After a particularly challenging week, my wife and I looked forward to eating a relaxing dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant.
We did not call ahead because the restaurant always did good business on Friday nights and required no reservations. However, when we arrived at the restaurant, to our great disappointment, we found a “Closed” sign hanging in the window and a note stating, “Due to a family emergency.”
The apostle Paul also faced two disappointing closed doors at the beginning of his second missionary journey. According to Acts 16:6-7, Paul and his companions wanted to travel eastward to preach the gospel in the province of Asia, but the Holy Spirit kept them from doing so. Then they tried to enter Bithynia, but, once again, the Holy Spirit would not allow them to.
As we continue reading, we learn that Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia begging him, “‘Come over to Macedonia and help us'” (v. 9, NIV). So, the next day Paul and his companions got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called them to preach the gospel there (v. 10). As they traveled westward, God opened the door for Paul to preach in Philippi (the leading city of Macedonia), Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth. Although Athens was disappointing, God raised up major churches in the other four cities.
What can we learn from this passage?
1. Some closed doors in life God does not open.
We may experience relationships that turn sour, plans that don’t materialize, and efforts that remain fruitless. Although we may not understand why God allows such things, we can always be sure that He will use them for His good purposes for our lives (Romans 8:28-29).
2. hen God closes one door, He always opens another.
Because Paul obeyed God’s change of direction, the people of Macedonia heard the gospel in a timely manner, major churches were established, and five books of the Bible were written: 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. When God closes a door in our lives and opens another, and we respond in obedience to His direction, He will give us His approval and ultimately reward our obedience (1 Corinthians 15:58).
3. God may later open a door that He had previously closed.
During Paul’s third missionary journey, God opened the door for Paul to travel eastward to the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor. Acts 19 records that Paul taught there “for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (vv. 8-10, NIV). God did extraordinary miracles through Paul; people were healed and delivered from evil spirits (vv. 11-12). Although opposition later arose, the gospel took root, a major church was planted, and the Book of Ephesians was written.
As God did with Paul, He may choose to open a door for us that He had previously closed. Although this may seem confusing to us, God may have closed the door earlier because the timing was wrong, because we were not yet ready, or because His purposes dictated it.
God never promised that we would always understand His ways or His timing. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'” (NIV).
Although we may never understand why God opens some doors and closes others, we can entrust our lives to Him, knowing that love will always motivate His actions and His timing will be best for us. As Solomon said, we must “trust in the Lord with all [our] heart and lean not on [our] own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, NIV). When we acknowledge God in all our ways, He promises to guide us.