Summary: Sometimes our disappointments in life can become God’s appointments, so don’t let closed doors bother you. The things we think of as failures and problems can often end up being blessings in disguise.
It seems doors of opportunity open and close before us in life. Is it God opening and closing these doors? For many years I’ve heard the saying, “When God shuts one door, He opens another!” Well, no, those exact words are not found in the Bible anywhere. However, of all the phrases we’ll examine in this series this statement is closer to the truth. I haven’t found the original source of the saying, but it sounds similar to a famous quote by Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. He 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.”
The best example of open and closed doors is found in Acts 16:6-12. Paul and his friends launched their second missionary journey from Antioch. Along the way, they encountered some closed doors and then an open door.
“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 thy 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 [“knit together”] that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace and the next day to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia.”
God called Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles and he was obeying God. As he was traveling, he decided to try to go northeast into Asia Minor, but Holy Spirit said “no.” God shut the door. Then he traveled on and tried to go north into Bithynia toward Russia, and once again God shut the door. It must have been a puzzling time for Paul. He was on mission for God and the doors kept shutting in his face. But he didn’t go back, and he didn’t camp out, he kept moving west. When he came to Troas, God opened the door for him to go over into Macedonia, which is modern-day Greece. He had a vision of a man standing in front of him saying, “Come help us!” Paul understood this to be God’s directive, so he took the gospel into Greece instead of Asia Minor. That was the first time the gospel penetrated the European continent, and many of us have a European heritage. We should be glad Paul paid attention to God’s closed and opened doors. As we consider open and closed doors, let’s learn four things about finding and following God’s will.
1. GOD WILL GUIDE YOU IF YOU’LL TRUST HIM
You aren’t just placed on this earth to stumble around in the dark trying to find out what you should do. The God of the Universe is interested in you. He has a plan for you; He has a pathway for you. The Bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”
God wants to guide you, but there is a lot of confusion about finding God’s will. As you seek to follow God, it will be helpful to understand two very important guiding principles:
(1) The wrong question: What is God’s will for my life?
You may be surprised and wonder what’s wrong with that question. Here’s the right question: “What is God’s will?” On the surface, the difference between those two questions may seem minor–but they are as different as a lightning bug and lightning. In the first question the focus is on me. What’s God’s will for ME? In the second question, the focus is on God and what He is already doing in the world. I’ll quote Henry Blackaby later in this message, but in his book Experiencing God, he points out that God is already active in this world and our job is to find out what God is doing and to join Him in His work.
In Acts 16, God was at work saving the Gentiles. God was in the process of taking the gospel to the Roman Empire, and Paul found closed doors until he got in on God’s plan. So, stop asking God to show you His will for your life and ask Him to show you what He is doing, and then join Him!