In our everyday life, we tend to move forward without much pause. We make decisions and act on those decisions. We decide on a restaurant and eat at that restaurant. We decide on an activity, and we pursue that activity. These choices are simple and straightforward.
But occasionally, we encounter bigger decisions that make us nervous. In those moments, we fear a misstep. We fear picking the wrong college or choosing the wrong career or marrying the wrong person. How do we know what to do?
In these situations, Christians often make decisions based on the presence (or absence) of the now-famous “open door.” If there is an “open door,” that option must be from the Lord, and if the door is closed, well…you get the picture. But is this right? Is this biblical decision-making? If the door is closed, does that always mean you should give up? Or, if the door is open, does that always mean you should walk through it?
I have been considering these questions and the apostle Paul’s use of the “open door” concept. I will refrain from drawing any definitive conclusions for you, but I would like to at least draw your attention to a few situations in Paul’s life where he mentions an open door.
Praying for an Open Door
Paul writes to the Colossians and asks them to pray for him. In particular, he requests, “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison” (Colossians 4:3, ESV). Though Paul was not averse to hard work, he also knew that God must be at work. God needed to open a door. So, Paul prayed and asked for prayer that a door may be opened to him.
But what happens when a door opens? How does Paul respond? In at least two cases, he responds in two different ways.
On one occasion Paul decides to walk right through the open door. Paul says to the Corinthians that he has decided, “I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9, ESV). In this case, Paul actually desired to see the Corinthians (the context of this excerpt), but he had decided to stay longer because there was an open door for ministry. His heart desired to see the Corinthians, but he could not resist the open door for ministry.
So, does Paul’s example here mean you should take every open door? Well, not necessarily.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he describes another episode in his life. Paul recounts, “When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 2:12-13, ESV). This example is a fascinating one because Paul says he had an open door in the Lord. It seemed to be a God-ordained open door. And yet, because of his concern for Titus, Paul had no peace; he could not stay. The Lord had provided an open door, but ultimately Paul concluded it was not for him.
What do these examples mean for you? I don’t know exactly. Maybe the decision before you is more complicated than you think; the opened or closed door is not the final answer. Or, maybe you are more free to make the decision than you realize; the door is open, but God is letting you make the decision.