Rethinking Open and Closed Doors
Does God guide us by opening and closing doors? Is that even a Biblical concept? And if it is, does an open door always mean an easy path?
WHICH DOOR DO YOU GO THROUGH?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Let me paint a scenario for you, and I want you to think about what the right answer is.
Let’s say you’re looking for a job, and you have two possibilities.
The first job offers you great money (way more than you were making before) and the other job offers even less money than you were making before.
Which job are you supposed to take?
Is the job with the best money an OPEN door from God?
Is he leading you there?
Or what about this:
Let’s say you’ve been feeling for a while like you should go back to school.
But the very first school you apply to rejects your application. You don’t get admitted.
Is that a CLOSED door from God?
Is God telling you not to go back to school?
As we continue this morning in our “Wireless” series about prayer, I want to discuss the idea of how God guides us as we pray…
Specifically, as it relates to a metaphor that many Christians use: open & closed doors.
Is the best option for you always the open door?
Is the best option always the path that looks like it will have the least resistance?
Is God always behind an open door?
Does God close doors?
Is the idea of God opening and closing doors even a concept we can find in the Bible?
We’ve got a lot of question to answer…and I think they matter…a lot.
Because if there’s one thing I know that almost everyone desires from God…it’s guidance!
And before we go any further…I want you to stop and think about what you need guidance from God on today.
For some of you that’s obvious…for others it might take a second.
Is it guidance regarding a job decision…or moving…or dating?
Is it guidance regarding if you should have a conversation w/ a certain person?
Maybe it’s around something with your kids?
Something w/ their school, or childcare, or parenting, or maybe even if you should have kids…or have more?
We all need and want guidance…and God wants to give it to you!
The challenge is: We’re not always that good at discerning it.
SOMETIMES GOD DOES OPEN & CLOSE DOORS
I want to start by looking at the question of: Is the idea that God opens and closes doors for us even a Biblical concept.
Here’s the answer: Kind of.
When we study the Bible it appears that, yes, sometimes God does appear to open doors:
He opens up the sea for Moses & the Israelites to escape from Pharaoh’s grasp when it looks like there’s no place to go.
He often specifically led people in battle in the OT.
In the NT, he’s often leading disciples & telling them where to go.
The Apostle Paul even uses this exact metaphor to describe God making it easier to share the Gospel (the Good news of Jesus with people)
(2 Corinthians 2:12) – NIV
12 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me,
Paul even asks for prayer in this way:
(Colossians 4:3) – NIV
3 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.
And we see that God even appears to shut doors on our plans and prayers…and guide us elsewhere.
(Acts 16:6-10) – NIV
6 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.7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 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.
Their hope was to tell people in Bith-thin-ee-ah about Jesus…but God closed the door on it…it didn’t seem right.
Because God was opening another door. He had other plans.
BUT…WE’VE OVERSIMPLIFIED IT
So yes, God sometimes is opening and closing doors for us.
But when the Bible uses this language it’s always in terms of God is opening a door and leading you this way…or he is NOT leading you this way.
But the Bible does NOT say that every open door (everywhere God leads) is the easy door and everywhere God doesn’t lead you was the hard door.
And yet, unfortunately, that’s exactly how a lot of us have oversimplified this (maybe even unknowingly)
We’ve developed a mentality that goes something like this: If it’s meant to be, God will open the door and make it easy.
And conversely, if it’s NOT God’s intended next step for me, God will close the door and create resistance to me going that direction.
And yet, this is an oversimplification.
In the Bible, God just leads.
He says…go that way. Don’t go that way.
Sometimes He’ll lead you that way, and He’ll bless it along the way.
It’ll even feel like the easier way…the path of least resistance.
You’ll feel like, “This is God! He’s just blessing this! I couldn’t have done this on my own. He’s just making it all come together!”
But sometimes God will say, “Go that way.”
And you’re thinking, “Um…are you sure, God?”
“Did you SEE that way? That can’t be a good idea!”
God just leads.
And we can’t reduce his leading to if the path looks open and clear: go forward, and if it looks difficult, that’s God saying to stop pursuing it.
SOMETIMES GOD WANTS YOU TO KEEP WALKING THROUGH A CLOSED DOOR
See…sometimes…God wants you to keep walking through what you might have even labeled a closed door. He wants you to keep walking through what looks like only opposition ahead.
We see this A TON in the Bible.
For those of you that were with us this past Fall, we studied in 1 Samuel how David got anointed the future King of Israel when he was just a young teenager.
And yet, the current king, Saul, spent his whole life trying to kill David.
Clearly David could have said, “It seems like God is closing the door on this idea of me being King. It doesn’t look like His will anymore.”
But that would have been terribly wrong.
In the Book of Exodus, Moses goes to Pharaoh and says, “Let my people go!”
And Pharaoh says, “No. NO way. They’re my slaves. In fact, since you asked, I’m now going to make their back-breaking work even harder!”
And the Israelite leaders complain to Moses that clearly he made the wrong move…God must be shutting the door.
And Moses complains to God…clearly you had the wrong idea.
The religious leaders (And MOSES!!) even operate off of this wrong sort of thinking: “There is opposition…thus, God must not be in this”
This is more common than you think.
But God says:
(Exodus 6:1) – NIV
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”
Sometimes God calls us to walk through what looks like a closed door because it’s on the hard journey that His power is magnified…like in the example of Moses & Pharaoh.
And often it’s on the hard journey that we learn how to trust and rely on him.
And so, it’s important that we understand opposition is rarely the sole determiner of God’s will.
SOMETIMES GOD DOESN’T WANT YOU TO WALK THROUGH THE OPEN DOOR
And this actually gets even a bit trickier.
Just as God does sometimes wants you to walk through what looks like a closed door…
Sometimes he doesn’t want you to walk through what looks like an open door.
One of the major problems with simplifying God’s guidance to just “open & closed doors” is that it completely ignores the presence of evil and sin.
Sometimes, what appears to be the path of least resistance is not there because God opened the door, but because the devil opened the door for you.
Or your own sinful desires kicked it open.
And see, there’s a big danger here:
So many of the open doors we walk through (in the name of God) are just enticing ‘slip and slides’ to the perils of sin.
Like, say this new position you took at work seems like God is opening the doors to your success.
But really, it might just be your own selfish desires to finally “be somebody” or “make some real money”
They told you’d have to work 60 hours a week, and be away from your family all the time on trips…but think of the money!
And in the end…what seemed like an open door, was a slip and slide to the perils and ramifications of our own sin.
A struggling marriage…difficulty parenting, you name it.
So, whenever a door gets open or closed in your life…it is IMPERATIVE that you asked the question: WHO opened it? Who closed it?
HOW TO TELL WHO IS OPENING/CLOSING THE DOOR?
The real question, the foundational question, in your life is: Where is God leading me?
The open & closed doors are just an interesting sub-topic of that larger question
And so if there are doors that are opening and closing in your life right…how do you tell WHO is opening them?!
How do you tell if these new open doors or new shut door is connected to God’s will or not?!
I want to give you 3 really common ways a lot of Christian teachers look at this.
If you feel like something may be God’s leading, we need to #1: Weigh against Scripture (what the Bible says)
God will never ask you to do something that will contradict his Word.
So let me give you some real life examples of this:
Let’s say you want to pick up a 2nd job…or look into changing your shifts at work…maybe if you did…you could make more money.
However, to do so, would mean that you would miss regular Christian community. Either here on Sundays, or with your house group.
The answer is simple. God’s not going to lead you there.
WHY? Because He’s not going to contradict His Word.
(Hebrews 10:24-25) – NIV
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
In the Bible, Christian community is INFINITELY important, so God is not going to lead you out of that, just so you can make more money.
And yet, I see people do it all the time.
ALL THE TIME.
And 9 months later, they’re always miserable.
Because God didn’t design you to find happiness in riches, but in Him…and His people.
Sometimes, you see this in relationships.
A single Christian will be pursued by an attractive single non-Christian.
And it feels like all the doors are opening for this relationship to work (you mesh well, you laugh together, you both have Star Wars Collector sets…you thought you’d be single forever, and now…”
And yet, 2 Corinthians 6 tells us that, particularly in marriage, we shouldn’t be unequally yoked together with non-Christians.
That’s the metaphor of two oxen coming together.
God doesn’t want you to marry someone who doesn’t have Jesus Christ as their King.
And let me say this loud and clear: If your decision on what you need to do in your life right now…has anything to do with love, relationships, money, or power…you need to pray 5 times harder than everyone else.
Because you are 5 times more likely to be tricked by “the deceitfulness of our sin” as the Bible calls it.
We see what we want to see.
So God’s not going to ever lead you to a place that will contradict His Bible.
Here’s the 2nd thing you can do in deciphering if God is leading you somewhere or not: Get Godly counsel from other Christians (who can help you w/ that Bible part too).
Not everyone is going to agree with where you think God is leading you, but many Godly people should agree with you…if God is truly leading you there.
I think of when I had to make the decision of if I was going to leave my comfortable position as a youth pastor at a larger church…to attempt to start this church from scratch 6 years ago or so.
Sure, there were a few people that thought that was a bit nuts…or wasn’t the smartest idea.
But the Godly people around me that I trusted…they encouraged me to go forward with it.
We need counsel from others because sometimes what we think is God opening a door, everyone else can plainly see it’s just us trying to push it open.
And thirdly, if you’re trying to understand God’s will, and it looks, in particular, that you have a new open door: Ask yourself: how easy does this look long-term?
If it’s too easy…there’s a possibility that maybe it isn’t God.
When God opens a door…there’s almost always a level of faith, trust, and risk to it.
Remember an open door just means that God is leading you there…not that’s a lack of opposition or trial.
Even when God miraculously clears the path and parts the Sea for the Israelites to walk through…for 1) They’re thinking, “Wow! Thank you God! You clearly did this!” And 2) You can’t tell me that they still weren’t shaking in their sandals walking through the sea with the walls of water on both sides.
I like how Paul puts it in one of his letters:
(1 Corinthians 16:8-9) – NIV
8 But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
This is a good description of the balance of how God often works.
Yes, God can open doors for us! They’re often incredible blessings of his guidance in our lives!
But, when you get through the door, there still might be a mountain on the other side.
So for Paul, God opens the door for incredibly effective ministry in Ephesus…yet Paul is also eventually chased out of the city.
God’s will for your life isn’t just a stroll through Walt Disney World.
Sometimes, we’re called, even to suffer for the glory of his name.
The early Christians rejoiced at this opportunity.
We often miss it all together.
And so we must be very careful not use open and closed door language as a way to over-spiritualize the things we want to do (God opened this door for me) or to avoid the things we’re scared to do (God closed the door on this)
This is far too easy of a way out.
GOING BEYOND THE DOORS…SENSING HIS WILL.
And so I would say to you: Don’t take the easy way out.
Don’t settle for just choosing the path with the least resistance or the path that looks most appealing and slapping a “God’s opened a door for me” label on it.
Because now you see…that God’s leading doesn’t always work that way. Often, it doesn’t.
Don’t settle until you feel confident that God is leading you.
Do the hard work of seeking out His voice and seeing where he’s really leading you to.
And I think we we rely on just using quick open & closed door analogies because we often just want an answer so quickly…and we haven’t sought God much previously on it.
We’re like student who asks for God’s guidance while taking the test he didn’t bother to prepare for.
And so rather than doing the hard work of discerning God’s voice…we just try and “interpret the signs”
It’s kind of like this: Say you’re married, and for the next few year, you basically ignore your spouse.
You don’t talk to them; you don’t know what they’re interested in anymore; and you certainly don’t know what they want for their birthday next week.
So instead of doing the hard work of:
Talking to their friends…or better yet…over time…carefully listening to what they’re saying to you in conversation…you resort to looking for a sign as to what to get the for their birthday.
And as you drive to work you pass a billboard that says “Snuggle Up with a Snuggie!”, and you say, “Yes! That must be it!”
And I feel like that’s where we’ve landed ourselves on God’s guidance.
We’re so busy…and we honestly just don’t put the work into prayer…and so we’re left to just kind of lazily interpret “signs” or open and closed doors…as sort of a last resort of determining what God wants for our lives.
…because we didn’t give Him enough time on the front end.
But if you seek His will from the beginning…if you seek His will often in prayer, you won’t feel such a push to try, as a last resort, to decipher if this new job is an “open or closed door.”
You’ll already have a sense of where God is leading you in life.
And that’s a much better way!
But to do that, we need to start with getting better at listening for his guidance.
Let me give you just a few more things to take with you for this week that you can start doing right away:
If you’re not reading the Bible yet, start today.
Reading the Bible is like turning the volume knob of God’s voice up a few notches.
If you don’t know where to start, pick up one of our awesome Bible reading plans in the hallway…or they’re on our app as well.
If you don’t have a Bible…take the one under your chair…you can have it.
If you’re not in one of our House Groups yet…try one of the 6 of them out this week. (Almost 80% of our adults are in a group)
They’re incredibly unique. 20-30 people in a house every week.
A small church community…where people can help you in your walk w/ God.
If you’re in a House Group…start being even more honest in your small group this week.
Flat out tell your friends you need help and guidance on some of this stuff.
And…as you work on making prayer more personal like we’ve been talking about in this series…give God space to talk.
As modern-day Americans, one of THE largest hindrances to us receiving guidance from God, is the fact that there is no simply no room for silence in our lives anymore.
Most of us are just left to this “open & closed doors” thing as a last resort because we’ve given God absolutely no space to speak in our lives along our everyday journeys.
Every spare second of the day…we fill.
When we’re in the car, we turn the radio on because we can’t bear to be by ourselves
And for the rest of the day, we fill basically every spare open second with our smart phones.
There is “no silent time to think” or silent time for God to speak anymore.
There used to be a lot of it.
You know what people used to do in a waiting room? Wait! (no longer…we’re on our phones)
Waiting in line at Target (on our phones)
Even when a commercial is on, just time to doubly distract our minds with commercials AND our phones.
I feel like more and more I hear people say, “I do my best thinking in the shower.”
You ever hear that from people?
I always say, “Yeah, because it’s the only place left in your life you give yourself (and God) space to think…(to speak).
I’ll tell you what: God IS Talking.
But most of us have cranked up the volume of distraction loud, it drowns out His voice.
But He wants to talk to you…to guide you.
Every week, when I study for my message, I go to Culver’s (it’s weird I know…but I’ve been doing it for years)
And after I study, I always drive back to the church office to write.
It’s about a 10-15 min drive.
And every week, I force myself to ride in silence for those 10-15 minutes.
And honestly, many of my best ideas for my message, every week, come from when I drive back in silence.
Not because I’m somehow brilliant and just gave myself space to think.
I had already been reading, studying, and thinking all day.
It’s because I’m giving God more space.
I’m saying, “What else God?! What am I still missing??!”
So what if…as you seek to get deeper guidance from God (rather than just looking at opened and closed doors as a last resort)…what if you begin the process of extra space for God to speak to you on a daily basis.
That way…you’ll have a better sense of his will ALL THE TIME, and you won’t feel forced to make a quick decision when you need to…you’ll already know.
So what if:
You took some extra time in your prayer time this week just to listen?
Or what if this week…many of us from Renovation made a pact to just set our cell phones on the counter in the kitchen when you get home from work.
Get old fashioned…and turn the ringer on if you must, but just put it on the counter for the evening…for 7 days.
And start giving God space to whisper again
…in the quiet moments.
…in the in-between moments.
And ask Him to guide you to do his will…and I believe he will show you which way to walk.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.