Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Open and Closed Doors

Monday, February 25, 2008

Open and Closed Doors

One of the real privileges of ministry is the opportunity to stand alongside people who share their lives with you, lives marked with hurt, confusion, victory, and joy. Working with teenagers, I get the chance to council senior high students who are wrestling through their future decisions. They are not alone, of course, as many adults question their next step in life, whether it be a new job or new relationship. Whenever conversations about the future ensue, so also do the concepts of open and closed doors.

My purpose here is to point out the problem of relying too heavily on "open and closed doors" for future decisions of a believer. Having said that, I would be remiss if I failed to first acknowledge the biblical support for open and closed doors. The language of Paul comes to mind. "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." Colossians 4:3. And, "because a great door for effective work has opened to me." 1st Corinthians 16:9. Make no mistake, if God closes a door to an opportunity, that door will not be opened. Therefore, we are right to pray for open doors, and we are right to look for them.

But we are not right for standing back and waiting for things to magically open up for us with no obstacles. I have found in 10 years of full time ministry that many doors God has opened for me might have actually been open half-way, or even cracked. In other words, God provided a way, but also in His providence and good care wanted me, with His great hand of help, to experience the trials of getting through the open door. It is not enough to think that God will always provide super wide open doors, with all the pieces perfectly falling into place. Blessed be His name when that does happen! But it won't always. Sometimes it will take work. Sometimes it will take tears. Sometimes it will take opposition. In fact, most of the time. We have a good number of good people who are still standing back and waiting. They keep saying, "God closed that door" when in fact they just saw some obstacles and dismissed it as an open door. Let's revisit the above Scripture from Paul. In 1st Corinthians 16:9, he writes that "a great door for effective work has opened to me. . ." Paul is referring to the church at Ephesus, where he was working while writing to the church at Corinth. But that sentence actually ends like this; "a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me." What Paul considered to be a great open door was actually some of the fiercest opposition he received in the NT. Paul reminds us that if God opens the door, whether it seems to be just cracked or halfway, it is in fact wide open! Therefore, instead of just skipping straight to the concept of open and closed doors, we should first pray. We should confess our sin and come to the Lord unblemished. We should then read Scripture and allow God's word to instruct us. Sometimes we look for doors that we already know are open or shut. We don't have to wonder if God is opening the door for us to be promoted at a job by lying. Nor do we have to wonder if God is closing the door for us to love our enemies. Next, we should seek wise council from devoted Christian people. The story of Rehoboam rings true here. Then, we should begin looking for open doors. We must not skip straight to that step.

So, does God sometimes close opportunities for us? Yes, absolutely. Does He sometimes open doors where all the pieces fall together perfectly? Yes, absolutely. He is a great God! But he also opens doors that might be difficult to walk through. And perhaps those are the doors most vital to us.


Blogger Mike Ruffin said...

Well said.

I think that we sometimes create problems for folks with our talk about "being in the center of God's will." The imagery brings the people's minds the center or eye of a hurricane, where there is stillness and peace. They tend to think that, if they are doing God's will, all will be sweetness and light.

It's not a bad image, given that we can have peace and calm in our souls even while all the world rages around us. The truth is, though, that trying to do God's will will most likely lead to conflict and struggle.

So, you're right, I think. It's just not as cut and dried as folks want it to be. Christian life is a bit of a gamble--a Spirit-led, Christ-inspired, service-fueled gamble, to be sure--but a gamble nonetheless.

February 26, 2008 8:42 AM  

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