If you’ve read a few of my contemplations before, or a few hundred of them, you probably know that I rarely start out with a scripture quote. I’ll frequently end up with a thinly veiled reference to some verse and from time to time might have a direct quote. Normally, though, that’s not how I start out. Well, by this stage of my life, I’ve gotten fairly used to not having the slur “normal” hurled my way very often, so I think I’ll take the chance of doing something a little different. Here comes the scripture quote…
I was reading my Bible the other morning and came across this little gem near the beginning of I Corinthians 16, verses 8 and 9 specifically: “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.”
I don’t know if I’m the only loon on the lake or not but I’ve usually labored under the impression that when God opens a door for you, there’s nothing but smooth sailing ahead. Things fall right into place, everything works out great and all is peachy and wonderful. It’s almost like living at home on the range, you know? In fact, for much of my life, it didn’t take too many discouraging words before I’d start thinking about seeking my opportunities elsewhere.
What Paul writes here is an absolute contradiction of that notion. He puts this “great door” of opportunity and much opposition right in the same wall leading into the same room. Adversity and hardship are not evidences that we are not where God wants us or that we are not doing what he wants us to do; they are quite often unmitigated proof that we are exactly in the middle of his will. Great opportunity always comes with challenges, setbacks, rough spots and, well, “many who oppose.”
From a very fundamentalist and pragmatic point of view, why would Satan bother to oppose something that isn’t going to make a hill of beans difference in the number of souls he’s free to torment and afflict? If the opportunity you’re exploiting is nothing but soft breezes and full steam ahead, it’s damnably sure that what you’re doing is no threat to the kingdom of darkness.
On the other hand, just because you’re having a hard time of it is not clear and convincing proof that you’re doing the Lord’s own good work. If you’ve decided to open the door of opportunity that includes taking advantage of old people and orphans, there’s a good chance you’re going to run into all kinds of opposition once good people figure out what you’re up to!
If I take the apostle’s point correctly, we should divest ourselves completely of the thinking that equates opportunity with ease of accomplishment. It is not the degree of difficulty that separates good choices from bad choices; it is the likelihood that persistence will yield a harvest worthy of the effort.
All labor that is done in the Lord meets that test and they don’t call it “labor” for no good reason.