In prayerfully considering this New Year I strongly hear these words in my spirit: “Closures and new beginnings.” This coming year is going to be one of changing seasons. Some seasons we have been in for some time now are going to close out during this year. The word that is paramount in my spirit is this: ‘In the economy of God every closure heralds a new beginning.’ It is important to understand this because closure does not mean the end of a thing. It points to the continuation of a thing; a continuation that demands change and difference.
There were times last year when I muttered to myself, and I think to God, words such as these: “I am ready for this year to be over.” I am not the only one who muttered such sentiments. Among other things I had to deal with the deaths of five friends. Each of those events imposed changes upon me. Last year was a year of significant transition. In some senses it is with a sigh of relief that I say this morning: “Last year is now over. It has passed into history. It is gone forever. A season has ended; a chapter has closed.”
Many of us individually and certainly this house corporately find ourselves in the same place Joshua found himself after the death of Moses. In the next few weeks we are going to consider some of that story. So yes, we are once more dealing with yet another series. The theme of this series is: ‘Closures & New Beginnings.’
Before coming to the Joshua record I want us to consider a few verses of scripture from the New Testament. In considering closures and new beginnings I thought of doors – the closing and opening of doors. The Bible actually has much to say about doors.
We know that a door represents difference – in fact the difference between two worlds: the world outside the door and the world inside the door. To pass through an open door is to pass from one setting into another setting. Such transition or movement is always significant.
Doors represent protection; they protect the world on one side of the door while shutting out that world of threat and harm on the other side of the door.
Doors also mark the boundaries between what is personal and private and what is general and public. We should never minimize the importance of this in our spiritual development. We need to know what the Holy Spirit intends for us individually, personally and privately. We need to know what He intends for us to share in ministry to others. Mix these up and we have immediate and stressful confusion. There are some doors in my life that are open to others; there are some doors in my life that are closed to others. Discerning and knowing the difference is a responsibility we need to give diligence to.
Much more could be said about the role or function of doors but we need to come back to the place of doors regarding this whole business of closures and new beginnings. One door closes and another door opens. Here is the question: Who is the keeper of those doors; who decides when, how, and where doors close and open?
Let’s take a look:
1Cor. 16:9 For a wide door of opportunity for effectual [service] has opened to me [there, a great and promising one], and [there are] many adversaries.(AMP)
Note that Paul made no claim that he had opened this door at Ephesus. Not also that his reference to ‘many adversaries’ is not a suggestion that we should live in fear of those adversaries. We need to recognise them –which is to say we are not to be naive concerning them.
2Cor. 2:12 Now when I arrived at Troas [to preach] the good news (the Gospel) of Christ, a door of opportunity was opened for me in the Lord...
When I went to Troas to preach the good news about Christ, I found that the Lord had already prepared the way.
Again we note no suggestion that Paul caused this door to open; in fact no human agency whatsoever.
Col.4:3 And at the same time pray for us also, that God may open a door to us for the Word (the Gospel), to proclaim the mystery concerning Christ (the Messiah) on account of which I am in prison...
Praying at the same time for us also,— That God would open unto us a door for the word, So that we may speak the sacred secret of the Christ—For the sake of which also I am in bonds...
Notice Paul’s prayer request which he passed along to the Colossian Church – it was a request concerning a door, but note that it was that God would open that door.
Rev.3: 7 – 8 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:‘I know yourdeeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut….
It seems rather clear that in this matter of closing and opening doors we can rest in the sovereignty of God; we can trust Him and cease from our sweaty efforts.
Have you ever been in this place? Acts 16: 6 – 10 They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were tryingto go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Preaching the word of the Lord in Asia would have been a good thing but it would not have been the right thing at that time. Just because a thing is good does not necessarily mean it is presently right. It is difficult for us to accept that the Holy Spirit would forbid anyone from speaking the word of the Lord. We tend to think that such instruction must surely be the voice of the enemy.
We need to note that we are not told how this communication from the Holy Spirit manifested. Was it an inner witness of the Spirit? Was it a message in tongues and interpretation? Was it a matter of circumstances that blocked their every effort? Perhaps it was a combination of all these things and more. It doesn’t really matter what the form of the communication was; the point is the apostolic band of preachers got the message. And most importantly they submitted their own ideas to what the Spirit was saying even if they could not understand why.
Having settled the matter of Asia we then read this – and I must say I love it – ‘they were tryingto go...’ Note this with great care; one door closed so they immediately began trying to open another door. How much like me that is.
Those three words: ‘they were trying’,really convict me. We need to understand that it was not lack of trying – lack of effort on their part – that explained the closed doors. I am seeing more and more that the thing that most clouds our vision regarding the door that God is opening is all our trying, all our effort to open doors. We are so caught up with doing the good thing that we miss entirely the right thing.
Notice carefully these words: ‘the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them’; what a picture we have here. They were pushing on one side of the door, while the Spirit of Jesus was pushing back on the other side of the door. Thankfully I can tell you this morning that is a pushing match you are not going to win; in fact that is a pushing match you don’t want to win. Let me say this once more: before we start rebuking the enemy we need to carefully discern who is pushing back against that door we are trying to push open.
Note what happened when they finally figured out, submitted to and accepted that they were looking at two closed doors and that it was God Himself who closed them. I urge you to see this. When they ceased from their efforts to open doors, suddenly a powerful and know so communication came from God in the form of a dream; the right door was open and they were off to new territory.
It is interesting that when you read a few verses beyond what we have read you find this heading between verses 13 & 14 in the NAS Bible: ‘First Convert in Europe.’ What would have been missed had they seen themselves as the keepers of the doors – had they insisted that they were responsible for the closing and opening of doors.
Answer to my question: God is the keeper of the doors. God closes and opens doors. We need to settle that because in this coming year we are going to see many door closures and equally many door openings. It is going to be a year of releasing what God closes out while embracing what God is opening up.