Finding the port in Opportunity

See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. (Revelation 3:8)

In God’s economy, closed doors are meant to direct us to open doors. Closed doors are blessings in disguise because they save us wasted time, energy and pain. Open doors on the other hand are opportunities for productivity, provision and fulfilling purpose in our lives. For that reason we need to learn to thank God for closed doors rather than grumbling and complaining about them and focus rather on looking for the open doors He provides.

The Bible tells us that what God “opens, no one cans close, and what He closes, no one can open.” (Revelation 3:7) That is reason enough not to belabor over a closed door. Paul the apostle and his team learned this when they sought to go into Asia, but the Holy Spirit closed that door to them. Obeying, they continued their journey westward and just days later God gave Paul a vision where he was beckoned to Greece. It was there he discovered through the miraculous literal opening of a prison door, the opportunity to plant the Philippian church. (Acts 16:6-34)

From Paul’s own personal experience there and elsewhere, he therefore urges us to “make the most of every opportunity.”(Ephesians 5:16) The very nature of opportunity is that it is a gift from God that presents us with an open door through which, if we perceive it and take courage, we can pass into a new place of God’s provision.

The Greek word forming the core of the word opportunity is “poros” meaning “an opening.” From it our English word “port” is derived. A port serves as the entryway into a seacoast city or place of commerce. In times past, before dredged harbors and sophisticated ships and navigational systems the timing for entry into ports was often limited by favorable tides and winds. Only under limited conditions or opportunities was it possible to enter into a port and do business. That of course also applied to enemies who sought to invade a city by sea. It was required of the seafarer that they recognize and understand the opPORTune time to enter the harbor and therewith claim their prize.

In my experience there are two major challenges of faith in “making the most of every opportunity,” both of which have already been alluded to above. First, it is easy to get so hung up on focusing with frustration or regret at closed doors, that we fail to move on looking for open ones. We can sink into self-pity and feeling sorry for ourselves while perhaps even blaming someone – ourselves, others or God. We become so fixated on having the doors of our choosing open our way that we lose sight of the fact that God knows better and just might have a better plan.

Secondly, having given up trying to batter a closed door down and decided to move on, we can become impatient in looking for an open door and waiting for God’s opportune time in opening it. We also can be thrown off by preconceived ideas and preferences which we carry as to the type of open door we are looking for and fail to recognize God’s door in the process.

Overcoming both of these debilitating tendencies, getting stuck at closed doors or failing to take advantage of open doors, takes faith.

There is no path.

We walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

A number of years ago I was with a group of men and we were seeking God for direction about a critical decision one of the guys had to make. Like most of us he wanted assurance from God that the path he was about to choose to walk would take him safely to where he wanted to go.

As we prayed a man in the group had a vision. The Lord showed him a deep chasm with a primitive rope suspension bridge linking the two sides. The man seeking direction was standing with great trepidation on one precipice poised to begin traversing the narrow bridge. The problem facing him was that there were no wooden slats in the walkway portion of the bridge except for the one slat immediately in front of him upon which to take his first step out over the edge. In the vision the man summoned all the faith he could and stepped onto the first slat. No sooner had he placed his full weight on that slat when immediately a second slat appeared in front of him. As he took a step onto that board and transferred his weight fully to it, another one appeared in front of that one. He was elated. But then he realized that with each step forward onto an appearing slat, the one behind him was disappearing as it fell away.

2 Principles of Guidance by Signs

The digital clock read 3:33 – my first conscious thought upon waking in the middle of the night. Could it be a sign from God of His comforting presence and the promise of His faithfulness in the face of anxiety I had been battling? The three white luminescent “3’s” offered me a glimmer of hope in the darkened room reminding me of the Trinity.

God speaks in multifarious ways. Would it not seem plausible to think that in response to heartfelt prayers, especially in times of desperation, He would use even this simplest of signs to underscore that He hears and cares. That is how I chose to interpret my waking at exactly 3:33.

The preceding day, the first of a three day conference for which I was supplying the audience response system technology had been a stressful one. To complicate matters, during the opening meeting that evening my computer, for which the operation of the system depends, began to malfunction. We were able to salvage the session but afterward to my consternation were unable to identify the cause of the computer glitch. When I turned in later that night my heart was deeply troubled. With the prospect of two intense days before me with an unreliable computer and the responsibility of supplying the voting needs of over 400 delegates I was in a frenzy. Faith, like my sleep, was hard to come by as I tossed and turned and tried to pray for wisdom and a measure of peace.

Seeing the 3:33 as a sign from God settled two critical issues for me. First I felt like God was saying “let not your heart be troubled, I have everything under control.” Peace began to permeate my soul with that thought and like a harbinger of faith began to brighten my perspective. Secondly, and this thought came with a sudden clarity, I realized the best course of action was to cease fussing over and with the ornery computer and use instead an old back-up computer I had with me. Embracing those two realizations prompted by the 3:33 sign, enabled me to approach the rest of the conference in faith, trusting that God would be faithful to His promises – and He was!

The phrase “signs and wonders” have jokingly been referred to as signs that make you wonder. Ironically that is not as far from the truth as one would think. Signs, whether of the end-time variety, that will one day emblazen the skies, or of the garden variety that could be easily missed, are things that do make us wonder about God’s intentions.

Gideon asked for a sign to confirm God’s call upon his life to lead Israel to battle against the Midianites. Although motivated by doubt and fear, Gideon was obliged by God on two successive occasions with miraculous signs that encouraged him to take bold actions that eventually led to an amazing victory with an army of just 300 men. (Judges 6:36-40) Although this story is the quintessential illustration of guidance by “putting out a fleece” some view modern day uses of Gideon-like fleece signs as a form of guidance that is too contrived if not less than.

It is my conviction that any form of guidance including fleeces, when prompted by the Holy Spirit, is a viable means for God to speak to us and direct us in His ways. We dare not put God in a box lest we limit Him nor keep God out of our box lest we limit ourselves. Signs are often more by God’s initiative than ours.

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