Just because an opportunity presents itself, and it looks appealing, doesn't necessarily mean it is from God. And likewise, just because an open door looks a little uncertain, doesn't mean you shouldn't walk through it.
The key is knowing how to discern if an opportunity is really an open door from God. I don't want to miss those open doors because I was afraid to walk through them. But I also don't want to take every opportunity that comes along, assuming it is from God's hand and has his blessings attached.
In a recent conversation with a friend we talked about the faith and courage to walk through a door that God is holding open for us, even if we're not exactly sure of what's on the other side. But then the question came up: How can you tell if God is the one opening the door?
The Bible gives us some principles to help us discern if an "open door" or opportunity is really from God:
1. The Door that God Opens Will Never Contradict His Word
Many Christians see opportunities to make more money as an open door from God, even though the opportunity means a job that will keep them from regular fellowship or service in their church. However, God's Word tells us not to neglect meeting together for worship (Hebrews 10:25). Some women have told me that they believe God opened a door to a dating relationship for them, even though it meant being in a situation where they were "unequally yoked" with an unbeliever, which Scripture also warns against (2 Corinthians 6:14). God will not lead you toward an opportunity that contradicts what he clearly says in his Word. Nor will he open a door that would require personal compromise or disobedience in order for you to enter. As humans prone to sin, we have an excellent way of turning a clear mandate of God's completely around and justifying it by our circumstances, but that is not how God works. If there is a compromise in any way, or we have to bend Scripture to justify our "open door" then it is likely not a door that God is opening for us. I would call anything that contradicts his Word a temptation, rather than an open door from God. And God's Word clearly says that God does not tempt us (James 1:13-14).
2. The Door that God Opens Will be Accompanied by Confirmation
In Matthew 18:15-16, Jesus laid out instructions for confronting sin among believers saying "But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses'." I believe the same applies when it comes to God confirming something in his Word. He will often confirm or establish a matter by "two or three witnesses" whether they be verses from the Word of God, advice from a pastor or well-respected person who is grounded in Scripture, or a non-compromising circumstance that continues to present itself. Through prayer, discernment and seeking godly counsel, you should be able to tell if that "open door" and its confirmations are truly coming from God.
3. The Door God Opens Will Require You to Depend on Him
God is not going to give us something that will alienate us from him or make us believe we no longer need him. He is a God of relationship, and a God who insists upon being first in our lives (Matthew 6:33). Therefore, if you find yourself saying "I can't do this unless God goes before me," or "I can do this, but only with God's help and leading" I would say, in my personal experience, it's likely something God is calling you to do. Hebrews 11:6 says: "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him." Many times an "open door" from God is one that allows our faith to be stretched and strengthened. That, after all, is God's objective for us: to grow in faith and Christ-likeness.
Take your opportunity or "open door" to God and ask for his confirmation - through his Word and godly counsel from others - and his peace in the decision, and you can have the assurance that you aren't just choosing a door at random, but you're carefully walking through the ones he wants you to enter.
Cindi McMenamin is a Bible teacher, national speaker and author of 15 books, including When Women Walk Alone, When Couples Walk Together, God's Whispers to a Woman's Heart, and her newest, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom. For more on her books, ministry, or free resources to strengthen your soul or marriage, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.