Closed Doors, Open Doors
Rev. Lily Lim | On 18, Dec 2018
Acts 16:1-10 (RSV)
V1- And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek.
V2- He was well spoken of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium.
V3- Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was Greek.
V4- As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.
V5- So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
V6- And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.
V7- And when they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them;
V8- so passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.
V9- And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
V10- And when he had seen the vision, immediately new sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Has someone ever slammed the door on your face? Have you ever slammed a door in the fit of your anger?
A SLAMMED DOOR IS A HARSH SOUND. It is not an easy sound to listen to. And it is even a harder thing to experience, especially if you have been obedient to the Lord.
When God slams the door on us, it can be very disillusioning. Painfully disappointing. The door closes not because we are living in sin or because our hearts are turned against what God wants or because we are selfish in some way. We have prayed, we have sought the counsel from godly people; we have studied sections of the Word of God that might very well lead us into the way we ought to go. We have spent time alone, weighing the pros and cons. Our hearts are willing; our spirits are ready; our souls are soaring. And about the time we get near it, bang!….the door slams shut. It just closes! Nobody can explain why. We reel, step back; talk to the Lord but it is as though the heavens are brass. The door has closed. Period!!!!
You cultivate a relationship with this fine individual and you go together for months, even more than a year and you fall deeply in love with that person. And just before you get to the subject of marriage, bang!….the romance cools and the relationship ends. CLOSED DOOR!!!!
You’ve got your heart set on a particular school. You’ve got the grades, you’ve got a good resume and you’ve got the background to do the work academically. But they can take just so many, and when the final cut comes, bang!……..you’re not chosen. You can almost hear the door slammed shut. No explanation, no reason. You’re disillusioned.
This morning, I would like to share a message, entitled, CLOSED DOORS, OPEN DOORS.
In my message this morning, I would like to raise to your attention 4 things:
• A classic example of closed and open doors in Acts 16
• Closed and open doors in our present days
• Dealing with closed doors
• The One in charge of our closed doors
(1) A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF CLOSED AND OPEN DOORS IN ACTS 16
In our key text, we find an example of how closed doors and open doors occurred in the lives of some of God’s true servants. Here we find two missionaries, Paul and Silas, on their way across Turkey, which is called ASIA in this biblical account.
Paul and Silas travelled from the southwestern part of the country to the westernmost region. They came “to Derbe and to Lystra,” where they were before and while in Lystra, the Lord led them to this young man by the name of Timothy (Acts 16:1). So, Paul and Silas linked arms with young Timothy and he began to travel with them. And “the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily” (Acts 16:5). This was an idolatrous country. Yet all across the area, people were coming to Christ, churches were being planted. So, Paul and Silas moved from the familiar area and moved on toward the Phrygian/Galatian region with high hopes. But…..
“And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in ASIA; and when they had come to MYSIA, they were trying to go into BITHYNIA, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them” (Acts 16:6-7).
They had had success, open doors. But when they moved into the more central and southern regions, God closed the door.
Paul and Silas began to think, “The Lord is leading us more towards the CENTRAL AND NORTHERN REGIONS. And so “when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them;” (Acts 16:7). Another closed door.
So, they wound up at TROAS. We don’t know how long they were in Troas before the night vision appeared to Paul in verse 9. Troas was a significant metropolitan center and yet the Holy Spirit forbade them to share the gospel there.
They couldn’t preach in either Phrygia or Galatia, nor were they permitted to share Christ in Mysia and Bithynia. They had to pass by those populated places where the good news was solely needed and came all the way to Troas. And apparently, they weren’t going to do much preaching there. It was a major city at that time and yet they weren’t allowed by God to preach there. What was God trying to say to them?
Can you identify with this deadlock situation? You threw yourself into it and you invested in it, whether it was time or money or gifts or efforts and ….bang!…to your shock, the door slammed shut. It is often difficult to know why.
There was a man who went through the lean years in Dallas. Like many through the 1970s and early 1980s, he had done REALLY well in the real estate market. Then he said, “When it crashed, it was like you could hear the doors slamming. Banks under investigation suddenly called in their loans, and everything just dried up.” This man said, “Back then, in the heyday of prosperity, I was driving a brand-new Porsche. Almost overnight I found myself driving a used, borrowed Chevy. One morning when I drove up to the tollway booth, I realized I didn’t even have a quarter to put in the basket.” From this enormous high to this closed-door low, the one-time high roller said, “I lived in a bathrobe in my home for the better part of two years. Thankfully my wife was able to work and get us through it.” The wide-open door suddenly slammed shut, leaving the man depressed for almost two years.
We don’t know how long Paul was in TROAS, but one night, things changed. Thank God there is such a thing as breakthrough!!
A vision appeared to Paul in the night: A certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9).
They were in Troas, which was in westernmost Asia. Macedonia was all the way across the Aegean Sea, on the European side. And that man in Macedonia was saying, “Come over and help us.” In other words, he invited them to another culture, another language, another continent. Closed door on one side. Open door on the other.
How Paul and Silas responded to closed doors, we are not told. How soon the vision came once they got to Troas, we are not told. We are not even told the identity of the man from Macedonia. But it doesn’t matter who the person was. It was a vision miraculously sent from God. And the man said, “Come over.” So, they concluded that God had called them to preach the gospel over there and immediately that’s where they went.
This is the first work of evangelism in Europe in the NT. This will mean the beginning of the church at Philippi, the church at Thessalonica and the church at Corinth. God’s at work. The door has now swung wide open. It had been closed and now it’s open.
God did both without asking permission, without a warning and without any explanation.
(2) CLOSED AND OPEN DOORS IN OUR PRESENT DAYS
There is a story of closed doors and open doors told by one of the staffs of Navigator stationed at Colorado.
“My wife and I could not find peace, in any manner, staying in the States. And while at a conference years ago with a number of leaders of the Navigators, I was offered the opportunity to open our work in Uganda. I could hardly spell the word “Uganda” when they pointed to me and said, ‘Perhaps that’s where the Lord would have you and your family go.’ I went home and told my wife and kids and we began to pray. I had three small kids at that time. My oldest son was just about to start school. I asked my wife, ‘Honey, are you ready to take on the challenge of Uganda?” My wife replied, ‘If that’s the door God has opened for us, I’m ready for the challenge.’”
“So, we flew to Nairobi, Kenya where I put my family up in a hotel while I rented a Land Rover and drove across the border into the country of Uganda to check out the situation. This was just after Idi Amin’s reign of terror. One of the first things that caught my eye when I came into the village where I was going to spend the first night were several young kids with automatic weapons, shooting them off in the sky. As I drove by, they stared at me and pointed their guns. Nothing happened but it was that kind of volatile setting. And I thought to myself, ‘Lord, are you in this?’ My heart sank as the sun began to set.
By now the streets were dark, and I pulled up at a little dimly lit hotel. Inside, I went up to the registration counter. The clerk, who spoke only little English, told me that there was one bed available. So, I went up two flights of stairs and opened the door and turned on the light – a naked light bulb hanging over a table. I saw a room with two beds, one unmade and one still made up. And I realized that I was supposed to be sharing this room with somebody else.
That really pushed me off and in discouragement, I dropped to my knees and prayed, ‘Lord, look! I’m afraid. I’m in a country I don’t know, in a culture that is totally unfamiliar. I have no idea who sleeps in that bed. Please, show me You’re in this move!’ And then, just as I was finishing my prayer, the door opened and there stood this six-foot five-inch African frowning at me, saying in beautiful British English, ‘What are you doing in my room?’ I stood there for a moment and then I muttered, ‘They gave me this bed, but I’ll only be here one night.’
“What are you doing in my country?” the African asked.
“Well, I’m with a little organization called the Navigators.”
“Aahh!! The Navigators!” And the African broke into this enormous grin, threw his arms around me and laughed out loud.
He lifted me off the floor and just danced around with me.”
“Praise God, praise God,” said this African.
Finally, both of sat down at the table and this brother in Christ, this African fellow Christian said, “For two years I have prayed that God would send someone to me from this organization.” And he pulled out a little Scripture memory-verse pack and at the bottom of each of the verses it read, “The Navigators, Colorado Springs, Colorado.”
“I was,” I replied. “But I am coming to Uganda to begin a work for the Navigators in this country.”
The door of new hope flew open in my life. That African became a member of my board, helped me find a place to live, helped me rebuild a section of my home, taught me all the culture, assisted me with the language and became my best friend for the many years we were there, serving Christ…..who “opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens.””
DOORS ARE CLOSED. DOORS ARE OPENED. LIVES ARE CHANGED.
(3) DEALING WITH CLOSED DOORS
Maybe for some of you here, year 2018 presented many closed doors to you. Doors are slammed on your face by God and this morning, you are wondering if God is still there for you or is there something radically wrong with your life.
If you are struggling this morning with closed doors, let me give you 4 GUIDELINES that will help you in your own process of dealing with the doors Christ has opened and closed:
(a) SINCE GOD IS SOVEREIGN, HE IS IN FULL CONTROL
Revelation 3:8- “I am the one who opens and no one shuts, I am the one who shuts and no one opens.”
(b) BEING IN FULL CONTROL, GOD TAKES RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE RESULTS
Don’t try to carry that burden. It is not up to you to make the divine plan work; it is up to God. Your job is to walk in His will, regardless; it’s God’s job to make His will work.
(c) THE CLOSING OF A GOOD OPPORTUNITY OCCURS IN ORDER TO LEAD YOU TO A BETTER ONE
Look at the story about the man from Navigator – a good door closed in the States for that dear family; a better door opened in Uganda.
There are countless stories like that – “I hit the closed door…..I got to the end of my rope, I tied a knot and hung on….I trusted the Lord through this and you can’t believe what happened as a result of my not pushing my way in that direction I thought I was supposed to go.”
God took over and turned a JOLT INTO JOY!!!!!
Talking about doors slamming on our faces – we had our fair share of that while looking for schools in Singapore for my daughter, Jan. Those were one of the most frustrating and humiliating time of our lives. God spoke to my heart to send my two daughters back to Singapore when Joy was 15 and Jan 13. The rhema was very clear- let them go back to their homeland to claim their birthright. They shall inherit the land of milk and honey and they shall be great in the land. The mission policy of our sending church was – children of missionaries must follow their missionary parents even if they were called to the slums. I plucked up my courage to ask my senior pastor at that time for my daughters to return to our homeland for their education. And she consented. Doors were opened. Now, the next step was to find a high school for Jan. Jan was the first to return to Singapore ahead of her elder sister as the high school in Singapore was due to begin their new school year in Jan 2. Joy had to finish her high school in Iloilo first before she could return to Singapore for her Junior College. I was advised by a Singapore educator to apply to good schools like St Nicholas Convent, Sin Ming Secondary School or even Hai Sing Secondary School for Jan. But door after door was slammed on our faces. Even though Jan did very well for the placement tests, doors were closed. So, we decided to try for public schools to the chagrin of the Singapore educator. She claimed that Jan was too good for neighborhood schools. But time was running out and Jan 2 was around the corner and if I still rejected the one vacancy in this neighborhood school, Jan would have no school to attend. I accepted the offer from the principal of this high school called Greenview Secondary School. To our natural eyes, it seemed like an inferior school because it is a public school. It was also a blow to our pride as Jan was put in the best private school in Iloilo City. Now doors were closed for good schools in Singapore. They were prejudiced against my daughter because she was educated in a third world school. But I had faith in my God who has the ability to turn things around and the ability to transcend thing. I challenged my daughter to by faith take this “lousy” school and just believe for God to open a better educational door for her in her junior college level. That was 14 years ago. I remember telling Jan that if she did go to a good junior college after her high school in a neighborhood school, all glory would go to Jesus. Her boasting will solely be about Christ. After we accepted the closed door and just took what God had opened, God began to promote Jan. God enabled Jan to excel as Valedictorian throughout her 4 years of high school in Singapore. Finally, she emerged Valedicatorian again for her General Cambridge Examination O Levels. She did so well that she was able to enter into a pretty good Junior College. After her Junior College GCE A level exams, God opened the door for a 5-year scholarship by Ministry of Education for France. I see the finger prints of God even in the closed doors of the educational life of my daughter but that was to lead Jan to a better place. Had we not accepted the closed doors of the good schools and enter into the door opened by God for public school, we would have missed seeing how God’s grace and faithfulness promoted Jan from a “lousy” school to an education path paved with honor. Today, each time people asked about my daughter’s education, they all went away awed by the amazing goodness of God after hearing about the closed and open doors of God for Jan.
(d) NOT UNTIL WE WALK THROUGH THE OPEN DOOR WILL WE REALIZE THE NECESSITY OF THE PREVIOUSLY CLOSED ONE.
Let’s go back to the Uganda story. After more than a dozen years, the Navigator work was well established and the man’s work there was finished. Another person from the staff of the Navigators came and picked up the work as the first staff and his family returned to the States.
They had not been back quite a year when his son’s high school class went to Washington DC for their senior field trip. The father said to his boy before he left, “Son, here’s forty dollars. I want you to buy something for yourself that will be a great memory for you of this trip to our nation’s capital.”
So his son went to Washington, D.C. for several days. When he got back, he had a package with him. He said, “I want to surprise you, Dad.” So, the father waited until his son called him into his bedroom. As the father walked into the room, hanging over the bed, a huge Ugandan flag. “This is what I bought with the money you gave me,” said the boy. “Those years in Uganda were the best years of my life, Dad.”
Talk about perspective. The man feared that by going to Uganda he might hurt or hinder his family, when, in fact, his son now had an abiding passion for God’s work outside the borders of these United States. It was a passion he would never have had if that man had not obeyed and walked through the open door.
(4) THE ONE IN CHARGE OF THE CLOSED DOORS
Revelation 3:7-8 – And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”
Here our Lord defines Himself as the one “who is holy,”……that is SINLESS, the one “who is true.” And by that He means He hates evil and He does not counsel in error or engage in erroneous activities. He is “holy,” He is “true,” and He “has the key of David,” which is symbolic for AUTHORITY.
Someone who has the key to the safe has the authority to open the safe. You have a key to your home. That give you the authority to go into the home. Whoever doesn’t have the key has no right to invade a home.
Since Jesus “has the key of David,” clearly, He has the AUTHORITY. And look at the description of that AUTHORITY. He describes himself as the one “who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” He alone has the right to open a door of opportunity and escort us through it. And we enjoy the benefits as well as endure the tests. As He walks with us, we persevere through the doors He opens. He also has the right to SLAM DOORS without explanation. And more often than not, when a door of opportunity is shut, it is to lead us through a better door with greater opportunities. Closed doors…..open doors: EITHER IS GOD’S PREROGATIVE.
You don’t have to live very long in the Christian life before you realize that both happen regularly. As profoundly as we may pray and consistently as we may make ourselves available to do the Lord’s will, there are times that His answer is NO. That’s right…….NO. CLOSED DOOR.
Now, it is our tendency, being only human, to use a little force when we encounter a closed door. We are not going to take a closed door sitting down. So, we get out the crowbar of INGENUITY or we use some dynamite of CARNALITY and we start working on the door, because we are going to get that door open.
Stop…..stop. Anytime you force a door, thinking you’ll get a way, ultimately you will regret it. Leave it closed, back again, accept it. In acceptance lies peace.
Perhaps you have come to a closed door and you have been resisting it, you have been pushing it, you have been fighting it. You have looked for someone to blame. You have determined that this is what you are supposed to be doing and it is hard for you to accept the fact that the door is truly closed.
Accept it, give up the fight, let it be…..let it be.
You have come to your own Bithynia or Phrygia, Galatia or Mysia and to your surprise the door has closed. Ask the Lord to meet with you at your own personal TROAS as you look out across the vast sea of possibilities. Ask Him to give you peace in a whole new direction.
It is easy to be disillusioned and discouraged and to think we have missed His will, when, in fact, we are in the very nucleus of that will. It is hard to have dreams dashed, to have hopes unfulfilled, to face a future that is unknown and unfamiliar and sometimes, if the truth were known, unwanted. But God has a way of guiding us unerringly into the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Isn’t it about time you stopped trying to figure it all out? Let it be…..let it be. You’ll exchange a lot of intensity and worry for tranquility and relief.
My Testimony: The door for mission was opened for us in 1986, with financial support from Singapore. Then God slammed it shut on our face in year 2012. Many malicious forces were working behind scene to destabilize the ministries of Etab and even to deport us from the Philippines. That year was the first time door was closed for foreign support for our Philippines ministry. It was a disillusioning, confusing and painful time for us. We couldn’t accept the closed door of Singapore and so we tried to open this closed door by ourselves. Like a bird we flit from one ally to another in Singapore until God rebuked and stopped me at my track. I relinquished my ways, my plans and by faith, I let God take over. I held him responsible for the well being of this church as well as my personal lives. And after four years of harsh slammed doors, God opened another door -with no assistance from any Singapore church, we were able to branch out to Cambodia all solely from the financing of Etab. God gave a financial breakthrough to Etab in 2016. How true – a better door for church planting overseas was opened for Etab. It is not until we walked through the open door of this divine financial provision from God that I realized the necessity of the previously closed one. Had the door for Singapore support not been closed, I would not be compelled to exercise my wings of faith to soar with the power of the Holy Spirit; I would not be compelled to release and risk everything for this church and for God. God is sovereign, He is still in control and thus He takes full responsibility for the results. The closed doors weren’t ordered by God to harm us but to lead us to a better one. Accept it, give up the fight. One day you will appreciate this closed door when you are able to walk through a new open door.
PREACHED AT ETAB ON 16 DEC 2018 AT FRIST ENG SV