“Open Doors” Series #8
"THE DOOR OF OPPORTUNITIES!"
TEXT: Rev. 3:7-13,20
INTRO: We are living at a time when everyone is interested in security. We are becoming so security minded that we are reluctant to take risks or seek out new opportunities! Being a Christian has always held a certain risk or risks:
a. It goes against the status quo!
b. It means living a much disciplined life in an age of "just let it all go!"
c. It means being committed to values that are on their way out!
d. It means putting character above cash ... and family above fortune!
Witnessing to others is risky; it means being labeled ... perhaps even persecuted by others.
The early church understood the risks far greater than we do today, yet they took those risks, they seized those opportunities and so must we!
God opens creative doors for us to use ... we must see the doors of opportunities and use them!
ILLUS: (A LETTER TO THE “HONORABLE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE,” WASHINGTON, D.C.) DEAR SIR, MY FRIEND, DAN HANSEN, OVER AT HONEY CREEK, IOWA, RECEIVED A CHECK FOR $1,000 FROM THE GOVERNMENT FOR NOT RAISING HOGS. SO I WANT TO GO INTO THE "NOT RAISING HOGS" BUSINESS NEXT YEAR. WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS, IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS THE BEST KIND OF FARM NOT TO RAISE HOGS ON? AND WHAT IS THE BEST BREED OF HOGS NOT TO RAISE? I WANT TO BE SURE THAT I APPROACH THIS ENDEAVOR IN KEEPING WITH ALL GOVERNMENT POLICIES. AS I SEE IT, THE HARDEST PART OF THE "NOT RAISING HOGS" PROGRAM IS KEEPING AN ACCURATE INVENTORY OF HOW MANY HOGS I HAVEN'T RAISED. NY FRIEND HANSEN IS VERY JOYFUL ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE BUSINESS. HE HAS BEEN RAISING HOGS FOR 20 YEARS OR SO, AND THE BEST HE HAS EVER MADE ON THEM WAS $422.90 IN 1968, UNTIL THIS YEAR WHEN HE GOT YOUR CHECK FOR THE $1,000 FOR NOT RAISING 50 HOGS. IF I GET $1,000 FOR NOT RAISING 50 HOGS, THEN WOULD I GET $2,000 FOR NOT RAISING 100 HOGS? I PLAN TO OPERATE ON A SMALL SCALE AT FIRST, HOLDING MYSELF TO ABOUT 4,000 HOGS NOT RAISED THE FIRST YEAR, WHICH WOULD BRING IN ABOUT $80,000.00; THEN I CAN AFFORD AN AIRPLANE! NOW ANOTHER THING ... THESE HOGS I WILL NOT RAISE WILL NOT EAT 100,000 BUSHELS OF CORN. I UNDERSTAND THAT THE GOVERNMENT ALSO PAYS PEOPLE NOT TO RAISE CORN AND WHEAT. WOULD I QUALIFY FOR PAYMENT FOR NOT RAISING THESE CROPS NOT TO FEED MY HOGS I WILL NOT BE RAISING? I WANT TO GET STARTED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AS THIS SEEMS TO BE A GOOD TIME OF THE YEAR FOR THE "NOT RAISING HOGS" AND "NOT PLANTING CROPS" BUSINESS. ALSO I AM GIVING SERIOUS CONSIDERATION TO THE "NOT MILKING COWS" BUSINESS AND ANY INFORMATION YOU WOULD HAVE ON THE ENDEAVOR WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED. IN VIEW OF THE FACT THAT I WILL BE TOTALLY UNEMPLOYED, I WILL BE FILING FOR UNEMPLOYMENT AND FOOD STAMPS, AND WAS WONDERING HOW LONG THAT PROCESS TAKES. BE ASSURED, MR. SECRETARY, YOU WILL HAVE MY VOTE IN THE UPCOMING ELECTION!" PATRIOTICALLY YOURS; DON GENEREAUX. P.S. WOULD YOU PLEASE NOTIFY ME WHEN YOU PLAN TO GIVE OUT THE FREE CHEESE AGAIN!? – SOURCE UNKNOWN
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that we are to be utilizing the God given opportunities that the church of Jesus Christ will have to do the works of God! It is not necessarily the largest church that has the most strength; it is the faithful church that responds that finds strength!
I. RECOGNIZE POSSIBILITIES! Rev. 3:7-8
A. Control Rev. 3:7
1. The message opens up by affirming God's control over everything ... even the opportunities that come our way!
a. "Him who is holy and true" ... Jesus!
b. "who holds the key of David" ... the King of the Kingdom!
c. "what He opens, no one can shut, and what He shuts, no one can open!"
2. Christ is in control!
a. When God opens doors there is nothing the enemy can do to close them, and when He closes them, the enemy is helpless in trying to open them!
b. In a major city like ancient Philadelphia that was big on business opportunities due to the major trade routes that came through here, this was an important concept!
3. Being a small, insignificant church, with little money or power (referenced later by a comment about their "little strength") this church needed to start from this concept!
a. God can open and close doors for them ... and nothing can work against that!
b. They needed to know that size, money, and power were not the most important factors when seeking to do something for God!
ILLUS: A LITTLE GIRL WHO LOVED THE LORD LONGED TO SHARE THE MESSAGE OF SALVATION WITH THOSE WHO HAD NEVER HEARD IT. SO, SHE CONTRIBUTED A PENNY TO A MISSIONARY TO HELP WITH THE WORK OF EVANGELIZING THE PEOPLE OF BURMA. THAT SMALL COIN WAS ALL SHE HAD, BUT IT WAS GIVEN FROM HER HEART. THE WORKER ON THE FOREIGN FIELD WAS DEEPLY TOUCHED BY THE CHILD'S EARNESTNESS AND DECIDED HE WOULD DO THE MOST HE COULD WITH THE PENNY - AFTER CAREFUL THOUGHT HE PURCHASED A GOSPEL TRACT AND PERSONALLY GAVE IT TO A YOUNG CHIEFTAIN. APPARENTLY THE CHRISTIAN DID NOT KNOW THAT THE TRIBAL LEADER WAS NOT EDUCATED WELL ENOUGH TO READ IT. GOD INSTILLED WITHIN THE RULER A BURNING DESIRE TO KNOW THE MEANING OF THE LEAFLET, HOWEVER, AND HE TRAVELED 250 MILES TO FIND SOMEONE WHO COULD TRANSLATE IT FOR HIM. AFTER HE HEARD THE GOSPEL MESSAGE, IT WASN'T LONG UNTIL THE YOUNG CHIEF WAS GLORIOUSLY SAVED! RETURNING TO HIS PEOPLE, HE TOLD THEN WHAT THE LORD HAD DONE FOR HIS SOUL. LATER HE INVITED MISSIONARIES TO GO AND PREACH TO HIS ENTIRE VILLAGE, AND MANY TRIBESMEN WHO HEARD THE GOOD NEWS ACCEPTED THE SAVIOR! ALL THIS AND PROBABLY MUCH MORE RESULTED FROM ONE DEDICATED PENNY GIVEN IN CHRIST'S NAME BY A LITTLE GIRL WHO WANTED THE LOST TO HEAR ABOUT JESUS! HOW WE NEED TO LATCH ON TO THE OPPORTUNITIES GOD GIVES US ... NO MATTER HOW SMALL THEY MIGHT SEEN TO US AT THE TIME! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. How many missed opportunities have come and gone that God has given us because we failed to see properly what God might be able to do!
a. "What difference will it make?"
b. "They never were interested before!"
c. "They have their own ideas!"
d. "It is such a small thing ... it won't have any effect anyways!"
B. Confidence! Rev. 3:8
1. God knew about their deeds in spite of their small size!
a. Though they were a small insignificant church ... they were not lazy or inactive ... they were willing to work for God!
b. Because of their willingness to do what they could do ... God would place “open doors” ... opportunities before them!
c. For those willing to be used by God there will always be opportunities!
2. The formula here is interesting: Work first ... opportunities then come! Too many times we wait first for a big opportunity, and then we consider working!
a. The verse starts with recognizing their deeds...
b. Then promises more open doors!
3. This church was small ... but they had done 2 things correctly!
a. "Yet you have kept my Word..."
b. "And have not denied my Name!"
4. They were not reticent about their faith and the message of salvation!
a. It did not matter that they were small ... obedience is what mattered!
b. No work they did was considered insignificant!
ILLUS: WALKING ON A BEACH WAS AN ELDERLY MAN. HE WALKED WITH A CANE, CAREFULLY LOOKING OVER THE BEACH THAT THE RECEDING TIDE HAD LEFT EXPOSED. EVERY NOW AND THEN HE WOULD BEND OVER AND PICK SOMETHING UP AND TOSS IT INTO THE OCEAN. AS ANOTHER WATCHED THIS, HE BECAME CURIOUS AS TO WHAT THE OLD MAN WAS DOING SO HE CAME CLOSER AND SAW THAT THE OLD MAN WAS PICKING UP STAR FISH THAT HAD BEEN BEACHED BY THE RECEDING TIDE AND TOSSING THEN BACK INTO THE WATER BEFORE THEY DRIED UP AND DIED. THE YOUNG MAN BECAME CURIOUS AS TO WHY HE WAS DOING THIS AND SO HE APPROACHED HIM AND ASKED, "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS, THERE ARE ENDLESS MILES OF BEACH AND THERE ARE MILLIONS OF STARFISH, SURELY YOU DON'T THINK YOU CAN SAVE THEM ALL!?" WHAT DIFFERENCE DO YOU THINK YOUR EFFORTS WILL MAKE?" SLOWLY THE OLD MAN BENT OVER AND PICKED UP ANOTHER STARFISH, AND AS HE TOSSED IT INTO THE WATER HE LOOKED AT THE YOUNG MAN AND SMILED, THEN SAID, "IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE TO THE ONE I JUST TOSSED BACK INTO THE WATER! IT DID NOT MATTER THAT HE COULDN'T SAVE THEM ALL ... HE DID WHAT HE COULD KNOWING SOME WOULD BE SAVED! THOUGH WEAK AND INSIGNIFICANT HIMSELF, HE WAS CONFIDENT THAT WHAT HE DID MATTERED TO SOME! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. This message from God must have inspired confidence in this small church! (And should in us too!)
II. REAL PRESSURES! Rev. 3:9-10
A. Conflicts! Rev. 3:9
1. The church that does nothing is no threat ... no matter how big it is!
a. This small church had taken the opportunities God had given it ... and this had stirred up a reaction against them!
b. Satan is not threatened by a comfortable church ... only a committed church!
2. Though small, the church in Philadelphia was active in sharing the message ... they did not consider their size or strength a restriction of "doing deeds."
3. In this church there were few if any that sat on the sidelines hoping something got done!
ILLUS: IN ONE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM IT WAS THEIR PRACTICE TO HAVE ALL THE FOOTBALL PLAYERS WEAR THEIR JERSEYS TO SCHOOL ON DAYS THEY HAD A GAME ... IT WAS A REAL PROUD THING FOR THE BOYS. BECAUSE OF THIS, MANY BOYS WENT OUT FOR THE TEAM FOR THAT REASON ALONE ... SO THEY COULD WEAR A JERSEY TO SCHOOL AND BE ADMIRED! THE PROBLEM WAS THIS; MANY OF THESE BOYS NEVER PLAYED IN A GAME ... IN FACT, MANY OF THEM DID NOT WANT THE COACH TO SEND THEM INTO THE GAME, THEY DID NOT WANT TO GET HURT, THEY WERE QUITE HAPPY JUST SITTING ON THE BENCH AND WEARING THE UNIFORM ... DURING PRACTICES THEY WOULD DELIBERATELY AVOID CONTACT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, THEY WOULD PERFORM POORLY TO GUARANTEE THEIR POSITION ON THE BENCH ... THEY JUST LIKED WEARING THE JERSEY TO SCHOOL ON GAME DAYS SO THE OTHER KIDS WOULD ADMIRE THEM. HOW MANY CHRISTIANS DO THIS WITH THEIR FAITH IN GOD ... THEY LIKE SITTING ON THE BENCH, AND THEY DON'T MIND THE WORLD KNOWING THEY ARE CHRISTIANS, BUT THEY DON'T WANT ANY CONTACT WITH THE SINNERS AROUND THEM SO THEY DON'T GET HURT! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. The church that is seizing the opportunities that God gives it, are the churches that are faced with challenges by the enemy!
a. God promises the church in Philadelphia however that one day these challengers will fall at their feet and admit that God loved them!
b. While the pressures might come now ... the rewards will come later to those who are engaged in the battle for the souls of men and women!
5. An active church should not be surprised by conflicts that come its way.
a. Here most of the conflict was from religious people!
b. Often the enemy seeks to destroy God's work from the inside!
6. The danger would have been if those in the church would have decided they no longer wanted to be challenged too much ... to give up the work and the opportunities for some peace and quiet!
B. Confined! Rev. 3:10
1. The word "since" indicates a conclusion ... since they had remained faithful in spite of challenges and persecution, because they had ENDURED FAITHFULLY and not given up on the opportunities, God had a promise of reward for them:
a. God would keep them from the hour of trial that was coming on the whole earth!
b. That they would be unmoved when the rest of the world faced the real test, a test they had already passed!
2. God would confine the struggle ... they would not be overwhelmed!
3. The Greek word translated here, "from" comes from "ek" which can be translated either "out of" or "through" so it means the rapture before the tribulation or after ... but the main point is clear: God will spare those who are faithful!
a. God puts limits on what comes against a faithful church or believer!
b. Satan does not have free reign over the saints of God!
4. All this because they had "faithfully endured."
a. They had been patient ... a lost quality of Christianity today ... today we want everything immediately ... we need to learn to be patient!
b. We need to learn to patiently endure right up to the end ... even when it seems there is no way to win!
ILLUS: THE TRUE STORY IS TOLD OF A WORLD CHESS CHAMPION WHO VISITED AN ART GALLERY DURING HIS VACATION IN EUROPE. WHILE TOURING ONE GALLERY HE CAME ACROSS A PAINTING THAT STOPPED HIM IN HIS TRACKS! IT WAS A PICTURE OF A CHESS GAME. ON ONE SIDE OF THE PAINTING WAS THE DEVIL LAUGHING, EXCITED, AND JOYFUL! HE WAS ABOUT TO MAKE HIS MOVE. ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PAINTING SAT A YOUNG MAN WHOSE FACE WAS FILLED WITH TERROR! HE SAT BITING HIS FINGERNAILS, HIS KNEES WERE KNOCKING, AND SWEAT WAS POURING DOWN HIS FACE. THE CHESS CHAMPION UNDERSTOOD THE SCENARIO WHEN HE SAW THE TITLE OF THE PAINTING; IT WAS TITLED, "CHECKMATE!" THE DEVIL WAS ABOUT TO MAKE THE FINAL MOVE TO CLAIM THE YOUNG MAN'S SOUL. THE CHESS CHAMPION WAS AWESTRUCK BY THE PAINTING AND HE STUDIED IT FOR HOURS! GRADUALLY A SMILE CAME ACROSS THE CHESS CHAMPION'S FACE AND A TWINKLE CAME INTO HIS EYES AS HE ASKED FOR A CHESSBOARD ... UPON RECEIVING IT, HE SET IT UP EXACTLY LIKE THE PAINTING. AFTER STUDYING IT FOR A WHILE, HE TURNED TO THE YOUNG MAN IN THE PAINTING AS THOUGH HE WERE ALIVE AND ANNOUNCED EXCITEDLY, "YOUNG MAN, I HAVE SOME GOOD NEWS FOR YOU, THINGS ARE NOT AS BAD AS THEY SEEM ... EVEN THOUGH IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'VE LOST, THERE'S STILL ONE MORE MOVE LEFT ON THE BOARD ... AND SO AFTER THE DEVIL MAKES HIS MOVE, YOU WILL STILL GET THE FINAL MOVE!" THE MASTER CHAMPION SAW A WAY TO VICTORY … A MOVE THE DEVIL AND THE YOUNG MAN DIDN'T SEE ... WITH THE MASTER'S HELP, THE YOUNG MAN COULD STILL DEFEAT THE ENEMY ... IT WASN'T TOO LATE! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. God has the final move in history ... and to those who patiently endure, we will win! Satan's power and plans are confined by God ... and so is the pressure Satan can put on God's people!
III. REQUIRED PATIENCE! Rev. 3:11-13,20
A. Commitment! Rev. 3:11,20
1. The message concludes with several important statements from God that were intended both to encourage us to endure, and encourage us to act!
a. "He is coming;" the opportunities and the opposition have limited possibilities!
b. "Hold on to what you have!"
(1. Don't give up!
(2. Don't ignore the basics!
2. Technically, no one can take our crown ... but we can forfeit it by lack of action!
a. It is clear this is a reference to rewards!
b. The danger of the church is to pull back and relax when things are either going well or the pressure seems too tough!
3. The "hold on to what you have" is a call for the church to not lose sight of what it exists for ... to save the lost ... lest we lose the rewards of winning the lost!
a. Church must not become just a social club or institution where we come to get peace of mind!
b. It is a place where we receive so that we might go forth to give!
ILLUS: ON A DANGEROUS SEA COAST WHERE SHIPWRECKS OFTEN OCCUR THERE WAS ONCE A CRUDE LITTLE LIFE SAVING STATION. THE BUILDING WAS JUST A HUT, AND THERE WAS ONLY ONE BOAT, BUT THE FEW DEDICATED MEMBERS KEPT A CONSTANT WATCH OVER THE SEA, AND WITH NO THOUGHT FOR THEMSELVES THEY WENT OUT DAY AFTER DAY TIRELESSLY SEARCHING FOR THE LOST AT SEA. SOME OF THOSE WHO WERE SAVED, AND VARIOUS OTHERS IN THE SURROUNDING AREA WANTED TO BECOME ASSOCIATED WITH THE STATION AND GIVE OF THEIR TIME AND MONEY AND EFFORT FOR THE SUPPORT OF ITS WORK AND MISSION. EVENTUALLY, NEW BOATS WERE BOUGHT AND NEW CREWS TRAINED, THE LITTLE LIFE-SAVING STATION GREW. SOME OF THE MEMBERS BECAME UNHAPPY THAT THE HUT WAS SO CRUDE AND POORLY EQUIPPED; THEY FELT THAT A MORE COMFORTABLE PLACE SHOULD BE PROVIDED AS THE FIRST REFUGE OF THOSE SAVED FROM THE SEA. THEY REPLACED THE EMERGENCY COTS WITH BEDS AND PUT BETTER FURNITURE IN THE NEW ENLARGED BUILDING. NOW THE LIFE SAVING STATION BECAME A POPULAR GATHERING PLACE FOR ITS MEMBERS, AND THEY DECORATED IT BEAUTIFULLY AND FURNISHED IT EXQUISITELY ... IT BECAME MORE OF A SOCIAL CLUB FOR FELLOWSHIP. FEWER MEMBERS WERE INTERESTED NOW IN GOING TO SEA ON LIFE SAVING MISSIONS, SO THEY HIRED LIFE BOAT CREWS TO DO THE WORK FOR THEM. THE LIFE SAVING MOTIF HOWEVER STILL PREVAILED IN THE CLUB'S DECORATIONS AND THEIR BULLETIN BOARDS. THEY EVEN KEPT A BOAT INSIDE THAT THEY USED FOR INITIATING NEW MEMBERS. ABOUT THIS TIME A LARGE SHIP WAS WRECKED OFF THE COAST; AND THE HIRED CREWS BROUGHT BACK BOAT LOADS OF COLD, WET, AND HALF-DROWNED PEOPLE, THEY WERE DIRTY AND SICK, AND SOME OF THEM HAD BLACK SKIN AND SOME HAD YELLOW SKIN. THE BEAUTIFUL NEW CLUB WAS IN CHAOS ... SO THE PROPERTY COMMITTEE MET AND DECIDED TO HAVE A SHOWER HOUSE BUILT OUTSIDE THE CLUBHOUSE WHERE VICTIMS OF SHIPWRECKS COULD BE CLEANED UP BEFORE THEY COULD COME INSIDE THE CLUBHOUSE. AT THE NEXT MEETING, THERE WAS A SPLIT IN THE CLUB MEMBERSHIP OVER ALL THIS ... MOST OF THE MEMBERS WANTED TO STOP THE CLUB'S LIFE SAVING ACTIVITIES AS BEING UNPLEASANT AND A HINDRANCE TO THE NORMAL SOCIAL LIFE OF THE CLUB. SOME MEMBERS INSISTED UPON LIFE SAVING AS THEIR PRIMARY PURPOSE AND THEY POINTED OUT THAT THEY WERE STILL CALLED A "LIFE SAVING" STATION. BUT THEY WERE FINALLY VOTED DOWN AND TOLD THAT IF THEY WANTED TO SAVE LIVES OR ALL THE VARIOUS KINDS OF PEOPLE WHO WERE SHIPWRECKED IN THOSE WATERS, THEY COULD BEGIN THEIR OWN LIFE SAVING STATION DOWN THE COAST. THEY DID! AS THE YEARS WENT BY, THE NEW STATION EXPERIENCED THE SAME CHANGES THAT HAD OCCURRED IN THE OLD, IT EVOLVED INTO A CLUB, AND YET, ANOTHER LIFE-SAVING STATION WAS FOUNDED. HISTORY CONTINUED TO REPEAT ITSELF, AND IF YOU VISIT THAT SEA COAST TODAY, YOU WILL FIND A NUMBER OF EXCLUSIVE CLUBS ALONG THAT SHORE! SHIPWRECKS ARE FREQUENT IN THOSE WATERS, BUT MOST OF THE PEOPLE DROWN ... THERE ARE NO MORE LIFE-SAVING STATIONS, JUST CLUBS! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. The fact alone that Jesus is coming soon should inspire us to commitment ... to do what can be done while it can be done!
a. We have become keen to look for economic opportunities ... to seize them when they come ... what about spiritual ones!?
b. While we will be spared that trial that is coming upon the earth ... many that we know will not be ... we need to reach them now while it is still day!
5. For now Christ is standing at the door knocking! (Rev. 3:20)
a. This won't always be true!
b. This may well be the door to the church! Christ is on the outside trying to get back in, after all the passage is written to the church, and Jesus is knocking on the door!!
B. Commendation! Rev. 3:12-13
1. “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God” ... they will be standing even after trials, much like the familiar sight around the city of Philadelphia where frequent earthquakes had leveled many temples ... but the pillars were still left standing!
a. This was a familiar sight to the citizens of Philadelphia ... often after one of the tragic earthquakes that hit this area, the only thing left standing were the pillars of the buildings ... these pillars thus stood for a symbol of durability – and God uses that image to say they will be like those pillars in the temple of God … still standing after all the shaking!
b. God’s promise here is clear ... to those who are to be commended by God for staying the course faithfully; they will remain unshakeable by all that comes upon mankind!
2. God also promises them a “New name.”
a. We will be given God's own name ... for we will reflect the very character of God by our faithful service!
b. In antiquity, to be given the name of the emperor was a very special privilege! It gave you the rights to all that he had ... and gave you a place of prominence!
c. This was akin to being given all that belongs to God ... making available all that is His! What a privilege for the faithful saint or church!
3. Those that are commended by God will have great reward...
4. "He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches!"
a. The church is after all us, not buildings!
b. What is the Spirit saying to you? Have you been faithful to the doors of opportunities ... or are you just content to wear the football jersey to the services?
CONCLUSION: Opportunities for ministry are not determined by a church's size, money, power, or programs! They are determined by God! God gives opportunities to minister to every church and every believer, but we must "seize the day!" God may open the door, but we must walk through it! Success requires two things:
(1. See the opportunity;
(2. Act on the opportunity.
Do you see possibilities of ministry? What are you doing about it?