I remember the first time I went to a professional hockey game. The team I had gone to see with my friends and was rooting for was down by one goal at the end of the third quarter, which didn’t seem like a real problem to me as there was still one more quarter for them to catch up. Then everyone began to leave the arena, and I turned to my friend who brought me with him. I don’t remember exactly how it went, but it must have been somewhat humorous when he told me that hockey did not have quarters, but had three periods and the game was over.
I imagine all of us have had times when we thought we had all of the details covered and we had a green light from God. Yet as we began to move forward we found out that there was still a significant barrier which either brought everything to a stop, led to some scrambling, or hopefully even stepping back and asking God if there was something there which needed to be considered. Maybe some additional waiting needed to be done, or maybe there even needed to be some redirection.
I know I am pretty good at details, and I have to be careful not to get ahead of where I should be with God. Even in times when we move forward seeking God’s leading there may very well be occasions where we have no checks in our heart and our prayers, yet at some point in the process God may step in and tweak or redirect things a bit. He might even close a door that we had thought was open.
Planning in itself may not be as much the problem as making plans ourselves and then taking them to God for His rubber stamp. In these paragraphs there are several points where presumption or assumption may creep in and lead to frustration; those are the points where we may have ceased looking to God for all of our plans, which are really His plans for us. When plans are ours we tend to make the decisions, when the plans belong to someone else it is incumbent upon us that we find out what that person wants.
Paul mentions open doors several times in his letters. In each of them we see that he had a desire for ministry in a certain way, but we also see that he was submitting that ministry to God’s leading which sometimes was even governed—permitted and even restrained—by circumstance. This did not shake his trust, but rather gave him cause to rejoice in what else God might be doing by changing things around.
What more powerful way to demonstrate the power of God to open and close doors and to give permission to either go through them or even restrain us than that of a prison door. In the book of Acts we have several accounts of God doing a miraculous works with prison doors. In Acts 5:17-23 the apostles are arrested and imprisoned, yet in the middle of the night an angel sets them free even having the door remain locked after they were gone. In Acts 12:6-11 Peter had been arrested and was even in chains between two guards, and again an angel sets him free, with him passing right past guards and even seeing a gate opened before him. Peter was quite surprised when he realized that this was not a dream. And then in Acts 16 while Paul and Silas were imprisoned and singing praises to God when an earthquake struck and the doors of the cell were opened. Yet this time they did not leave, and as a result the guard and his whole household were saved. It was Paul who later in Philippians wrote of another imprisonment:
“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.” (Philippians 1:12–14, NASB95)
But even in the times out of prison Paul saw things the same way as we read in Acts 14:24-28, “They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they spent a long time with the disciples.” (Acts 14:24–28, NASB95)
Of course, the prison accounts mentioned above were obvious miracles. But as you read the accounts of the apostles, and in particular of the apostle Paul, you find that they relied on God directing their steps in their daily lives, with God providing them access and even restricting them access as He intended and them relying on Him for the very words that came from their mouths as we see Paul even asking people to pray on his behalf. He saw his care and his provision as coming from God and even the churches being able to give as God gave them opportunity. Paul knew what it meant to trust God with His steps that he might be the faithful servant God called him to be.
Today I needed this lesson again, and I also am thankful for my God who has promised to direct my steps as I align my heart with His agenda.
Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (9/17)
You will not find My Peace by engaging in excessive planning: attempting to control what will happen to you in the future. That is a commonly practiced form of unbelief. When your mind spins with multiple plans, peace may sometimes seem to be within your grasp; yet it always eludes you. Just when you think you have prepared for all possibilities, something unexpected pops up and throws things into confusion.
I did not design the human mind to figure out the future. I crafted your mind for continual communication with Me. Bring Me all your needs, your hopes and fears. Commit everything into My care. Turn from the path of planning to the path of Peace.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7, NASB95)
“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NASB95)
“Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (Psalm 37:5, NASB95)