Perhaps you have heard it said (or maybe said yourself), "When God closes one door he opens another." Hmm. I'm sure that's true sometimes. But how 'bout this? When God closes a door, your faith, endurance, and obedience are being tested. Kick that door down. Of course as the title of the post indicates, either option may be viable. Hence the danger of interpreting providence.
I simply want to push back a little on the widely accepted wisdom of closed and open doors being a valid method of determining the path you should take in your Christian life. Preparing to preach through Haggai, I came across the following little gem from Matthew Henry, which stirred me to think on and write about this subject:
…There is an aptness in us to misinterpret providential discouragements in our duty, as if they amounted to a discharge from our duty, when they are only intended for the trial and exercise of our courage and faith. It is bad to neglect our duty, but it is worse to vouch Providence for the patronizing of our neglects. - Matthew Henry
See what he's saying? Something comes to dissuade or discourage us from our duty. For the exiles returned from Babylon employed in rebuilding the temple, there was opposition to that work. So they stopped rebuilding. Ever done that? You get some resistance, so you give up on whatever task it is you're seeking to accomplish? The message of Haggai (and Zechariah) is that the people should't have quit the work because of some opposition! And as Henry says, it's bad to quit on your duty; worse to blame it on a closed door from God.
So next time it seems that God has closed or opened a door, check yourself. Hey, a beautiful woman's walking by: open door to lust! Or, man, I have a headache this morning which means God closed the door on me reading my Bible today. Perhaps those are obvious, but my point today is not a primer on how to determine God's will for your life. A closed door might really be closed; it might be time to move on. That will be easier to tell when you're dealing with clear matters of Christian duty; harder with applying God's wisdom to life decisions like who to marry, what job to take, etc. But let's make sure we don't assume things about open and closed doors. Interpreting providence is tricky business.
When I quote Scripture In this blog, unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are usually from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission.
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