Imagine a scholarship for Bible college is promised to you—then, inexplicably, it goes away. Disappointment might be a mild word to describe the emotion you would feel! One leader I know experienced this exact situation. In response to the closed door, this leader decided that, instead of enrolling in Bible college, he would enlist in the military of his native country, Greece, fulfilling the required two years of military service. After completing his stint in the army, he pursued studies at the university, and took the required entry exams. His scores were off the charts!
He began to work toward a law degree, and eventually George Patsouris completed his studies with distinction. After graduation, George found himself in the midst of a hotbed of religious persecution against the evangelical church. He took on a series of assignments on behalf of evangelical Christianity, often in direct opposition to the Orthodox Church. Leaders of the state church have significant governmental influence in Greece and they are salaried by the state. Still, George pursued his convictions, and never lost his passion for sharing the gospel and for advancing its mission. He was arrested over 30 times for his religious activities, as he regularly could be found preaching in the parks and passing out Christian literature.
When the Athens 3 trial made global news, George found himself on the legal team in the center of this religious controversy. The case concerned a printed gospel tract given to a 13-year-old boy and three missionaries were arrested for their involvement. Believers around the world gave so much attention to the situation (over a half-million people responded to the case) that the authorities asked George to tell everyone to quit sending letters. The missionaries were eventually acquitted and the young boy later became involved in a Foursquare church.
Today, George does not practice law—but he still preaches, mostly in the Foursquare church that he established in Athens (it currently is the largest evangelical church in the country, with over 1,000 in weekly attendance), and at other times in parks and at Mars Hill (where the Apostle Paul’s defense of the gospel is so well known). He has given leadership birth to 18 congregations in Greece, and his own church translates the Sunday message into eight languages for the people groups that the Lord has attracted there!
One very painful closed door in George’s teenage years opened another one that eventually would give rise to national and global influence. George’s experience reminds us that instead of looking over our shoulder at lost opportunities, it is far more profitable to look forward to the possibilities that God may be opening for us. Even if you can’t see the possibilities yet, maybe you should listen for them! Blind Bartameus couldn’t see Jesus—but he heard Him approaching.
“See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it.” -Rev. 3:8 (NKJV)
Can you hear Him?