OPEN HEART and Wide Open Doors By Deborah Ann Saint
The Wide-Open Door
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5 NKJV)
“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial…He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.” ~CS Lewis
This CS Lewis quote touched a nerve in me and stirred my heart as I wondered about my own life. What is the quality of my faith and love? Is my temple a house of cards? Will those with whom I share my faith see a “house of cards” in me? How can I rebuild on a firmer foundation? With a firmer foundation, how can I successfully share the Good News with people? I hope these questions are ideas you and I will explore for answers together through this book.
The Wide-Open Door
The door near me was wide open. It seemed strange it would be left that way. The medical staff had escorted the very-sick looking patient past me and into the exam room. This man inside sounded as if he could use some privacy. He was so near and yet so far away—only eight to ten feet from where I rested on a makeshift bed in the narrow hallway while receiving an IV—but the formal separation of the exam room was a barrier not to be breeched.
His cough sounded awful, the worst I probably have ever heard. Suffering and agony echoed loud in those cavernous sounds like a last-days kind of cough. The mood of the clinic environment seemed to shadow his coughing crisis.
Was he dying? My tears and my raw emotions surprised me in their force, sudden and keenly felt. From somewhere deep, memories were tapped and unexpected pain afflicted me. I felt I was given compassion for and an awareness of this man’s plight in a way that seemed unusual, maybe supernatural?
Did this man know the Lord? Should I try to find a way to talk to him? And then more personal questions rushed in. Would I be willing to share Christ and expose myself to his illness? Would I be willing to suffer his illness in order for him to be saved? Would I be willing to risk getting what he had and potentially die, even if he is still not saved?
I thought about how Jesus had died for me while I was still a sinner and how He offers the same gift to all, yet many will reject His offer. He knew He would die for many that would reject Him. I realized anew the enormity of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for me, for this man, for all of us. The man’s desperate-seeming state brought Jesus’ love into greater focus and to fuller life for me.
I desired to bring him Christ’s love, forgiveness, and living hope which I received and knew. It is such a great gift and so available and there is so much at stake to miss or reject it. I began a repeat dialogue within myself.
“What cost would I be willing to pay to give out the gospel to anyone, whether straight, gay, homeless, outcast, misfit, a Pharisee, an atheist, one good in their own eyes, someone medically contagious, someone dangerous… anyone?”
“Would I really give my life?”
“What is the value of a soul?” “Valuable enough that Jesus gave His life.”
“Will I trust God to lead me and to know when to go?”
“I do want to trust God, but I admit I’m hesitant and feel powerless and uncertain how to proceed.”
“Do I really believe what I believe?”
“Yes, I do believe, but if I speak what I believe, would the man reject me as a religious fanatic or would he sense God’s love, compassion, care and concern and the hope offered?” Would I portray “a house of cards”?
The experience opened my eyes wide. My heart longed to be wide-open and infuse hope and life into this man.
His coughing reminded me of patients I had cared for as a nurse. Worse, it reminded me of my parents who both died of respiratory illnesses. It was all too fresh and awful. In addition, during most of my childhood, I shared a room with my younger sister who had severe asthma. Her breathing crises were unforgettably traumatic. More than once I raced from my bed at night to get my mother so she could help my sister’s desperate state, gasping for life. It was hard to watch my sister struggle for every breath. It seemed terrifying to have to gasp for air. She was in ICU for breathing issues twice. This man’s struggle was terrifying as well.
All these memories of my parents and sister flooded back. Tears streamed down my face. The fact that I was identifying this unknown man with family members and long-ago memories felt both endearing and frightening. I prayed for him yet my prayers seemed small and not impactful.
I never talked to the man. When my therapy ended, he was undergoing some kind of treatment, and there was no access readily available to me. I returned home. I realized the conflict raging in me. I wondered how I could have such a strong emotional experience and yet not follow up with actions. This inaction disturbed me and again caused me to think of “a house of cards”. I was affected and challenged, and a desire grew in me to do more to live truer to the gospel. I began to realize “the cards” needed to be removed from my life and I needed to build on Christ as my firm foundation. There was much work to do for me to overcome the old structure and rebuild my life.Without knowing it then, this experience and others would hit even closer than I ever imagined and in a revelatory personal way that surprised and challenged me.
“Revival occurs when those who think they already know the gospel discover they do not really or fully know it. This leads to repentance and change.” ~ Tim Keller
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in” (Matthew 23:13 ESV).
This verse comes to my mind often and as I consider it, I wonder if I am anything like these scribes and Pharisees? I know I have been a hypocrite too many times to count. I would not want Jesus to pronounce a woe over me, or anyone, so I have self-examined and repented and asked the Lord how to enter the door of the kingdom of heaven more fully. (I know I am born-again but I sometimes find myself acting like a Pharisee.) I want to change, and I want to lead others to the door—not block them from entering. Jesus said, I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture (John 10:9). However, my dilemma is how to lead others to enter in real life and to encourage others likewise.
In contemplating this, I realized that having belief and confidence in “who is the door” is important. Jesus is an advocate with the Father—the Righteous One. (1 John 2:1) Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6; John 6:44, John 6:65). God is a Just and Righteous Judge, The Sovereign Lord, my refuge, One who is good to be near, my God (Psalm 73:28). He wants me to tell of his works and bring others to Christ, the door. He is welcoming, merciful and delights to forgive (Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 89:14; Psalm 145:8-9)
He wants me/us to intercede in prayer for others with faith, respect, holy fear of Him and with a bold passion for The Kingdom of God and the saving of souls, much like Abraham did in Genesis 18.
Lord, help those who know You to be gracious, led by Your Spirit, and not hindered or stuck in Pharisee-like hypocrisy and unbelief that blocks the door, Christ, the way to the Kingdom of God. Help us repent of unbelief, self-righteousness, un-love or any other attitude/sin that turns people away from Christ. Lord, help us be an intercessor like Abraham as we pray, trusting in Your faithful goodness and promises to save those who will believe. May we have faith in You, Lord, as the Judge of all the Earth. May we trust Jesus, the Righteous One and the Holy Spirit as our Advocate with the Father, (1 John 2:1; John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). We ask for Your help, counsel, and advice. May we live depending on You.
Please continue to delight in mercy on us when we fail (Micah 7:18). Lord, please make our heart’s desire and prayers to You be for Israel and the lost, that they might be saved. (Romans 10:1) Please Lord, help us have hearts to offer supplications, prayers, intercessions, and the giving of thanks for all men. (1 Timothy 2:1-6). Thank you that the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10) Thank you Lord for telling us that Your desire is to have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Father, please draw them to You so they might come to Your Son and be raised up at the last day. (John 6:44) Please move again LORD by your Spirit in your people. May we take steps to live true to Christ in boasting on our weaknesses: sharing our testimony of Your grace, as You lead. Help us show how You care and how You give Your appropriate touch with love and compassion. May we not be ashamed of Your Gospel as it is the power of God to salvation for any who will believe. Help us be willing to share effectively and with audacious confidence in Your power to save to the uttermost. (Romans 1:16; 2 Peter 3:9; Hebrews 7:25) In Jesus’ Name, Amen.