Ever feel stuck in a quandary between two open doors in life? Both seem good, but you can only walk through one. What do you do?
Here's some good news about open doors: With Christ, we don't face open doors alone, and they have greater significance than just for us.
Last week, I started discussing what open doors really are in light of the choices we have to make every day. If you missed Part 1, you can click here to find it or use the button at the bottom.
I'm using John Ortberg's description of open doors from his book, All the Places to Go...How Will You Know?:
Biblically speaking, open doors are divine invitations to make our lives count, with God's help, for the sake of others.1
I want to explore the last two parts of that description, God's help and the good of others.
With God's Help
If you've hung around church for a while, you've probably heard people ask questions like "What is the will of God for me?" or "What is God calling me to?" (if you haven't hung out around church much, trust me you'll hear it eventually). Those questions, when I've heard them used, can sometimes be translated to mean "What is the right open door that leads to success?".
I think that's an honest question that we all ask at some point, but maybe a better question is "What is my motivation for walking through this door?".
Ortberg explains, "Sometimes when I desperately want 'God's will,' what I really want isn't God's will at all. What I really want is what I want. Or it's to off-load the anxiety of decision making."2
That kind of mindset can lead to a distorted understanding of how God helps and guides us in our lives. When we view our lives as self-contained, comfortable units of living we miss out on God's incredible plans that intersect our lives, our communities, and the whole world. I'm getting ahead of myself...
Ortberg writes, "Discerning open doors is never the same as finding guaranteed success. God actually called many people to walk through doors that would lead to enormous difficulty and not external reward."3
That quote brings two guys from the Old Testament to mind for me: Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Imagine walking into a job interview and having your interviewer say, "We'd like to offer you a position here. It's going to entail rampant problems, no one listening to you, and immense personal suffering. When can you start?"
Who would want that job?! I don't think that fits anyone's concept of success in life. And yet that's what God called these two men to in Isaiah 6:8-12 and Jeremiah 7:23-29. Open doors are opportunities to partner with God in His very big plans, not to necessarily promote our comparatively small ones.
The amazing thing is that God actually provides from Himself the very thing we need to walk through open doors: Wisdom.
James 1:5-8 says,
"If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord."
Isn't it interesting how James links wisdom with faith? The wisdom we need from God to walk through open doors does not stand isolated from the faith we need to trust Him. James doesn't stop there, but takes it a step further, connecting this faith/wisdom to meaningful action in 2:14-17.
Faith in God and wisdom from Him do not equate to having all the answers I want or a guarantee of comfort. We display our faith in God and the presence of His wisdom when we take the steps to walk through an open door He provides, regardless of what may lie on the other side.
For the Good of Others
It's kind of sad to me how flippant and cliched the idea of YOLO has become (You Only Live Once, for those behind the curve. It's okay.). There's a wonderful nugget of truth in that idea, that your time in this life has significance and a sense of urgency.
Ortberg presses into what makes up our lives by looking at how we understand our problems:
"In a very important way, you will be defined by your problem. You'll be defined by your biggest problem. You can choose, if you want, to devote your life to the problem of 'How can I be rich?' or 'How can I be successful?' or 'How can I be healthy?' or 'How can I be secure?' Or you can devote yourself to a nobler problem.
Your identity is defined by the problem you embrace. Tell me what your problem is, and I'll tell you who you are."4
So what's your problem? Seriously, take a second to think about that. What problems are important enough to you that they take on the focus of your life? It's a gut check for you and me both, trust me.
Our problems should matter to us because people matter to God. The Bible is full of examples of God calling people to open doors that may not have made much sense but were ultimately blessings to other people.
Abraham's open door came through leaving his family for a place he did not know. Moses' came through standing up to the powers that kept his people in slavery. Paul's came through radically crossing social boundaries with good news. Jesus' came through a cross.
The mission of God empowers people like you and me, with all of our imperfections and insecurities, to demonstrate His love and grace in this world. There are people all around us and around this world who need to physically and spiritually experience that love and grace.
That's incredibly freeing to think about, because it means that wherever I am, whatever position I hold in society, I can have a genuine impact for the good of others and the glory of God.
This month at CityView we're raising awareness and support for Compassion International, a group that helps provide for the needs of kids around the world. Taking a step toward supporting a child through Compassion may be one wide open door for you to have an impact in a person's life. But even in opportunities like partnering with Compassion, we have to fight against the temptation to separate a problem from the real lives of other people.
I've been reading another book in tandem with Ortberg's; it's called Overrated by Eugene Cho (it's uncanny how well these two books work together). Cho calls us up to not overly romanticize serving others and to not simply be in love with "changing the world":
"We have to be particularly careful - locally, globally, or perhaps within our own communities - how we engage those we serve.
We have to constantly remember that they, too, are created in the image of God. Someone I am less likely to consider helpless and in need of saving. Someone to come alongside of. Someone full of potential. Someone God created. Someone with a story. Someone who might be able to teach me."5
People aren't projects, lest we forget. May we seek to meet people where they're at, as Christ met us where we were at. Let's run to problems worthy of our lives with genuine love, godly wisdom, and humility in our own brokenness.
Open doors are rarely simple or easy to understand, but through them, God is calling us to see His kingdom realized in our world. He does not leave us alone, promising that He is with us to the very end. Walking through open doors does not remove the possibility for failure, struggle, or pain, but we can be encouraged that any door provided by God is an opportunity to be a blessing to others in His name.
I always love hearing what your thoughts are about this. Find me on Twitter @MRossYoung, and let me know how God's leading you through the open doors in your life.
1 John Ortberg, All the Places to Go...How Will You Know? (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015), 63.
2 Ortberg, 107.
3 Ortberg, 127.
4 Ortberg, 117.
5 Eugene Cho, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2014) 217.