More and more I hear people talk about how “the Lord opened a door to me,” or some variation such as, “This is an opportunity from the Lord.”
My first thought was how nice it is that more and more people are putting the Lord God into their decisions and their lives on an everyday basis. Then, further, that it was nice that they were not too scared of being labeled “Pentecostal” to talk about God working through them.
But then I began to wonder how I am to know whether a door is an opportunity from God or whether it is an open trap from Satan. Of course, if the thing is wrong in and of itself, we can be sure. But, not all Satan’s traps are baited with lusts/evil; some are baited with distractions and time-wasters and faith-weakening actions that are not of themselves sinful. We do agree that God is not whispering the answer in our heads, so how can we know?
Well, the Apostle Paul could not tell according to Acts 16. He started for Asia. To all measurements this holy man could take, Asia was the door. The Spirit had to say, “No.” Later Paul would call Ephesus a “great door and effectual,” but not yet, the Spirit said. Then he looked to Bithynia for it likewise seemed to be an opportunity for the gospel, but again the Spirit said, “No.” Finally we know the Spirit led him to Philippi. None of the choices were sinful, but only one was God’s door at that time. Absent such a direct leading from God, no one can know whether a thing is a door or a side road into a bog, not even so spiritual a man as the Apostle Paul.
Some have so fiercely latched onto the idea that their choice is an opportunity from God that even advice from sincere, older, godly men with a whole lot more experience they denounce with, “You do not as much faith as I do.”
Does no one else see the potential for an almost arrogant spirit in this attitude? First, God chose ME. Second, I listen to no one, not even brethren with knowledge, brethren with love for the Lord and love for me. Third, I turn it into a matter of faith and I have enough to make it go. Often, when the door slams, the opportunity sinks without a trace, and their faith goes with it.
Looking back through my life, I can discern a few times that now appear to me to have been God’s door of opportunity. But is that how God views them? Again, I see many times I slogged through the bog, slowed by mud and briars and in danger of varmints. But, is that how God views those times?
I doubt that at 11:30 pm, Paul and Silas, being in severe pain from a beating and after hours of being locked in stocks, were thinking of their inner prison as a door of opportunity. By dawn, they knew that it had been. All we can do is the thing they did—however they could at that moment they served the Lord. They sang and prayed. Wherever we are, we need to be doing what we can, making the best decisions we can to accomplish God’s work. We must not let ourselves become too enthusiastic, and certainly not too arrogant, to hear wisdom.
A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong, 2 Cor 12:7-10.