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…I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now)…
(Romans 1:13 – NKJV)
(Romans 1:13 – NKJV)
Paul was letting the Romans Christians know of his desire, but circumstances had prevented him from coming to see them. This was not going to stop him, though. Paul’s will was to come to them, but was it God’s will that he should not?
Too many are operating from the Open Door Policy alone, as if it is some definitive way to know God’s will, like the Urim and Thummim of Old Testament times. Today, the way some rely on it, it becomes little more than divination. Of course, if the Lord opens a door, or closes one (something mentioned in the Bible in Matthew 25:10 / Luke 13:25 / Acts 16:6-7 but not applicable in the way the modern church uses it), we need to take a good look. But open doors are not authoritative. Paul prayed for open doors for the gospel, asking for opportunity to spread the good news, yet in 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 God had given him an open door which he chose to ignore. Acts 14:27 / Acts 16:9-11 / 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 / Colossians 4:3 – the doors are for preaching the gospel, primarily, not for life choices.
Some want to know the will of God, not to know Him, not to give Him glory, but so as to secure comfort for themselves, and often irrespective of God, divorced from an ongoing relationship. It’s as if we say, yeah sure, God, just give me the bottom-line. Would we want God’s will for us if it meant to go straightforward into a certain death? When Paul knew of God’s will, he didn’t let anything deter him (Acts 20:22-24 / 21:4, 10-14). The will of God isn’t always about avoiding trouble, but that is what we see taught these days, or at least what we believe.
Why are we looking for an open door, and what exactly are we hoping to find? There is little point in pursuing God's will if we are not willing to comply, especially with obedience in the things He has already made known to us. How can we expect to receive more light if we have not responded to the light we have been given? God's guidance subsides when it is unaccompanied by our acceptance (Philippians 3:15-16). We should examine our lives to see if we are disobeying in areas He has already made clear.
God can lead us by bringing us into direct contact with certain needs, but not every cry for help is a call from God. We can assume more burdens than we can carry and spread ourselves so thin that we become ineffective. We must be careful not to let the good become the enemy of the best. Otherwise, we may become victims of desires and inclinations that are not from God. It is better to do a few things well than to multiply mediocrity.
Paul wanted to give and receive fruit from these Roman Christians like he did all others, but he wasn’t going to go until it was the right time, in the right way, and for the right reasons (Philippians 4:17), if ever. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out like we think it will or should.