What do you think of the word ‘almost’? We say, I almost missed the train or I almost caught the flu this season. We say it all the time. But do you know it also is a word that talks of missed opportunities and fumbled chances?
I wonder if you have heard of Tim KcKee who was edged out of first place in the 1972 Olympic 400-meter race by two-thousandths of a second. Can you imagine how that felt? He almost won a gold medal. Instead he won the silver medal, which is not too bad.
Christian teacher and author Max Lucado gives us these sad statements that revolve around almost:
- He almost got it together.
- We were almost able to work it out.
There is a lot of regret in these words.
The New Testament in Matthew 19 tells us of a conversation Jesus had one day with a young man we know as the rich young ruler. He was an impressive kind of guy who would have been highly respected by many others. We read about him in three gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke. He had plenty of money, he was young, and he was a ruler. But Mark tells us he ran up to Jesus one day and knelt before him. That was a sign of great respect and admiration. He meant business as he said to Jesus, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 – NIV). Interesting to see that the Greek word translated here as ‘eternal life’ really means joy, fulfillment and peace with God.
He wanted what everyone wants—abundant life on earth and happiness in the next life. He had plenty of riches and status, but lacked something—he wanted to know more about real life. Jesus responds to the young man by asking a strange question: “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good” (Matthew 19:17 – NIV). Jesus was really asking, Do you have a clue as to who I am? In the Living Bible, Jesus’ question becomes this statement: “When you call me good you are calling me God.” Jesus was gently probing to see if there was within the young man a smidgen of faith, the kind of faith that could transform his life.
Then in verse 21, Jesus makes both diagnosis and prescription: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Jesus was really saying to the rich young ruler: You are carrying a security blanket that you rely on more than God. God will not agree to be co-champion in your tournament of favourites. That false god must be dethroned in order for you to experience the glory of God.
Then in verse 22 we find one of the saddest statements in all of Scripture: “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” This young man had caught a glimpse of a magnificent, God-centred way of life. Something in the eyes and spirit of Jesus sent shivers of excitement down his spine. It was as if his whole life had been preparation for this once-in-a-lifetime crossroad.
But the price was so high! His money had always been his magic carpet to comfort and connections and opportunities. How could he live without this familiar security blanket? So he went away sorrowful. He is an almost person—he almost surrendered his life to this Jesus. He almost became a disciple, a Jesus follower.
(Read Almost persuaded: Part 2)