Open Doors, Closed Doors & Divine Connections

At some point in your life you’ve probably ventured out and taken steps that didn’t go quite as planned. You may have even mapped things out and considered all the risks, but still had some unexpected surprises along the way. Doors that seemed wide open at first may have suddenly closed. Opportunities that looked so promising were now off the table.

Sometimes connections you make along the way that you think will be instrumental in your life don’t necessarily pan out, while other contacts and relationships that may have seemed insignificant at first turn out to be life changing.

As a Christian endeavouring to follow God’s leading and His plan for your life, how do you navigate the open and closed doors – the unforeseen events or perceived setbacks? How do you respond when facing disappointment with people or strained relationships?

Most importantly, how can you recognize God’s leading and continue to follow His direction through all of this?

We can draw so much inspiration from Paul’s example in Acts 16 as he launches out on his second missionary journey and determines to keep going. As you read this chapter, look out for these four principles:

1. People are going to surprise you – keep going.

Don’t be surprised if people surprise you! Sometimes the surprises are pleasant, even amazing, and sometimes they’re not.

Paul and Barnabas had been gelling together as a team in Acts 15 when in verse 36 Paul said to Barnabas:

“Let’s go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.”

This seemed like a great plan that both were in agreement on, they just had different ideas about who to take with them as their apprentice. Unable to resolve this, they chose to part ways and, just like that, Paul had to find another capable leader, Silas, to take with him on the trip.

Many people today would see this surprising turn of events as a difficult setback to recover from, maybe even requiring therapy, but both Paul and Barnabas chose to keep going and didn’t focus on it. Later, Paul would even have great things to say about Barnabas’ new team (1 Cor 9:6, 2 Tim 4:11).

After this, during one of Paul and Silas’ early stops in their trip, they met a young disciple named Timothy who would turn out to be a great surprise and become one of Paul’s most trusted leaders for the rest of his life.  

God has so many great people and divine connections He wants to bring in your life as you serve Him that may even surprise you.

2. God is going to lead you – keep going.

As you choose to go forward, you can be encouraged that God will be faithful to direct you by His Spirit.

Paul, Silas and now Timothy had planned on going into the province of Asia (now Turkey) where there were many important cities, including the seven churches mentioned in Revelation, but for unknown reasons, the Holy Spirit led them away from this region in Acts 16:6-8:

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them toSo they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.” 

For a young missionary like Timothy, this would have seemed like the trip wasn’t going very well. They were making long detours (see map below) and going for weeks without doing any meaningful ministry.

Had they turned back and gone home, they might never have understood why God was keeping them from Asia and Bithynia. Thankfully, they kept moving forward to Troas and God spoke to them in verses 9-10:

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

You can sense Paul’s excitement as he now understood that God was saving this trip for the Macedonians and that they had the urgent need for the gospel. Had they gone to these other places they might never have made it there.

When you’re moving forward, ready to serve wherever you’re needed most even here at Coastal, God will lead you and you’ll eventually have greater understanding of God’s purposes in your life.

3. Circumstances will try to move you – keep going.

As Christians, we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Circumstances in your life, especially ones you can’t control will try to move and overwhelm you. Paul had many experiences on this trip that could have shaken him and caused him to give up. Here are a few examples:

  • His fallout with Barnabas.
  • The delay in knowing where to preach next.
  • His arrest, severe flogging and jail time in Philippi.
  • Being chased by angry mobs in Thessalonica and Berea.
  • Being rejected by the Jewish nonbelievers in Corinth.

Like Paul, if you keep walking by faith, the unfavourable and even favourable circumstances in your life can never derail you.

4. Opportunities will come – keep going.

Abraham Lincoln famously said: “I will study and prepare myself and someday my chance will come.”

I think many people chase opportunities rather than preparing and applying themselves within their current opportunity. As we’re faithful with our current assignment and what God has in front of us, it seems He opens doors for us that we couldn’t have opened for ourselves. Jesus said in Revelation 3:8:

“I know your deeds. Look, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”

Like with Paul, God sees what you are doing. If you keep going, even if you’re tired and lacking strength, He’ll hold doors of opportunity open for you that no one could shut.

Paul had so many amazing doors open for him on this trip. Divine opportunities and connections came as he went to Macedonia and met Lydia, an influential and affluent businesswoman. Her whole family came to Christ and Paul ended up staying in their home.

While in Philippi, he set a slave woman free from evil spirits and shook up the city.

Then God literally opened prison doors for Paul and Silas that the Philippian jailer couldn’t keep shut. The jailer was so shaken that and his whole family came to Christ and were baptized.

Just like the map of Paul’s journey below, keep going forward regardless of the surprises and setbacks, whether with circumstances or with people, and watch how God leads and opens doors for you that no one can shut.