I’m not sure when this started or where it came from, but somehow, over the years, my view of obedience has become tainted. I’ve heard so much about open and closed doors and letting go and letting God that I’ve developed this idea that obedience is going to be easy. And successful. But when I read the Bible, that’s not what I see. Look at how many doors Moses had slammed in his face. His own people opposed him, Pharaoh ridiculed him, and the harder Moses pushed, the worse things became. At least initially. And what about Joshua and his encounter with Jericho? He didn’t just have a closed door. He had an entire, seemingly impenetrable, wall standing in his way. Then there’s the prophet Elijah. His life wasn’t exactly a bed of roses. At times, he even thought his work was pointless. But he kept on. As did Isaiah, John the Baptist, Stephen, and Paul, just to name a few.
Paul has become the super hero of Christianity. We like to talk about all the great things he did for Christ, about all the churches he planted, and how faithfully he suffered for God. But if we really stop and study his life, we won’t see very many open doors. That’s not to say his work didn’t produce amazing results. What I’m saying is his road to obedience wasn’t this peaceful, well-paved, flower-lined path we’d like to see in our own lives. It was fraught with intense, life-threatening obstacles at every turn. Hop on over to Acts and tell me you don’t see all the heavily fastened dead bolts–prison, beating, slander, ridicule. (Pay special attention to Acts 20:22-28) Paul didn’t wait for a nice, wide, open door. He looked for those tiny cracks then worked, with God’s leading, to wiggle himself in. Not because he was forging his own way with single-minded stubbornness, but because he knew-knew-knew God’s will and focused on obedience with unwavering determination. Walking with intentional blinders on, he kept his eyes on his Savior and not the obstacles all around him.
About ten years ago the church my husband and I belonged to held a vision summit and I was invited. I don’t remember what it was called, but basically, it was a time to listen to God, determine your unique calling, and zero in on the barriers you allowed to get in the way of obedience. The seminar’s focus Bible passage was the story of Joshua and Jericho. The question they asked: What is your Jericho?
It was an amazing experience! And while I was there, I grew increasingly excited about the idea of doing a community Easter event. It struck me as odd that we had a halloween event (as a community outreach) but did nothing community oriented for the biggest holiday in the Christian faith–the one time of year where people actually expect to hear the gospel. So I went to the children’s staff bubbling with excitement. And I had a plan. A big plan, but a plan. What if we had an Easter egg hunt, along with a drama, at a local park.
Slam went the door. “No, that won’t work. We’ve never done that before.”
Woah, wait a minute. You just invited me to an event focused on identifying my Jericho, and you’re adding another brick to the wall?
So I kept talking, and nudging, and praying. (I was way too spiritually immature to see the initial no as a closed door. grin.)
The result? That first year, we had our Easter party at one of the busiest parks in Rancho Cucamonga, California. If I remember correctly, 150 children participated, and many more meandered towards the side-lines. Other adults sat along the outer edges of the stage area to watch the youth perform a drama then later, listen to an easter bunny tell the gospel. And I was swamped with help. We had a craft team, a game team, live music and oodles of bright-eyed, giggling children connecting the name Jesus with love, fun, and community. It was so successful, we did it again the following year.
I’m not saying that closed doors don’t exist or that we shouldn’t pause for re-evaluation every once in awhile. What I am saying is if you know in your heart of hearts God is calling you to do something, don’t let anything get in they way. And don’t expect the obedience journey to be easy. When doubts and obstacles arise, put your blinders on and withdraw within, closing off everything else until that still, small voice shines through. Then, once God has confirmed or perhaps reaffirmed your route, walk forward in confidence.
Some questions to ponder:
1) What’s your Jericho?
2) How determined are you to fulfilling God’s plan for your life?
3) When in the past have you been quick to jump on the “closed door” bandwagon and what was the result?
And now listen to this song and remember, God’s not asking you to change the world. He’s just asking you to obey. The results are up to Him.
Ginny Owens–I am (By the way, Ginny Owens is blind. Imagine all the obstacles and closed doors she had to overcome through out her life to create this beautiful song.)