How much do you agree with this statement: God opened the door, so I should walk through.
To the hesitant among you: Yes, that is a trick question. It’s another one of those sentiments that is common in our culture that sounds good on the surface. But when I take a moment to look in my Bible, I have to pause.
Wondering where this is going? Good. Let’s start in Acts 16.
A door is opened
Paul and Silas traveled to Philippi and spent their Sabbaths in the place of prayer. During one of their walks, “a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future” followed them, proclaiming, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (verse 16-17).
She kept this up for days until Paul was at his wits end. Luke, the author of Acts, says in verse 18, “Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!'”
Well, the owners of the girl were unhappy because they made a lot of money off this girl. So they dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates and claimed the two were “throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice” (verses 20-21).
Paul and Silas were flogged and thrown in jail. Talk about a rough day, right? Well, this is where we go back to my question about the open door. Look at verses 25-28.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
Prisoners. Open doors. Loosened chains. And no one moved.
Now, to be fair, in the next verses, Paul and Silas did walk out of that jail cell. At the invite of the jailer, they got cleaned up and spent the rest of the night in his home. But that’s the distinction that we often miss: They didn’t walk through the open door until they were escorted.
Something similar happens when Peter and the Apostles are arrested in Acts 5:17-42, and again when Peter goes to jail in Acts 12:1-11. Both times, the doors are opened, and both times an angel leads them out.
The Bible includes other examples we should pay attention to. For example, in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 Paul says, “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.”
And a closed door doesn’t mean it won’t be opened in God’s timing or that we shouldn’t ask for God to open it. Just like in the prison examples above. Just like in Colossians 4:3 where Paul says, “Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”
So how do you know whether to pray for that door to be opened, or if it is open if you should walk through it? Perhaps the best advice comes from combining the words of Jesus and his half-brother James.
Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
And James wrote, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).
So, back to my original question. If you stand before an open door, should you walk through it?