Sometimes God calls us into an adventure we never anticipated. I’ve heard people refer to these sorts of things as God’s “open doors.” These open doors can take us in directions and to exciting places we never dreamed of. Maybe you’ve used this statement before, If you had told me a few years ago I’d be doing this, I would have never believed it.
I think of my own life, for instance, and how I became a pastor. My senior year at college I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my life, but I began to sense a nudge toward going to seminary and maybe becoming a pastor. I really wrestled with God about it. I asked all kinds of people, “How did you know? How did you know you were called to ministry?” and I never really found a satisfactory answer.
One day I was lamenting this to a friend of mine named Eli who was headed off to the seminary. He listened to me and replied, “Stevie,” which is what he called me. “Why don’t you try it? It sounds like an open door to me. You are wrestling with God. If it’s not an open door, you’ll find out soon enough. What do you have to lose?” So I went.
Seminary was challenging, especially the first year. But I hung in there and the door stayed open for me. So when people ask how I became a pastor, my response is, “God opened the door for me. I went, and I have to say, I’m glad He did!”
God places all kinds of open doors before His people on a daily basis. He can lead us to some very interesting circumstances and adventures.
In the next few weeks, we are going to learn how to recognize “open doors” and how to go through them. Our teacher in this first lesson is Abraham and his wife Sarah. If anyone can teach us about entering open doors, Abraham can.
We see God opening a door to Abraham in our passage from Genesis 12. The book of Genesis begins by describing how God created the world, and it was good. However, in chapter 3, the world absolutely falls apart. In Genesis 12, God begins His plan to put it all back together again. He doesn’t turn away. Instead, He calls a man named Abraham and promises him three things: land, many descendants, make him a blessing to the families of the world.
Something amazing then happened in the story. Abraham went! He walked through the open door God placed before him. He had no strategic outline, no map to follow, no detailed agenda. He didn’t have a clue how God was going to make this happen. He and Sarah just went.
By the way, the entire story of the Bible hinges on the moment when Abraham went. It was not an easy door to pass through. Open doors frequently are not easy. Many of you have probably already learned that along the way. Abraham was leaving behind the familiar – the security of home, all that was comfortable – to follow this God and His plan who promised him great things. He was going into the unknown – a land called Canaan – and there was nothing great about Canaan. Living in Ur and Huran, Abraham was in the center of civilization. He had it made. The place he was headed was uncivilized, foreign, filled with enemies. He would be trading down, so to speak. Canaan was four hundred miles away from home, which was a long, arduous trip for an elderly couple. The land God described to them was already inhabited by the Canaanites, who surely were not going to simply hand it over.
Abraham had to have faced some ridicule as he considered God’s call. When he talked about God’s promise to give him many descendants, which seemed an impossibility, their friends and family must have thought they were off their rockers. He was 75 years old and Sarah was way beyond her childbearing years. What were they thinking – moving so far away to an unknown land? Still they went, trusting this God who had opened the door. They eventually learned they could trust God with everything.
Along the way, they experienced plenty of close calls. As we read Genesis 12 through 21, we find times when Abraham and Sarah were afraid. They fought famine, near death experiences, and some real hair raisers, but God took care of him through it all. It was a long, painful wait for the child. They had to learn patience. Sarah was barren when they started this venture. Ten years passed and still they had no child. Abraham took his doubts to God who said, Just keep trusting. When the child arrived, although it was a miracle, it could not have been an easy thing. What do you think about parenting at the age of 99, which is how old Abraham must have been? It would be very challenging. I am a 65-year-old grandparent, and I love my grand kids. But after five hours of being with them, I’m totally exhausted and ready for bed. How did Abraham and Sarah do it?
Someone might think Abraham was a super godly man, more than qualified to take on this challenge. No, he was not. In fact, if you look ahead to the book of Joshua chapter 24, we learn that Abraham was an idol worshiper when God called him. He was a rookie in his relationship with God and had a lot to learn! He had the faith to go when God called him, but it was a small faith, which faltered frequently along the way. Yet look what came of it!
Even though Abraham didn’t get to see his descendants grow into a great nation, they received the Promised Land – just as God promised – and his family did eventually become a blessing to the families of the world. In Matthew chapter 1, we find the family tree of Jesus, the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of ABRAHAM. The blessing to the nations was Jesus Christ who died on the cross as a sacrifice to pay for humanity’s sinfulness and then rose again in the promise that all who call upon His name shall be saved. A blessing to the world!
The New Testament book of Hebrews chapter 11, sometimes referred to as the “Spiritual Hall of Fame,” actually talks about Abraham’s faith. It inspires us as we consider our own open doors – to not only see those doors, but enter in.
What are some things we learn about God’s open doors from Abraham and Sarah’s experience?
1. Open doors are not usually scripted out for us with specific instructions. God just said, “Go where I lead you.” Abraham and Sarah had to get comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. So will we, for open doors are not always scripted.
2. Open doors are not always easy or convenient or comfortable. You will sometimes feel you are in over your head, as Abraham and Sarah did. There will be moments when you have doubts, wondering what in the world you signed up for. But we must understand that God’s open doors are always for the glory of God and the blessing of others. They are never essentially just for us.
3. They have no special requirements. Abraham was an idol worshiper, as I said. He was an ordinary guy, even elderly when God opened His door to him.
4. Sometimes we learn that these open doors benefit us as well – most often to develop godliness and make us more like Jesus – more loving, patient, kind, full of joy, faith, generosity, and self-control. If we want to experience more of the Spirit of God working these gifts in our lives, we need to train ourselves to look for open doors and respond to moments of divine opportunity.
What open doors has God placed in your life lately? Is there something you sense God might be calling you to? There are all kinds of open doors in life, when you think about it. Maybe you are in transition, changing jobs, or your company has been sold. Perhaps you are considering a career change. This could be an open door. Does God have something new in mind for me? you might ask. Or do I just buckle down where I am and work all the harder.
Maybe you are feeling like you are in a rut. You have a bit of discontent. Could it be God is placing an open door before you to get outside of yourself and take care of someone or step into something new for the cause of God?
Maybe you are retiring and you wonder what’s going to be the next chapter in your life. That’s an open door. What does God have in mind for the rest of my days? We need to ask, because there is no such thing as retirement in the kingdom of God according to Scripture.
Maybe a passion has stirred in you lately. You have observed a great need in this world or in some person’s life and you want to help, make a difference. Perhaps you can get involved personally or financially invest in it. That is an open door!
Perhaps you are in an exciting relationship and thinking about marriage. How do you know this person is the one? Is this is an open door? Will this person come alongside of you to serve God or will they distract you from that relationship?
Perhaps God has placed an opportunity before you to be a blessing in someone else’s life – to serve them, share with them the Hope that is within you, because you have Christ in your life. Maybe you’ve noticed a person who needs a helping hand. Your heart is touched and you are wondering if you should be doing something. That is an open door. The only question is, will you go in?
All these open doors – what will you do? We learned that Abraham went. Have you? Will you? Open doors from God are given to be entered. They invite us to step out in faith – faith in God. Trust Him, turn your life over to His care and leading, and just go.
Remember, as you consider going through these open doors, God is trustworthy. Look at what He went through to make you His own so you could be part of His people. He opened the door of heaven and entered through the back door of Bethlehem. He gave you the opportunity to see Him in the flesh. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Word was God and became flesh. He gave Him as a sacrifice to open a door closed by sin. Jesus died upon a cross, and God raised Him from death back to life as He rolled away another door, thereby conquering death’s hold on you.
Dear friends, our God is trustworthy. You can count on Him.
The appeal for today is to be an open door person. Look for and be ready to embrace the divine opportunities God will place before you this week. Do you see an open door? Go for it trusting the promises of God. He will lead you, He will be with you, and He will help you as He helped Abraham and Sarah. Believe that He wants to use you to be a blessing in someone’s life. With Him you can do significant, exciting, adventurous things and make a difference in this world.
Be on the lookout. In fact, I’m gonna give you a homework assignment to help you start seeing open doors. I encourage you to do this exercise and then dare to take a step of faith when you see doors. Are you ready? Here it is.
Pick a day this week to experiment with openness. Shortly after you wake up, talk with God, indicate your desire to be open to whatever He brings your way that day, whatever that means. Then, as you go through the day – breakfast, work, lunch, family time, a trip to the store, hanging with friends – keep this in mind: you are being open. You are on call. You don’t need to plan to do anything religious, just be open to what God might bring in your direction.
This might mean paying attention to the people around you, noticing what needs they have. How can you show them the love of Christ?
It might mean taking some extra time with a friend or a family member who needs to talk. It might mean enjoying a sunset or a great piece of music. Or God might throw a challenge your way. Will you face it openly, trusting in His help?
O people of God, do this and let the adventures began. I dare you! Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer