By Randy Maxwell A few Sundays back, Suzette and I were tired of being cooped up in the house so we decided to drive down to The Landing—an outdoor shopping plaza in Renton, Washington, where we live, with stores, restaurants, services, and a multi-screen movie theater. The eyeglass store I intended to visit had a sign on the door saying that, due to COVID-19, they were closed until further notice. But that wasn’t the only one. I drove around to the Ross store—closed. Dick’s Sporting Goods—closed. Marshall’s—closed. World Market—closed. The parking lot was a ghost town. The invisible virus was demonstrating its power to make cars and shoppers disappear. Just a few days earlier, Governor Jay Inslee had issued a stay-at-home order that essentially closed down the entire state of Washington. So it is under this order that I’m writing this devotional. That’s why I appreciate an encounter Jesus had with a doubting truth-seeker named Nathanael.
Jesus was heading to Galilee. On the way, he asked Philip to follow him. Philip then went to find his friend, Nathanael, and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” John 1:45
The mention of Nazareth invoked the same reaction in Nathanael that people have today at the mention of coronavirus—it closed things down. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. We might ask, can anything good come from this coronavirus? From the inconvenience and disruption of social distancing? From the inability of congregations to assemble in their houses of worship? But sometimes good things come from bad places or experiences.
To Nathanael’s credit, he responded to Philip’s invitation to “come and see” and went with him. Jesus saw Nathanael approaching and said, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” John 1:48 Instantly, faith opened Nathanael’s closed mind and he confessed: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” (vs. 49)
“Jesus said, ‘You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.’ He then added, ‘I tell you the truth you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (vs. 50-51) At Jesus’ baptism, “heaven was opened,” and God anointed and verbally blessed His Son. (See Matt. 3:16-17.) “Here Christ virtually says, ‘On the bank of the Jordan the heavens were opened, and the Spirit descended like a dove upon Me. That scene was but a token that I am the Son of God. If you believe on Me as such, your faith shall be quickened. You shall see that the heavens are opened and are never to be closed. I have opened them to you. The angels of God are ascending, bearing the prayers of the needy and distressed to the Father above, and descending, bring blessing and hope, courage, help, and life, to the children of men.’” (Desire of Ages, p. 142, 143) Hallelujah! Heaven is open! Heaven is always open, and nothing—not prejudice, or doubt, or COVID-19, or stay-at-home orders, or demons, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can shut its doors. (See Rom. 8:39.) And what does it mean for heaven to be open? It means, you and I have full and complete access to everything that’s there, and the “shelves” are always stocked with everything we need.
What is in stock in heaven? Everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23). The full armor of God (Eph. 6:14-17). Exceeding great and precious promises (2 Pet.1:4). New birth into a living hope (1Pet. 1:3-5). The mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). Every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
Heaven is open and Jesus has given us the keys to the kingdom (Matt. 16:19). That key is prayer. The angels are heaven’s “Amazon” delivery agents, bearing our prayers up to the Father and descending, bringing the blessings we need most—hope, courage, help, and life to us.
The Landing may be closed, basketball may be closed, hockey may be closed, restaurants may be closed, even our churches may be temporarily closed, but Heaven is always open. So don’t be afraid. Jesus says, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” John 14:14. Therefore, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” Ps. 81:10
This Coronavirus can’t stop God. Pray as never before, because Heaven is always open.
Randy Maxwell is the pastor of the Renton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Renton, Washington, where he lives with his wife, Suzette. He’s the author of “If My People Pray” and “Bootcamp for the Last Days.”
Heart Questions: Have your spiritual shelves gotten a little bare in some areas due to the busyness and hurry of life the last few years? Perhaps there are some heavenly supplies and graces that you need to stock up on? Furthermore, if you could ask for any spiritual gift, for victory in any specific area, or for some other spiritual blessing, what would you ask for? Think about these questions for a few minutes. Active Heart Challenge: Why don’t you take time to write down the things you feel in need of this week—then look up specific Bible promises where God tells us that He will supply that specific need. Whether it’s money to pay the bills, or strength in an area where you’ve been spiritually weak, start actively claiming the promises of God when you pray. “You need not go to the ends of the earth for wisdom, for God is near. It is not the capabilities you now possess or ever will have that will give you success. It is that which the Lord can do for you. We need to have far less confidence in what man can do and far more confidence in what God can do for every believing soul. He longs to have you reach after Him by faith. He longs to have you expect great things from Him.” (Christ Object Lessons, p. 146) Praise Report: The Youth Department of the Euro-Asia Division in Moscow, Russia, organized a division-wide prayer marathon for young people via Zoom recently. Participants connected from across the division, focusing on the power of God, His watchcare, and prayer. God blessed! Day 29 - Prayer Focus
Pray that our youth around the world will continue finding ways to press together in prayer, and Bible study. Pray that the experience they are gaining now with Jesus because of this crisis will be lasting.
Pray for parents who are struggling to teach or help monitor the online education of their children during this pandemic. Pray for wisdom and courage for parents!
Pray for the graduating high school and college students who are now going to be missing their normal graduation. Pray for courage for them, and direction as to what plans they should make for the future.
Pray for health, strength, and inspiration for youth ministry leaders, educators, teachers, and others working to inspire and encourage our youth during this crisis.
Pray for the It Is Written online evangelistic campaign “Hope Awakens” that has just started. There’s been a lot of obstacles and we know that the enemy is working overtime to keep this program from going forward. Keep the prayers covering this very important series. (To learn more visit: https://www.discoverhopeawakens.com).