God that Opens and Closes Doors
Some years ago an energetic young man began
as a clerk in a hardware store. Like many old-time hardware stores, the
inventory included thousands of dollars' worth of items that were obsolete
or seldom called for by customers. The young man was smart enough to know
that no thriving business could carry such an inventory and still show
a healthy profit. He proposed a sale to get rid of the stuff. The owner
was reluctant but finally agreed to let him set up a table in the middle
of the store and try to sell off a few of the oldest items. Every product
was priced at ten cents.
The sale was a success and the young fellow
got permission to run a second sale. It, too, went over just as well as
the first. This gave the young clerk an idea. Why not open a store that
would sell only nickel and dime items? He could run the store and his boss
could supply the capital. The young man's boss was not enthusiastic. "The
plan will never work," he said, "because you can't find enough items to
sell at a nickel and a dime." The young man was disappointed but eventually
went ahead on his own and made a fortune out of the idea. His name was
F.W. Woolworth. Years later his old boss lamented, "As near as I can figure
it, every word I used in turning Woolworth down has cost me about a million
dollars!" (Bits and Pieces, Vol F, #41)
Most of us are familiar with lost opportunities.
All of us are probably more familiar in dealing with the doors the world
closes to us than we are in dealing with doors of opportunity, which are
open to us. There seems to be many more closed doors than there are open
doors of opportunity. At times this causes us great grief. The apostles
were not immune to this problem. We find them facing the discouragement
of closed doors in the following verses.
As they traveled from town to town, they
delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem
for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith
and grew daily in numbers. Paul and his companions traveled throughout
the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit
from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the
border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus
would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down
to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing
and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen
the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that
God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (NIV)
It is comforting to know that even the apostles
were not always clear as to what God's will was for them. They must have
been a bit discouraged. It is always discouraging to discover resistance
to our plans. They had been doing a great work in preaching the gospel,
but here they find God resisting their efforts. However trying this might
have been, God was in the process of opening a greater door of opportunity
than they could ever imagine.
Struggling with open and closed doors
is a healthy part of life. When I hear someone they hope their
children don’t have to experience the hardships they went through—I don’t
agree. Those hardships made us what we are. You can be disadvantaged in
many ways, and one way may be not having had to struggle.
New Testament writers saw God as the
one opening and closing the doors of opportunity in their lives. When
Paul returned to Antioch from his first missionary journey Luke records
that the missionaries "On arriving there, they gathered the church together
and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened
the door of faith to the Gentiles. (Acts 14:27 NIV) Later Paul
spoke about this experience recorded by Luke in Acts 16 by saying, "
. . . when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that
the Lord had opened a door for me . . ." (2 Corinthians 2:12 NIV)
"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia
write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key
of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one
can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you
an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little
strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will
make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though
they are not, but are liars-- I will make them come and fall down at your
feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. (NIV)
Whether God has set before us opened or closed
doors, is dependent upon our desire to know and keep his word.
God Seeks to Open Knocked Doors
We will not receive God's call if we
refuse to knock on heaven's door. We find Paul and his companions
a bit confused about where they should go and what they should do, but
we find them seeking and knocking on heaven's door. The Holy Spirit kept
them from preaching the gospel in Asia. So they tried to enter Bithynia
and the Spirit would not allow them to pass. During the night Paul had
a vision where a man from Macedonia was begging him to come and help them.
The missionary party concluded that God was calling them to Macedonia.
A door was opened because they were knocking.
Regularly I am ask, "If you were going to
start studying the Bible, where would begin?" The person usually wants
to know if you would begin your study in the Old Testament or the New Testament.
The question has always dogged me as to how it should be answered. It would
be easy to rattle off several answers. I could encourage the person to
read my favorite books of the Bible. I could tell them to begin in Genesis
or Matthew. Beginning any place would be better than never finding a beginning
place to launch the most important study of life. Sometimes I have wanted
to simply answer by saying, "Oh, just start anywhere, one place is as good
as another. Sometimes I think it would be great if one started with a thematic
study on the church or salvation, etc.
However, I have come to realize that
the greatest starting place for Bible study begins with you. Begin
your study with questions you would like to have answered. What are my
needs? Where am I spiritually? Where do I need to be spiritually? What
are my phobias and shortcomings? You can even begin by dealing with the
issues your unbelief raises in your mind. Why not begin where you are?
If you don't start knocking on heaven's door, the door will never open
and you will never find the answers to life's most important questions.
I believe the questions that arise in our minds about belief or unbelief
is God's way of seeking us. He designed us to ask these questions. So,
why not start with the questions on your mind?
The questions raised in your mind are
God's way of knocking at your door. Jesus said, "Here I am! I stand
at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will
come in and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20) It is not
enough to just hear God knock, we must seek to open the door.
"The tragedy of life is not that it ends so
soon, but that we wait so long to begin it. (Richard L. Evans, Bits &
Pieces, March 4, 1993, p. 2.)
Jesus always began his teaching by considering
the needs of the people in an effort to open a door into their lives.
He often determined their needs by the questions they asked. If they failed
to ask a question, Jesus taught to provoke a question from them about their
deepest need. After Jesus teaching about living water, the Samaritan ask
for the living water Jesus spoke of. Jesus then began with her needs. He
revealed to her that he knew she had had five husbands and the man she
was presently living with was not her husband. Jesus began with her need.
Jesus asked the impotent man at the well who
had been cripple for 38 years, "Do you want to get well?" How much more
personal can you get. The vast majority of the New Testament was written
to deal with the personal needs of the recipients. Their needs presented
God with the open door of opportunity through which he could enter.
God will not answer the door until we
begin seeking and knocking. Paul and his companions were seeking
where they should go to preach the gospel. They had a lot of questions
as to what they should do. It was in their knocking on God's door that
they found their answers. Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone
who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door
will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8 NIV)
When God Opens Doors of Opportunity
God only opens doors for us when we
have a willingness to obey his call. When Paul and his companions
heard God's call, they sought to respond through obedience. When Paul received
the Macedonian call they "put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace,
and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a
Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we
stayed there several days. (Acts 16:11-12 NIV) God opened the doors because
they were willing to obey his call.
God opens doors of opportunity when
we allow his call to challenge our plans for our lives. We want
every thing in life firm and fixed, but this is impossible. For those who
seek God there must be a degree of uncertainty. It is the kind of uncertainty
that induces us to properly seek God's will. Paul and his companions were
searching for direction but uncertain which way to turn. As Lydia listened
to God's call she had to closely examine what she already believed. To
question what we believe as firm and fixed is our greatest challenge to
discovering the open doors God provides.
God opens doors of opportunity when
we are willing to listen to his call. Luke continues in Acts 16
as he writes, "On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river,
where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began
to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was
a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira,
who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's
message. When she and the members of her household were baptized,
she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord,"
she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us. (Acts 16:13-15
NIV) God opened the door of Lydia's heat because she was willing to listen
to Paul's message. God opened Lydia's heart but Lydia's part in her salvation
was not passive. She listened attentively to the Word of God.
God opens doors of opportunity when
the world challenges what we believe. It is very discouraging to
know you are obeying God's call and you find opposition from the world.
However it is encouraging to know God can use our enemy's opposition as
a means to open the door of opportunity. Luke continues in Acts 16:
Once when we were going to the place of prayer,
we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the
future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.
This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants
of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." She kept
this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around
and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come
out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her. (NIV)
God is an expert at opening doors the world
is seeking to close. It is wonderful to realize that most of the difficulties
we face as Christians always present us with open doors of opportunity.
When Paul cast the evil spirit out of the slave girl the town became enraged.
Initially only the owners were upset but eventually the whole crowd got
caught up in the rage.
When the owners of the slave girl realized
that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and
dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought
them before the magistrates and said, "These men are Jews, and are throwing
our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to
accept or practice." The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas,
and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. (NIV)
There is little doubt that the rage of the
crowd served to heighten the attention of the whole city to the message
Paul was preaching.
I notice something in Acts 16; open doors
do not usually lead to an easy way of life. Obeying God's call is a
challenge. It challenges to walk were we have never walked. It causes us
to meet the kind of opposition we may have never met. It forces us to rely
totally upon God. It can bring us to wit's end.
Others went out on the sea in ships; they
were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the LORD, his
wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that
lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to
the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered
like drunken men; they were at their wits' end. Then they cried out to
the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He
stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They
were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful
deeds for men. (NIV)
God opens doors of opportunity when
we seek to sing his praises and seek him in prayer. When there
seems to be no reason for rejoicing Paul and Silas praise God and seek
him through prayer.
After they had been severely flogged, they
were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.
Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened
their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and
singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly
there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison
were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains
came loose. (NIV)
Songs in the night can only come from those
who believe there are no closed doors God can't open. The earth shaking
power of God opens doors in our world no matter how carefully the world
is in trying to guard itself from hearing what Christians believe. The
earth shaking power of God to open doors is available for believers today.
I like it when Luke writes, " At once all the prison doors flew open, and
everybody's chains came loose."
Masters, provide your slaves with what is
right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for
us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim
the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim
it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make
the most of every opportunity. (NIV)
There was no doubt in the jailers mind
about who opened the doors. He had probably heard about the message
Paul was preaching before he led Paul to his prison cell. But now he was
experiencing the power of behind the message.
The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison
doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he
thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself!
We are all here!" The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling
before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what
must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you
will be saved-- you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the
Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night
the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all
his family were baptized. (NIV)
The jailer's question, "Sirs, what must I
do to be saved?" reveals that he knows who is in charge. God's opening
the prison doors also opened the door to the dungeon of the jailer's heart.
He knew it was God. He knew he was helpless. This opened the doors of his
heart to God's call.
At that hour of the night the jailer took
them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were
baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before
them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God-- he
and his whole family. (NIV)
God opens doors when we stand for what
is right. There is a golden thread of truth running through Acts
16. God opens doors when we seek to stand firm in his will. From the outset
of this chapter Luke reveals that they have sought to do the right thing.
In their discouragement of not knowing which way to go all the way to the
prison cell, they sought God's right way. They displayed courage as they
took their stand.
When it was daylight, the magistrates sent
their officers to the jailer with the order: "Release those men. "The jailer
told Paul, "The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released.
Now you can leave. Go in peace." But Paul said to the officers: "They beat
us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw
us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let
them come themselves and escort us out." The officers reported this to
the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens,
they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the
prison, requesting them to leave the city. After Paul and Silas came out
of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers
and encouraged them. Then they left. (NIV)
There is no way that I can tell you
where your journey begins and where it will end. Only God knows.
I do learn from Acts 16 how to begin our journey to God. Start searching
right where you are. It begins with your need to obey God's will for your
You must start where you are.
The apostle's search for direction began where they were. Lydia's search
for direction began at a worship service where she was seeking God. The
jailers search began with the question, "What must I do to be saved?" These
individual's came to Christ as they reflected on their personal need.
Why not find yourself in scripture.
Find out who you are. Discover what you are made of. Sounds scary, but
I assure you that is where you will begin the most important and rewarding
study of your life.
Initially, it may sound a little self-centered,
but you will discover it isn't. God gave us the Bible to guide our personal
lives to him. I sincerely believe God allows questions to be raised in
our minds to point us to him.
A study of the Bible without God's purpose
in mind becomes a superficial fruitless exercise. It is one thing to know
about God and quite another to know God for yourself.
It begins with this simple personal
question, Lord, "What must I do to be saved?" It can't get any
more personal than this.
Every spiritual journey begins with believing
on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. Paul and Silas taught the jailer
and his household what to believe. They evidently told them there was something
they had to do, for they were baptized when the Bible study was over.
Believing in Jesus involves obeying the things
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority
in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples
of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded
you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."" (NIV)
God is ready to assume full responsibility
for the life wholly yielded to Him. - Andrew Murray