There is such a thing in life as taking a literal hand to open a material door made of wood or metal. There also are open doors in our service to the Lord. In the New Testament, we read about God opening doors for His servants. In Bible lingo, what is an “open” door? It refers to an opportunity presented.
After Barnabas and Paul completed a lengthy preaching trip together, they returned to the saints in Antioch. “Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). The door “opened” to them was the opportunity to preach the gospel to lost people among the Gentiles.
During the course of one of Paul’s later preaching journeys, he wrote to the church in Corinth, informing the brethren, “But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:8,9). When that open door came his way, Paul was prepared to stay longer in that location. In another letter to the same congregation, he wrote, “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord” (2 Corinthians 2:12). In this latter case, he did not remain long because he was pressing on toward a meeting with Titus in order to receive updated information about his beloved brothers and sisters in Corinth (2:13).
As we think about open doors, Jesus’ message to His followers in ancient Philadelphia comes to mind. Our Lord described Himself as “He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens” (Philadelphia 3:7). When it comes to open doors, what should we do with them?
Ask for open doors. When Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he instructed the Christians in Colosse, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving, meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains” (Colossians 4:2,3; emphasis mine, rdc). Yes, yes, let us pray that there might be opportunities given to God’s faithful to teach the good news of His salvation! Let us pray for those chances in our communities, in our personal lives, and around the world. Let us lift our voices to the Opener of doors to provide opportunities to teach the pure word of God in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, and all other places where religious freedom currently is suppressed.
Pursue/seek open doors. Like the Jews of Nehemiah’s day, we need to pray, and after the words of our prayers come to an end, we must go to work! (Nehemiah 4:9). Prayer plus work/effort is a great approach! There may be times when we feel like good things are “dropped into our laps.” It is possible for lost people to approach us and ask us to teach them the Bible, but such instances are rare. Rather than just sitting around and waiting, we need to take the initiative and look for occasions to teach the Bible. When the Lord opened that door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27), where were Paul and Barnabas? Not lounging inside their tent: they were out working among the people. At times, we do not have because we do not ask and do not seek (James 4:2).
Take advantage of open doors. We think of Barnabas and Saul being given the chance to speak to Jews in Antioch of Pisidia. When the rulers of the synagogue told them if they had anything to say, they could address the assembly. Paul immediately seized the moment to declare God’s great message to those who were gathered (Acts 13:13-17). If someone shows interest in the truth and we do not jump on the chance to teach them, they just may turn to a person or group who will teach them a false message. Or, they may lose interest completely. Over thirty years ago, we sought for and were given the opportunity to begin teaching a weekly Bible class in a maximum security prison in Taiwan. A week after we began those studies, a denominational group appealed to the prison officials to allow them to have some kind of religious activity inside. They were told that the activities schedule was full, so they were turned down. What if we had dragged our feet for a couple of weeks instead of seizing the chance?! We are thrilled that the weekly study we began in the 1980’s continues even now.
Evaluate open doors. Sometimes there may be factors which cause us to say “No” or to delay our decision to go through such doors. Paul had an open door in Troas, but he was greatly concerned about the church in Corinth, so he did not take full advantage of one opportunity in order to be busy in some other aspect of God’s Cause (2 Corinthians 2:12,13). A radio station may contact a local church and inform it that there is a radio time slot available at 3:00 in the morning. That might be an open door, but most likely many congregations would “pass” on the offer.
Thank God for open doors. We praise Him for His providence and are grateful for doors He opened in the past and continues to open for His people. Let us all be looking for opportunities . . . to sow the seed . . . to show interest in a lonely person . . . to build up a brother or sister who is struggling . . . to do kind deeds in the Lord’s name . . .
— Roger D. Campbell