Most of us today are interested in the direction of our lives. We make plans and hope those plans work out. We generally want to do what God would have us do, but we also have our own desires and dreams to accomplish. Can there be an intersection between our desires and what we think will bring about the best for us and what will also be at the heart of what God desires as well? God as a will for our lives. I truly believe that. The NLT states it this way, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT, underline is mine) God has good things we are to do, and they were planned before we were born, maybe even before the world was made. So, God has plans for us, but so do we.
When thinking about your path in life; where to live, what to do and of course, how to live your life as God intended, we will have times of doubt and even confusion. The doubt comes in the form of trying to discover what we’re good at doing, what we enjoy and whether it is good for us and our families financially, physically, socially, and spiritually. The confusion comes when there are so many options.
In preparation for our associational annual meeting. I discovered a practical principle from Scripture which the Apostle Paul used for determining where he was going next, what he was to do and how long he would do it. I figure that if this principle was good enough for him in his important assignment as the apostle to the Gentiles, then it would be good for us as well. The principle I’m referring to is what I call “The Guiding Principle of the Open Door.”
If you did a Bible search on “open door” as a metaphor, you would find it used nine times. Once more, the same concept is used as an “open window” in Malachi 3:10 which refers to a blessing from God so huge that you cannot receive it. Access to this blessing would come if the people were faithful to give tithes and offerings. Of the nine biblical references to “open door”, eight of them are in the New Testament. On top of that, Jesus and Paul are the only ones to use it. The most uses of the metaphor “open door” in a single book is by Jesus and he uses it three times in the book of Revelation. I’ve developed a whole sermon in this with five things we can learn from “open doors” and takeaways for us today. Relax, I’m not unloading all that today. I’m just going to give you the basic principle as Paul used it.
We find Paul using this “open door” metaphor in his letter to the Corinthian church while he was still evangelizing and building up the church in Ephesus. This is the portion of the letter that is important for us here:
I will come to you after I pass through Macedonia—for I will be traveling through Macedonia—and perhaps I will remain with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I go. I don’t want to see you now just in passing, since I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord allows. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me—yet many oppose me.
(1 Corinthians 16:5-9, CSB)
As I mentioned before, Paul was writing to the church in Corinth from Ephesus. He’d been in Ephesus for over two years. He saw his time there ending and was making plans for what was coming next.
Paul’s ministry in Ephesus was marvelous! You can read about it in the Book of Acts, chapter 19. Right from the beginning it was evident that God was at work. There were multiple salvations, miraculous healings, deliverances from evil spirits and a massive turning from witchcraft and black magic. But there was also great opposition. There is always opposition. But Paul could sense that his time there was going to end. So, he begins to formulate plans.
Notice the terminology he uses for his plans. “I intend to pass through Macedonia”, “perhaps I will stay with you”, “Wherever I may go”, “I hope to spend some time”, “If the Lord permits”. He made five tentative statements about what he wanted or intended, yet in verse 8 and 9 he made a definite statement of what he will do. And why is that? Because there was, as the NLT states it “a Wide-open door for a great work here”.
This “Open Door” was the thing that settled in Paul’s mind God’s will for his immediate future. This is what he did, knowing that these other things may or may not happen in the future. Right now, he knew that he would not get to those other “possible” things until he walked through the right door in front of him. Paul had situational and personal awareness.
An open door for Paul was divine providential direction from God. For Paul an open door is God saying to him, “This is where I want you to go, and this is what I want you to do to use your gifting and experience that will fulfill your calling to Christ and your vocation as an apostle to the Gentiles.”
What qualified as an “open door” for Paul was an opportunity given by God that matched his calling, vocation, gifting, experiences, and circumstances. Not every “open door” may be the “open door” for you. It wasn’t for Paul. There are qualifiers.
For Paul and for us calling is first. We are called by Jesus, to Jesus and for Jesus. We are as followers of Christ, to live, serve and share the gospel. That is our calling.
Our vocation is how we fulfill our calling. Paul’s vocation, when he was known as Saul, was a pharisee. When Jesus called him, his vocation was to serve as an Apostle to the Gentiles. He evaluates “open doors” by his ability to function in his calling and vocation. Your vocation may be as a business owner, a teacher or something else. But, back to Paul, on top of these things, he added his understanding of himself, how he is wired, what he was good at and his current circumstances. Paul’s circumstances could change therefore he wrote the Corinthians using contingent terminology.
God gives us “open doors”, but we also have the responsibility to look for them. God perfectly designed your circumstances to fit with how you are made and what you can do to walk through open doors he creates for you.
We have “open door” opportunities today that Jesus has given us. There is great opportunity for churches to partner with schools, particularly elementary schools. How wonderful it would be if every church in FBA adopts a school and asks them, “What they can do to serve you?” One suggestion is to approach them with READ Georgia.
A second opportunity is with public safety, and particularly with fire, EMS, police and 911 Call center. Your association is partnering with one of our own, Frank Mercer at 4Heroes. You and with the blessing of your leadership, your church may become involved in ministering to our first responders.
A third is with the mental health crisis, or rather disaster in our state and associational area. Church members can be equipped in resilience and wellness. We shouldn’t pretend to be okay when we’re not okay. Sometimes it’s okay not to be okay. We need to be able to talk about it and be able to just listen. You don’t have to solve another person’s problems, just listen, and pray.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers the best and long-term answers for wellness and resilience. Your association is offering several equipping and engaging opportunities for ministers and church leaders to be informed and equipped on the issues of wellness this year and next. You can check out the events page and the resources page for more information.
Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
You just can’t lose when you choose to look for an open door, and then walk through it.