The Door-Opener

Apparently the most expensive key in the world costs $34000. If you are prone to losing keys, it might be best to give this one a miss!

The key is in the form of a watch made by the luxury watch manufacturer, Jaegar LeCoultre. The way it works is that you press on the watch face to alternate between the watch function and the key function. Of course, the car isn’t just a family saloon, the key is designed to open an Aston Martin. I suppose if you can afford an Aston Martin, you can afford such an expensive key.

Keys, whether they are of the Aston Martin type or the more down to earth Yale variety, play a very powerful role in our lives. They give us access to our different worlds and spheres of activity. They can be used to admit people to those spheres or keep them out.

In his letter to the church at Philadelphia, John records Jesus as describing Himself as the one who has the key of David. The allusion is to Isaiah 22 where the official in Hezekiah’s court, Eliakim, is given the key of David. This key is not a literal key, it is simply a figurative way of expressing the authority that God conferred on an individual. That Jesus is said to have this key, indicates that He has the ultimate governmental authority not only in Israel but in the whole of the universe.

It was helpful for the church at Philadelphia to know this as Jesus declared that He had set before them an open door. The use of the term open door in the New Testament usually refers to opportunities to spread the gospel (see Acts 14.27; 2 Corinthians 2.12; Colossians 4.2). Jesus was giving this kind of opportunity to a church that was beleaguered, perhaps even broken, a church that felt its own weakness and the strength of the opposition ranged against it.

It’s a reminder to all of us that God gives see us differently to the people around us. And a reminder that it is what is going on in the heavenly realm that is really of importance.

What can we learn from the letter to Philadelphia about open doors?

Firstly, Jesus is the great door-opener (Revelation 3.7). What He opens, no-one can shut and what He shuts no-one can open. Any progress we make in any area of our lives is not based on our gifts and abilities alone, it is because Jesus has unlocked the door.

The apostles experienced this when they wanted to preach the gospel in Asia. Acts 16.6-7 records that the Spirit prevented them from preaching the gospel in Asia and kept them from going to Bithynia. Jesus locked the door. Why? Because He wanted them to go to Macedonia instead.

Secondly, Jesus opens doors for us as a response to our faithfulness (Revelation 3.8). Sometimes you hear people talk about God’s grace and sovereignty as though they were something random. There is an element of mystery about God’s grace that cannot be reduced to a kind of cause and effect style explanation; that would take us into a works based religion. However, God does respond to faithfulness. The church at Philadelphia was given an open door because it had shown itself faithful. God doesn’t give us open doors on the basis of how strong we might appear, but on the basis of how good we have been as stewards of what He has previously entrusted to us.

Thirdly, open doors attract opposition (Revelation 3.9-10). If you had walked into the Philadelphian church the day after it had received this prophecy, you might have found that not much had changed. Same opposition. Same difficulties. Same challenges. However, they have the promise of Jesus that He will deal with those challenges.

Opposition does not mean that the door is not open. It simply means that someone is trying to oppose you walking through it. Paul lived with the tension of having an open door and much opposition(1 Corinthians 16.9). The experience of the church at Philadelphia indicates that opposition to our open door is a spiritual issue that can only be dealt with in the spiritual realm. And to deal with that, we have to rely on the authority of Jesus, the One who opened the door in the first place.

If you want open doors and if you are to have any hope of overcoming the opposition to your open doors, take a leaf out of Philadelphia’s book and faithfully follow the Door-Opener.



Rewriting your future

In 1978 Harry Haslam, then the manager of Sheffield United, went to Argentina on a scouting trip. On one occasion he saw a teenager in action whom he considered incredibly talented. His club were prepared to sell their precocious youngster for £200,000. Haslam was desperate to sign him. However, the deal fell through. Sheffield United were in the old English second division and could only find £160,000. No deal. So instead they used the money to purchase another talented player. And the other teenager? Well, by 1986, Diego Maradona was considered the greatest player in the world.

Just think what might have happened if Haslam had been able to find the extra forty thousand pounds. Think of how history could have been re-written: “Sheffield United, European Champions – again” or  “Sheffield United double winners”.

Isaac, in Genesis 26 wasn’t in quite the same position as Harry Haslam. He wasn’t chasing the most talented player of his generation or a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. He found himself having to re-dig his father’s wells just to ensure the survival of his family and his flocks and herds.

Eventually he seemed to find and dig wells without much trouble wherever he went. But it did not begin that way. He had a lot of grief in the early stages of his well digging career. One of the earliest “digs” ended in a very tense engagement with the resident Philistines. The very next one resulted in a dispute which drove him to search for water elsewhere.

The events made such an impact on Isaac that he named the wells dispute and opposition (Genesis 26.20-21).

People who are serious about seeing God at work in and through them usually have one or two “well stories” to tell. Some well stories, if you will excuse the unintentional pun, do not end well. To see lives changed, churches grow, the kingdom come with power, carries a price tag.

What is that price? Sometimes it is just the price that Isaac had to pay. Spiritual conflict is a given if you are after spiritual breakthrough and blessing. It’s just the way it is. It’s the way it was for Jesus. One moment He was basking in the sunshine of His Father’s love (Matthew 3.16) the next, He is being led into the desert to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4.1). Once you pull on the uniform of the kingdom of God, you are a target. If you are going to be a successful well digger, learn how to battle in the unseen realm.

And there are disputes. One of the biggest dangers of disputes is the potential for offence. People get offended for all sorts of things. And people give offence by being insensitive or just plain rude. The key to overcoming offence is to reduce our capacity for taking offence and raise our awareness level of what might give offence. Whether we can ever reach the place where we  are “offence proof” – either in taking or giving – is hard to say, but we can at least keep ourselves steeped in grace.

Isaac pressed through his contention and his quarrelling and eventually breakthrough came. The price that he paid in those early escapades became a downpayment that secured his future.

Not for one moment should we downplay the demands of spiritual conflict or the emotional price of working through offence, but there are rewards at the other side. Perhaps, like Isaac, it is just a case of survival. Then on the other hand, it might just be the possibility of re-writing your future.