When I was growing up, I never knew cursing, drinking, divorce, or what people commonly call "the wild life." And believe it or not, at the time I didn't know the rest of the world was any different. Today many feel that growing up in such a protected environment, free from the dangers of the world, has nothing but advantages...but there's also a downside. That type of isolation can lull us to sleep and rob us of our passion for the gospel.
Until you step out the door of your comfortable Christian surroundings into the raw depravity of the world, you can't fully understand man's desperate need for the life-changing gospel. I know the temptation to stay inside our Christian cloisters is great. That's why some of us need to be shocked out of our "Christian club" mentalities. It took a stint in the Marine Corps for me to become fully aware of the depths of sinful depravity...and to catch a passion for the gospel's transforming power.
Before putting my sea bag down on the floor of that Quonset hut in Okinawa, I distinctly remember thinking: Before I even put these clothes in this little foot locker, I've got to decide whether or not I'm going to walk with Christ. Was I going to be His witness here, at the "remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8), or keep my mouth shut and just blend in?
An Open Door for Evangelism
Silence always seems like the easiest way, doesn't it? Have you ever squirmed in your seat on an airplane, wondering if you should bring up spiritual things with the passenger beside you? Do you know the feeling of standing on a new neighbor's doorstep — palms sweating, heart pounding — struggling with whether simply to welcome them to the neighborhood or to take the opportunity to invite them to church?
It takes courage to step out from the safety of the hothouse of Christianity and walk through the open door of evangelism. It is risky. It isn't easy. But guess what? It's never been easy. In fact, at times it has been downright deadly.
Let's travel back many centuries to a faithful but timid church in Philadelphia, a city in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). While the church endured persecution as they eagerly awaited the Lord's return from heaven, they struggled to preach the gospel in their own neighborhood. Because Philadelphia was situated on a well-traveled road, that thoroughfare brought a steady stream of people from across the empire to their doorsteps. What an open door for evangelism!
That's why Christ reminded them, "Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut" (Revelation 3:8). Perhaps that congregation — numbed by persecution and intensely focused on their own faithfulness to Christ — had lost sight of the open door of opportunity before them. Maybe the ever-changing world of unbelievers that passed by their windows paralyzed them with fear or indecision. Or perhaps they decided to just delay evangelism until the smoke cleared and a more ideal opportunity presented itself.
Overwhelming obstacles can make cowards of us all. We can hardly fault the faithful Philadelphians for being frozen by feelings of inadequacy. Even today, fulfilling Christ's mandate for evangelism can seem daunting. A few snide comments from critics, an insulting remark from an atheist, or bad press from a journalist can deflate our passion for evangelism. We can easily lose heart by focusing so much on the staggering task before us that we decide to sit still and keep quiet rather than "rock the boat."
The result? We miss the opportunity to reach out to those precious few within our personal reach...those lost souls passing by the thresholds of our own open doors.
Stepping across the Threshold
Like the Philadelphians centuries ago, each of us today stands at the threshold of "an open door which no one can shut." Lost souls are standing nearby, literally within our reach. But if we wait for just the right moment or hold out for fresh motivation, we'll stand in the doorway waving lost souls goodbye rather than welcoming them into the kingdom.
Timidity...fear...indecision — like a trio of thieves, these responses will rob you of your passion for the gospel, leaving you numb to the needs of the world. Resist them. Ignore the overwhelming odds. Forget about the "what-ifs" of rejection and derision. Instead, think about what might happen if you don't share the gospel. Even though you can't do everything, you can do something. You may only be one person, but you can still make a difference. So, please, make a difference! God has opened a door for you. It's open right now. Find it. Walk through it. Don't hesitate.
I often return to that critical moment so many years ago in Okinawa. It challenged my views about people, about evangelism, and about my need to step through the doors of opportunity God placed before me. Because I decided to take that step into the fallen world as Christ's ambassador, I had the privilege of leading seven, perhaps eight of the Marines in our hut to Christ. That may not sound like a "great awakening" to you, but believe me — seven or eight souls out of forty — eight Marines was a revival!
Though I've always been grateful for the moral foundation I had as a child, only when I took that first, risky step into the world of sinners did my passion for the gospel and heart for evangelism spark into a fire that has been burning ever since.
Will you make that same decision today? Will you boldly step across the threshold of that open door? I urge you, walk through it. Don't hesitate. Make a difference!
Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, "At the Threshold of an Open Door," Insights (August 2006): 1-2. Copyright © 2006 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.