Have you ever prayed for God to open a door in your life? I’m sure you have. How about closed doors? Have you ever prayed for a closed door? We don’t like closed doors do we? And yet, a few years back when I was facing a change in life, my friend Douglas Gresham encouraged me to pray for closed doors.
Beginning in Acts 21:27 we read about a door that was slammed in the face of the Apostle Paul. I find this one brief statement in our text today to be very dramatic and evocative: “. . . and immediately the gates were shut.” From Acts 9 all the way through to this point we have been reading about Paul’s virtually unhindered witness throughout the Roman Empire. Yes, Paul has been persecuted by the Jews on numerous occasions. Yes, he has been arrested before. Yes, he has even been stoned and left for dead. But on this occasion when Paul is arrested he doesn’t get out of it. In fact, we will see Paul under arrest throughout the rest of the book of Acts.
What do you do when a door slams shut in your face, when you lose your job, or your spouse walks out on you, when all your hopes and dreams come crashing down? Do you sit there and cry about the closed door? Yes, we all do because we are human. But then if you are trusting in Christ you should be looking, even through tears, for the new door that God is opening for you, because, as the Reverend Mother says in The Sound of Music, “God never closes a door without opening a window somewhere.”
The story is told of an Irish boy who often roamed the hills outside his village. One day the path he was following led to a tall gate. The boy found the gate locked so that there was no going through. The gate was part of a high stone wall and there was no way the boy could go around the wall. The boy either had to forsake his journey or figure out a way to climb over the wall. To build up his own inner sense of commitment to the task the boy threw his much-loved cap over the wall.
Next, using his Irish common sense, the boy creatively found some foot-holds and hand-holds in the stone wall. He climbed over the obstacle, retrieved his cap and continued on his journey. The locked gate had forced him to consider another way of accomplishing his purpose.
That story reminds me of The Possibility Thinker’s Creed which I memorized as a child:
When faced with a mountain I will not quit!
I will keep on striving
until I climb over,
find a pass through,
or simply stay and turn the mountain into a gold mine
with God’s help!
That’s a good creed to make your own. I think, in a sense, that was Paul’s creed. When he was faced with the slammed door of his own arrest, he immediately started looking around for another open door for witness to his Savior Jesus Christ. And Paul found that open door, first in the very mob in front of him who had tried to kill him moments before.