The expression defining moment is often used in terms of athletics to describe a person or a team who, when faced with a crucial moment in a game or an event, triumphed.  Moments like these are rarely forgotten, they are recorded into the minds, lore and DVDs to be relived over and over again.

We have seen reruns and reenactments of the United States Hockey Team's upset of the highly favored and experienced Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics.  We remember Brandi Chastain ripping off her jersey after scoring the game winning penalty kick in sudden death to win the 1999 Women's World Cup Finals over China.  We relive Michael Phelps' incredible successful attempt to tie the record of seven gold medals at a single Olympics by 1/100th of a second in the 100-meter butterfly.

Moments like these are etched into our minds and, over time, become bigger than life.  They often change a person's life and future, dramatically and forever.  However, defining moments aren't just limited to athletes.  They are obtainable by each of us, if we choose to accept them.

Some of you may be thinking, "I want to, but I've never had the opportunity", "I tried to once, but it didn't work out" or "No thanks, I'm fine where I'm at." 

Defining means to be "decisive" or of "critical importance."  When an opportunity like this arises, there is no question, discussion or group decision to determine the consensus "best" route to take.  They are times when you just know in your gut, through much prayer and through the Spirit, the decision or path you need to take. 

It is very possible the action would involve a dramatic and significant change in everything you know to be "rational."  It may alter the way you live your life.  It may mean doing something that makes no worldly sense whatsoever. 

Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus (Matthew 14:29).

Peter walked on water!  This is not something most of us have done or would consider doing.  Granted, Jesus himself summoned Peter to do it, but there were eleven other disciples in the boat who did nothing but cower from the heavy waves.  Every one of them had the opportunity to take that same step Peter did, but they missed their moment.

Looking back, there have been times where I have failed to make a decision because I was trying to think through each option too much, wanting to see down both roads, not wanting to make a mistake, even though I "knew" the direction I should take.  Other times, I was afraid to act, worrying about "what others would think" or what "might" happen if I did.

Peter's moment was short lived because he reacted in the same way many of us would have.

When he saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink (Matthew 14:30).

Peter saw his surroundings, thought about it too much and was scared to go on.  His opportunity ended.

How many of us have had chances in our life to meet someone, go somewhere, do something and looked around, thought about it and were afraid to act or afraid to take that chance?  How would our lives have been different "if" only….?

No one would have blamed Abraham had he not offered his son Isaac as a burnt offering to God (Genesis 22).  However, as a product of Abraham's faith and fear of the Lord, he was blessed.

I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Our descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies (Genesis 22:17).

Moses could have lived comfortably in the desert with his family and not have confronted Pharaoh for the release of the Israelites (Exodus 5), but as a result of his obedience, Moses led his people to the "promised land."

The Lord said to him (Moses), "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, "I will give it to your descendants."  I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.  Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone (Deuteronomy 34:4-7).

David had all of the reasons in the world to sit back with the Israelite warriors instead of stepping up to face the Philistine Goliath alone (1 Samuel 17), yet, the young David was fearless and he triumphed.

The Lord said to you (David), "You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler" (2 Samuel 5:2).

Ruth could have easily gone back to her home country following the death of her husband rather than join her mother-in-law in a foreign one (Ruth 1).  Instead, she chose to follow and care for Naomi and God used her in a great way.

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.  Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. They named him Obed.  He was the father of Jesse, the father of David (Ruth 3:13-17).

What would have happened had any of these people chose not to walk in faith, not to listen to the Lord, allowed fear to overtake them or remained in their "comfort zone"?  All of their decisions changed the course of life as they knew it and for many others.  As a consequence of stepping out in such a defining way, God was able to use each of them mightily because of their faith and trust in the Lord. 

I recently read an article written by Jonathan Larson, a self-proclaimed atheist and University of Hawaii student.  He says, "I practice faith in a very different way than any religious person would.  I don't see the value in belief without any evidence.  I see a lot of potential for harm in that, actually."

Mr. Larson does practice faith in a very different way—not believing without evidence is not faith!  Yet many of us "Christians" live in that way every day.  We want to see before we believe and we want to believe before we act.

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

You don't have to be an athlete on an international stage.  You don't need to train your whole life for that one moment in time.  The event doesn't have to be something where others will even notice or want to write about.  We are presented with opportunities throughout our life to change, grow and impact others.

Oftentimes, the opportunity may seem to be impossible or unimaginable.  The offer may seem ridiculous and absurd from a worldly perspective. Sometimes it will be accompanied by nervousness or fear.  However, its timing will be amazingly perfect and come with little effort on your part. 

Before the "Miracle on Ice" hockey game in 1980, U.S. Olympic Hockey Head Coach Herb Brooks told his players, "You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours."  What he told his players is not very different from what God tells us—we were created in His image (Genesis 1:27), given a number of gifts to be used for a specific purpose (Romans 12:6-8), and our time is now (1 Corinthians 7:29).

If we always wait to react based upon our own understanding, we may never take a step of faith, especially one of such importance.  Don't allow your moments pass you by.  Make all of your opportunities a defining moment.


 

Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel.  An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback?  Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com. 

**This article first published on March 25, 2010.