My neighbor was walking down the street and greeted me with a wide grin. He had just bought a new bicycle for his 11-year-old daughter.

“Is it her birthday?” I asked. “No,” he replied, almost giggling. “I realized she had outgrown her bike and decided to buy her a new one. She hasn’t stopped smiling all day. I just recognized the moment.” He grinned again.

Every day we are presented with moments that make a difference with our families, our friends and with strangers. Recognizing these moments ultimately determines how we impact our world.

Jesus was the master of recognizing the moment. When He entered the city of Jericho, no one noticed a tax collector who had climbed a nearby tree to get a glimpse of him. But Jesus stopped, called him by name and spent the afternoon in Zacchaeus’ home. That moment changed Zacchaeus’ life. Later, when Jesus was leaving the city, a blind man named Bartimaeus cried for His attention. Many rebuked the blind beggar and told him to be quiet. But Jesus stopped, called for him and restored his sight.

Jesus’ Good Samaritan parable is a lesson about recognizing the moment. Twice passers by missed the moment of opportunity. Both the priest and the Levite continued on their journey without stopping. Perhaps, like so many of us, they were too busy to take the time. For whatever reason, only the Samaritan saw the moment of opportunity and stopped to help. I sometimes wonder how many such moments I have missed.

God presents all of us with moments that can make a difference. A few years ago I met Giuseppe who was working in his family’s pizza restaurant. We struck up a conversation and he spoke of his spiritual hunger. We prayed together and I returned to give him one of my devotional books. Some time later he sent an email, “Now I read the bible before I go to bed. God’s been working in my life so much. I have been preaching the word of God to people that don’t know him. … My heart hungers for the Lord.” He went on to tell how God used him to help a friend find a job.

A few years ago I met a young mother who was struggling with a decision about her husband’s alcoholism. Later she wrote, “God is healer and awesome in power! My husband will celebrate one year of sobriety next month and his health hasn’t been better in years. He is completely off his meds and living a Christ-filled life. He was baptized and is growing spiritually every day.” Her entire family is now active in a local church.

To each of us God presents life-changing “moments” of opportunity. How we recognize those moments and what we do with them may be the true measure of our faith. When Jesus described the final judgement He said, “The king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom that is prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited in; naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me. … In that you have done it to the least of these, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:34-40).

— Bill Tinsley has served as pastor, church planter and missions executive. In 2009, he launched the Tinsley Center to promote faith that changes lives. Email bill@tinsleycenter.com .