Today I reckon I’ve walked through at least 50 doors. Most of us walk through lots of doors every day, usually without even thinking about it. Doors are places of transition; open doors allow movement; closed doors limit your options. The Bible uses the imagery of doors to help us get a better understanding of our situation.
What an open door is
In 1 Cor 16:8-9, Paul uses “door” imagery to explain his decision to stay in Ephesus rather than visit the Corinthians. He says: “for a wide door for effective work has been opened to me…” (v.9). Paul is clearly using the idea of an open door to describe an opportunity that’s opened up for him to share the gospel. He describes it as a wide door. In other words, he has a big opportunity. There seems to be an element of surprise about it. This isn’t a door that Paul has pushed open. It’s not a door Paul has broken down or unlocked. He’s not the doorkeeper in this picture. Rather, while in Ephesus, God has sovereignly overseen Paul’s circumstances so that he can share the gospel. And so, he decides to walk through that wide, open door, by changing his travel plans.
The idea of an “open door” helps us to realise that our circumstances are not random, but are overseen by our sovereign God. Jesus encourages the church in Philadelphia by saying: “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut” (Rev 3:8). We should look at our circumstances and recognise that God is opening and closing “doors”, through which we can decide to walk in order to serve him.
But it’s very important that we use our Bibles to discern what is and isn’t an “open door”. For example, if someone says: “God opened the door for me to start dating that non-Christian at work”, that’s completely wrong. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’, for… he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). God didn’t “open a door” for David to sleep with Bathsheba. God doesn’t “open a door” for us to make any decisions which contradict or side-line his word. So, we must always use God’s word to interpret our circumstances and identify “open doors”.
Not the door we’d expect
We all have certain doors that we’d love God to open up for us. Maybe you would love God to open up the door for you to get married. Maybe you would love a door to open up to change your housing, or to find a new job, or to stay in the UK. There might be conversations with particular people you’d love God to open up.
As Paul writes his letter to the Colossians, he wants God to open a particular door for him. So, he asks his readers to start knocking on the door in prayer. If we were in Paul’s shoes, the obvious door that we’d ask God to open would the prison door! After all, Paul is in chains as he writes this letter (4:18). But that’s not the door Paul is eager to see opened. He writes: “pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ”. As you watch Paul, sharing the good news of Jesus is actually the main door he always seems to have his eye on. In Acts 14:27, Paul declared “how [God] had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles”.
It would be a sign of real spiritual health, if we shared Paul’s eagerness to see that particular door open. I wonder if that’s how we’re looking at our circumstances?
Not every open door is to be walked through
Interestingly, in 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, there is an open door which Paul decides not to walk through. He says when he came to Troas “a door was opened for me in the Lord”, but he decided to leave and head to Macedonia.
This teaches us an important principle about “open doors”. We do believe that God is in control of all our circumstances, and opportunities for obedience come from him. But this shows us that “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. Just because you’re offered the job, doesn’t mean you should take it. God’s providence is not a straight-forward thing for us to “read”. So, we need to listen carefully to our Bibles to identify open doors in the first place, and then pray for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom, so that we know which open doors it’s a good idea for us to walk through.
Let’s be alert to the doors God is opening for us. Let’s pray for him to open some really “wide doors” for us to share Jesus with the people of Ilford. And let’s pray for wisdom to know when to walk through a door and when not to.