Friday, March 15, 2013

When God Opens Doors

In my mind today begins springtime. I had a glorious night of sleep, and woke up happily (which doesn't ever happen) and today the high is 50. So even though it will be cold again in a day or two, and even though I probably won't be sleeping through the night again for a while, I'm going to embrace it today! 

This morning as I was reading through Acts (more like re-reading what I read through far too quickly to catch up with my bible study at church), something really small stuck out to me in a really big way. I was reading Acts 12, which is largely centered on Peter’s imprisonment and escape/rescue. I’ve read this before; it was not a new story to me. But verse 10 held my attention this time.

            [10] When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him.
(Acts 12:10 ESV)

The iron gate opened of its own accord. This ­ made me think of when people talk about God opening doors in their life. This seems like where that analogy must have started. But before the gate opened an angel came and gave Peter VERY specific instructions.
1.   Get up quickly
2. Dress yourself
3. Wrap your cloak around you and follow me
4. Then the gate opened for Peter

Applied to my life, I think this would look like…
1.   Be ready. Whether sleeping or awake, always be ready.
2.  Arm yourself, equip yourself with the necessities: A relationship with             Christ, sensitivity to Holy Spirit, knowledge of God’s word.
3.   Do what you need to do to be able to follow well so that you don’t have to worry. Like a cloak, wrap yourself in God’s protection so that you don’t have to worry when the time comes.

This escape from prison struck me especially because an open door doesn’t always indicate God’s will in your life, as it did for Peter here. Later in Acts 16 we see another set of prison doors miraculously opened for Paul and Silas. It would have been so easy for them to take that miracle as God’s will and provision for them to escape. After all, the earthquake that shook open the doors happened while Paul and Silas were in the middle of prayer and worship. But instead—but instead it was God’s will for them to stay and persevere and sacrifice so that the jailer would come to know the Truth and be saved. It was God’s will for those doors to open, but it was equally God’s will for them to stay and not walk through those open doors. Later they were released, but not nearly as dramatically or supernaturally (so it seems).
So how did Paul and Silas know that they should stay put?
1. They knew the Lord intimately.
2.  They did not receive instructions to leave.
3. Leaving would have brought harm to their guard.
4.   Staying meant seizing the opportunity to share the gospel with the guard and his entire household. It meant making the most of the relationships in their lives at that moment.

But for Peter—he was just sleeping. It would be simpler to believe that God was rewarding the ones who stayed up worshiping and praying. It doesn’t really make sense that Peter gets rescued, but the others don’t. But God isn’t simple. He doesn’t work the way we work. 
How did Peter know it was God’s will to escape?
1.   He received specific instructions.
2.    He wasn’t sure if he was dreaming or not, but choose to follow God’s instruction regardless. He followed one step at a time. Once he awoke and had in fact been rescued from prison, he said “Now I am sure…the Lord rescued me” (v11)

 When it comes down to it, there is no easy answer or formula for knowing what God’s will is for your life. God doesn’t open doors based on what it seems like we deserve. God is not limited to the simplicity of our minds. We can’t discern God’s will based on what we would do if we were Him. We can only discern God’s will by the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s word and familiarity with His character. At a moment’s notice we may be called to go or we may have to make a split second decision to stay. Just because a door is open in front of us, doesn’t mean that walking through that door is what we are being called to.

The bottom line is this: Am I equally ready? Ready to make an escape? Ready to stay put?

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