HEAVEN IS CLOSER THAN YOU THINK
by Eric Elder
We’re getting ready for our 3rd Annual Ranch Retreat here in Illinois THIS WEEKEND (October 9-11…we’d love to have you join us!). Our theme is “Testimonies,” and we’ll be sharing stories about how God has worked powerfully in our lives.
In light of our theme, I’d like to share with you today three car stories, one from a few years ago and two from a few weeks ago. My prayer is that these stories will give you hope that God is never far away–that heaven is closer than you think. As Jesus said:
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 10:7b).
(You can listen to today’s message at this link, or read it below.)
Car Story #1
A few years my daughter sent me a picture taken of someone’s hand in a sideview mirror on a car. On the hand was written the word, “HOPE,” and below the hand were these words: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” I loved the picture and the thought that HOPE really is often closer than it appears.
A few months later, my wife needed a new car as the one she was driving had finally quit. She didn’t usually care about the make or model of cars; she just wanted to get from point A to point B. But for some reason, she really had her heart set on a particular car: a little red Mini Cooper. There weren’t many of them around in our area at that time, so they were still a little unusual. We looked up the prices of some used Mini Coopers online and I thought, “No way! Sorry!”
I remembered a friend who sent his daughter off to college with no money and only his prayers, saying, “The same God who takes care of me will take care of you.” And God did take care of her. Four years later, after working and taking out loans and figuring it out with God along the way, she finished college and got her degree.
I thought of that story as I was talking to my wife in bed that night and said to her, “The same God who takes care of me will take care of you.” And I rolled over and went to sleep.
The next morning, less than eight hours later, a man pulled up behind me in the parking lot as I was parking my car at a men’s group at church driving. He was driving a little red Mini Cooper. He had never come to the men’s group before that day. As I got out of my car, I told him that was a cool car and asked, “You wouldn’t happen to be selling it, would you?”
He said, “I’ve just been thinking about it.” I couldn’t believe it! He asked if I wanted to check it out, so I sat in the car and looked over at the side view mirror. I saw those words again in the mirror, but this time with the reflection of a little red Mini Cooper behind them: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”
Six months later, God made a way for us to get a little red Mini Cooper of our own (not the one I had seen that morning, but another just as miraculously provided), and God reminded me that the words I spoke to my wife that night were true: that the same God who takes care of me would indeed take care of her.
Car Story #2
About two months ago, my minivan (with over 300,000 miles on it) finally broke down for the last time. It was the only vehicle we had at home at the time as one of my daughters had moved away and was now using the little red Mini Cooper off to get back and forth to work.
My other two daughters were driving the van when it had broken down. They had just dropped me off at our church for a conference, when a few minutes later, they called to say the van had stalled and wouldn’t start again. After talking with them figuring out how to get the van to a shop, then working out rides for everyone for the rest of the day, including myself, I was exhausted. I wanted to just find a quiet place at the conference and take a short nap. But instead, I ran into a friend in the hallway.
This friend had told me, just the day before, that someone had given his family a van earlier in the week. He said it came totally out of the blue, and was such a blessing, “like it had just dropped out of heaven.” When I ran into him at the conference that afternoon after our van had broken down, I told him that I needed a miracle like he had told me about the day before, because I really didn’t want to go shopping for a new van that weekend because I had so much else to do. I was trying to finish writing my new book and didn’t feel like I had even a minute to spare to deal with finding something else to drive. He prayed with me there in the hallway. I felt better, and went to the final sessions of the conference.
Riding home afterwards with my daughter and one of her friends, her friend asked me, “What kind of car are you going to get next, Eric?”
I said, “I have no idea. I’m just praying that God will drop one out of heaven.”
“Watch out!” she said.
I said, “I’ll pray for a parachute attached to it, too, so it lands gently.” We laughed. Then I added, “Actually, heaven is closer than you think. Some days it feels like I can just reach out and touch it with my hand.”
Less than thirty minutes later, when we pulled into our driveway at home, we were greeted by my friend who had prayed with me at the conference, along with his wife and children. They had driven two vans to our house, the new one which they had just received, and the old one, which they no longer needed and were praying just that morning who they could bless with it. When I ran into him at the conference and told him my dilemma, he knew God had answered their prayers, too. He held out his hand and handed me the keys to their old minivan, “Here, it’s yours.”
My daughter and I both cried as we realized that heaven really was so much closer than we thought.
Car Story #3
Before my van broke down, I was actually getting ready to get a second car because I had two more sons who would be driving soon and would need some way to get around. So when our van with 300,000 miles on it broke down, I wondered if I should still try to fix it up one more time or if I should look for another car. I didn’t want to have to deal with it right then, either, but I needed to make a decision soon as the van was still at the shop where we had first towed it. They needed to know if we were going to fix it or have it taken away to a junkyard.
I prayed, “God, let me know what I should do by tomorrow at noon.”
Then, for some reason, I modified my prayer. I said, “No, scratch that. Let me know by tomorrow at 10 a.m.” I really didn’t have time for this! I was still trying to finish my new book and each of these car decisions threatened to pull me away from finishing it.
The next morning (at 9 a.m., if you can believe it!) another friend who knew nothing about the other car stories I’ve just told you, called me and started telling me about a car he had just bought a month earlier for his daughter to take out west, but it didn’t work out for her to take it. So he was telling me he was planning to put it on Craig’s list to sell it again. I told him of my looming decision about fixing my van or junking it, and asked him if I could see the car he was going to sell.
He said the car was older and had some miles on it, but that the body of the car was in immaculate condition. He texted me a picture of it and said, “Look at those clouds reflected from the sky on the top of the car.” To me it looked like heaven had come down to earth!
He said I could drive it for a few days and see if I liked it. When I realized that God had answered my prayer about what to do about my car by 10 a.m. that day, I was overwhelmed. I knew this was an answer from Him, and three days later, I bought it.
When I called the man at the junkyard to ask him to pick up my old van and take it away, he said, “I’m not sure when I can get to it. I don’t know where they’re coming from, but I’ve had so many calls about cars the last few days, it’s like they’re are just dropping out of the sky.”
And they were!
Heaven really is so much closer than we think.
A few days later, I was able to finally finish my book, as God had taken care of so many other details that could have delayed the project. I was reminded of the words from Jesus’ sermon on the mount, where He said that our heavenly Father knows what we need, so we need not worry, adding
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well,” (Matthew 6:33).
Hang on to hope. Keep seeking God’s kingdom–doing what He’s called you to do–and keep trusting in Him to provide everything you need along the way. Heaven really is closer than you think. As Jesus said,
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for Your reminders that heaven really is closer than we think, because that means that You, and our loved ones who are there with you, are closer than we think, too. Help us to remember this as we go through our days. Help us to trust that You know what we need, and that if we seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness that all these things will be added to us as well. Father, help us to keep doing the things You’ve called us to do, trusting that You will provide everything else that we need along the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. Here’s the link again to our 3rd Annual Ranch Retreat if you’d like to join us this weekend. It’s free! We’d love to have you come.
P.P.S. Here’s also a link to the book I was able to finish while God was working out the details of our vehicles. The book is called Fifty Shades of Grace, and it’s the story of my testimony of how I went into homosexuality and came out of it through the power of Christ and with the help of the woman who later became my wife. If you need encouragement that God can do anything, ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING, then I hope you’ll get a copy of this book, which I’ve written under the pen name Nicholas Deere