We’ve been on something of a road-trip,my wife Val and I, driving across the midland counties of our beautiful Ireland, experiencing afresh the lushly green beauty of an Irish summer, past lakes, forests, mountains and now the sea…
This morning we’ve woken in a farmhouse perched on the ridged back of the Ox Mountains, Co.Sligo, looking out on to a blue blue Atlantic Ocean.
And parallel to the beauty of the scenery has been the beauty of the people we’ve met.It’s been a lovely time revisiting old friends. We’re very grateful. It’s wonderful to hear how God has been moving and changing lives.
It called to mind the familiar picture I’ve posted here, by artist James Domine, entitled “99 doors of hope.”
That is to say:there are so many opportunities everywhere we go, so many possibilities, so many doors of hope.
I just need to open them.
And here’s Paul, writing to a group of believers in Colosse: “Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.” (Col 4:2)
The passage indicates something important about the way we respond to the opportunities that God put our way.
First, of course, notice that it is God who opens doors. We don’t have to force events or push at it. Not every need equals a call. Sometimes I can find myself a little strident, pushy, or half-thinking that it’s down to me to get things going.No, no. It’s God’s business.
OK, so what do I do?
I pray diligently. I maintain spiritual readiness and watch for what the Spirit is saying. In one place I’m called to listen, and in another I’m called to act, decisively, on the spot. The only way to know how to respond appropriately is to pray diligently, and stay spiritually alert. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open…
In gratitude. That’s important. When we don’t stay alert, we lose our diligence and we lose our gratitude. “Gratitude” is simply being alert to how God has blessed you in the past, and allowing that awareness to shape your present thinking.
It’s the present awareness that “All I have need, thy hand has provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”
And just how has God provided? My own experience tells me that it is through the love of friends. Even on this little road trip we are encountering again the love of friends. And when Paul says Don’t forget to pray for us he’s recognising that fact, that mutuality, that fellowship of faith and commitment to one another.
The doors shut where there is no community.
So stay alert to those old associations of grace. Keep praying for one another. Keep your friendships in good repair.
And, in a quirky paradox, Paul goes on: Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail.
The circumstances couldn’t have been worse for Paul. He was restricted to a jail cell, but he didn’t ask for pity but for opportunity.
And in another place, he actually reported that many of the prison staff had come to Christ. He had found a captive audience among those holding him captive!
It’s even possible that Paul’s language is playful here; as if he’s saying something like “When my body is chained up, let my words go free…”
But always, always, somewhere somehow, there are (at least) ninety-nine doors of hope! So pray for me that despite every circumstance and in every condition, God will open a door and…
Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them
Every time I speak
and every word I speak I’ll be able to make Christ plain.
The last book of the Bible gives another take on my reading today. It says “See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.”(Rev 3:8)
Why not take today’s opportunity to make Christ plain?