Monday, August 4, 2014

A Closed Door

A while back, I attempted something, but the proverbial door was shut. I don’t mean it closed with a gentle click. I mean it slammed so hard the walls rattled. It’s purported that in times like this God opens windows, but they appear to be painted shut.

As I reflected on it, a phrase from days gone by came to mind. Did I “get ahead of God”?

To be fair, some people use that phrase to communicate biblical ideas. They simply mean we act out of fear rather than faith (Romans 14:23b), in a futile attempt to somehow manipulate God. But for me, that phrase carries a lot of baggage that is best left behind.

Thanks to some of the false teachers who clog Christian radio, I heard a lot of bad teaching as a young adult. And a lot of those teachers talked a lot about discerning God’s will. They said I was supposed to be looking for signs and impressions. Not about sin (which is always wrong), but about morally neutral things. God had a plan, and I needed to figure it out, otherwise I would apparently be outside his will. Something as simple as failing to discern where one should go on vacation could apparently set off a myriad of missed connections, and God would be wringing his hands, thinking of all the good things he had in store for me that I missed, all because I misread the signs.

This is dangerous thinking. Just like the prosperity preacher who claims God rewards good deeds with wealth, this idea implies that God rewards good “sign reading” with easy circumstances. Did you go to the beach when God wanted you to go to the mountains? Well then, expect to be rained on every day and sprain your ankle on your way back to the condo.

The Bible teaches otherwise. John 9:1–3, Genesis 37–50, and the book of Job (not to mention the cross) all indicate that God is working even when things look quite grim from here.

I appreciate John MacArthur’s booklet Found: God’s Will  [1]. God’s will is actually simple. He wants us to be saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, and suffering [2]. Yes, that’s right, suffering. That doesn’t mean you’re more holy if you never break a smile. But in a world hostile to the message of the gospel (1Corinthians 1:18), we will face opposition (1 Peter 3:13–18).

But if you're doing all these things? If you're saved, following God, and submissive to those placed over you?
If those five elements of God’s will are operating in your life, who is running your wants? God is! The psalmist said, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). God does not say He will fulfill all the desires there! If you are living a godly life, He will give you the right desires. [3]
It’s good to ask God for the things we think we need, but we need to remember that what he eventually gives us is what we need. I tried something, but it didn’t work out. It was not sinful—it was a good thing. And for now, the door is closed. If it never comes to pass, it won’t be because I got in the way of God’s plans. He just has a different plan for me.

[1] Another book that covers similar ground is Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung.
[2] John MacArthur, Found: God’s Will (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook), 68.
[3] Ibid, 68.


  1. This may sound like dumb question, but (given one is not acting in disobedience to Scripture) how does one differentiate between God closing a door and the need to wait and persevere in prayer? Thank you.

    1. As far as I can tell, we never really know if the door is shut for good. God can change hearts and minds quickly if he desires. I often persevere in prayer even after I feel the door is shut.

      I used to worry, though, that I would somehow mess up God's plans for me. I have had to learn to trust God in those times. God doesn't ask us to figure out his will in advance, just to trust him.

    2. Yes, my concern is that I have often run ahead of the Lord it would seem. A balancing act to be sure - especially during this time of seeking God's plan during this new season of life.

  2. Great reminder & sorting out an incorrect teaching. It is important to know that "getting ahead of God" is impossible. We can be disobedient, unfaithful, sinful, impatient, and stray from Truth but it is never possible to get in front of God.

    He has not left us without a clear plan so you can never go wrong by focusing on how to glorify God and continual prayer. The other issues in life that you may seek an answer for will be answered as you continue to seek God and glorify Him.

    Take comfort in knowing that God is always ahead of us.

  3. You've expressed this so well - thanks for writing about an important truth! I struggled with the concept of "finding" God's will quite a bit through my teens and early twenties, perhaps because that's such a time for making freeing it is to simply pray and move ahead with SOMETHING, trusting that our sovereign God will work it out.