plant another church campus. An existing church building was going to be available for little or no money and 10 or 20 people were ready to launch with us. With no start-up costs it was reasonable to think we could successfully move quickly towards a decision. We had always been thinking and sensing of God that multi-site campuses were in our future, so this seemed to make sense. We even felt God was opening a door of opportunity.

Shortly into the discussions the owner of the building decided he did not want to continue to discount the building for another church plant. He was considering other options with the building. If we rented it our cost would be several thousand dollars per month. No longer was this an opportunity. It was now only a possibility. It didn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, but it would now require further study, more prayer and more time for discernment. We realized in time this was not where God was leading us at the time.

Characteristics of Opportunities

  • Defined as “an appropriate or favorable time or occasion” (Dictionary.com)
  • Come with some defined realities
  • Almost like being “in the right place at the right time”
  • Hard to pass up, because they almost always come with some pre-arranged wins
  • Make decision-making easier, because everything “makes sense”
  • A clear “open door” for a fairly probable success
  • Almost seems to be where God has been leading
  • Quickly has almost unanimous support…a “no brainer”

Characteristics of Possibilities

  • Defined as “the state or fact of being possible” (Dictionary.com)
  • Filled with lots of hopes and dreams
  • Have fewer assurances
  • Could be great, but could equally fail
  • Come with unique risks and require more preparation to insure success
  • Need more thought, prayer and discernment
  • Sometimes originates as one person’s “good idea” that came out of no where
  • Has selected supported

Both opportunities and possibilities can be good. Plus, God could equally be in either one. I love risks and big wins are often scored with them, but leaders (and individuals) need to learn to recognize the difference between the two. Confusing a possibility for an opportunity often gets churches, organizations and people in trouble quickly. I have heard too many people say, “This is such a great opportunity”, when mistakenly what they have is an attractive possibility. Confusing the two they may feel no prayer is needed, because the answer is clear, when really the opposite is truer.

Granted, God often leads us to the seemingly impossible. We are to walk by faith. Understanding the difference in these two, however, will give you a clearer picture of what is a stake, improve your ability to discern and pray, and help you make wiser decisions.

Next time you have a situation you’re considering ask yourself, “Is this an opportunity or simply a possibility?” It may make all the difference in how you approach it and greatly determine your ability to be successful.

Have you ever made mistook a possibility for an opportunity?

(This is a revised post from a previous post.)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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10 thoughts on “Opportunity or Possibility…Know the Difference

  1. My Church had a chance to buy a house on the property ajacent to the Church some years ago. At first it seemed like a great opportunity for us! The house had a beautiful design, lots of land to go with it, and would (in later years) allow us to expand in many ways. We looked at the house, had it inspected and discovered it was not up to spec! (Wiring, plumbing, drainage…) We discovered WHY the owner was willing to sell! We voted it down. Then came the ugly part: We found out a member of the Church was going to buy it for the Church; this went against our By-Laws! No one person can purchase any land or building for the Church, thus keeping them from having personal ownership of the Church, weather in part or whole. Allowing the Church body to function as it was designed.

    We came close!
    Twitter: bryankr

  2. Thinking about this.
    The "list" of opportunity defined, seems easy and doable. Obvious. Are there not times when the opportunity looks like an impossibility or at least an improbability?
    Throw in our own paradigms; God has given me much bold faith and has taken me to places most people say "why"? Adoption, moving the family to Africa, foster parenting…But I also have a significant self doubt. Currently back in grad school with dreams of health and hope to the world but it is hard. God has been very clear but it is not always easy.
    Jonah had the funds and the boat was waiting to take him away from God's plan. When he finally got turned around he had a bad attitude! I think the key is to see, is God in this? What is my attitude in it? Had a few moments facedown. Confessing, asking, seeking, thanking.
    Sincerely grateful
    Twitter: eccle0412

  3. I think there's also an application for this at the individual level and not just the group level. I've heard it said that "gifting is not the same as calling." It's way too easy to spend all of our resources – our time, finances, talents, and energy – on things that are possible but not really optimal.

  4. OUCH! Yes, so many times and I am still learning and growing in this area. For me, I know the “kingdom trades” God has gifted me in and walk in those trades daily. What I mess up in is when possibility to use them gives opportunity for me to walk in my own strength. The time I mess up the most is when I step out by an “earthly perspective” with my kingdom trade, instead of being sent by The KING of the trade. I lean into my own possibility, instead of leaning into God’s Sovereign Sway. This is a tough growth area for me and it shows off the “chink” in my submissive armor! I find the less I am submitted to God, the more I have made this mistake, and the more I am called to God 1st, value in “being” over doing, the less I fall into taking a possibility as MY opportunity, because the only opportunity I want to succeed in, is bringing glory to God, by being completely HIS.
    Twitter: kmac4him