WHEN DOES ALMOST COUNT?

by David Sisler

"Didn't we almost have it all?" asks a beautiful song by Whitney Houston.

To which the skeptic replies, "Almost only counts in horse shoes, and quoits, and hand grenades, and atomic bombs."

Jeffrey Zaslow is the columnist who replaced Ann Landers at the Chicago Sun-Times. He frequently asks his readers to send true life anecdotes and he features them in his columns. Sometimes his readers simply respond, unsolicited, to his stories. He compiled a book entitled Tell Me All About It.

One story was about a man who coached a baseball team of eight-year-olds. There were a few excellent players, a lot more who were average at the sport, and a few who wanted to play, but it was obvious, baseball was not their game.

When the team took the field for the final game of the season, their record was dismal. They had not won a single game. But in the last inning of that last game, they were down by only one run.

There was one little boy on the team who had never gotten a hit, or caught a ball, but with two outs, and the score tied, it was his turn at bat. To his great surprise and joy, he got a single.

The next batter up was the team's best hitter. With a man on first and one out to go, it looked like the team might finally win a game. The slugger connected and the boy on first ran for second. He saw the ball coming toward him, stopped and caught it. He didn't know that by touching the batted ball, he had made the last out of the game.

Quickly the coach told his team to cheer. The boy grinned an infectious grin. All he knew was he had hit the ball and caught a ball both for the only time that season. No one ever told him he had cost his team their only chance at winning that entire season.

That selfless coach should be applauded. Sometimes "almost" does count for more than horse shoes. But does "almost" count with God?

It was a classic confrontation. The combatants could not have been more different: Agrippa, the king, clothed in royal splendor and surrounded by an impressive retinue, and Paul, the prisoner, clothed in simple garb and bound by chains. Paul had been accused by the Jewish religious leaders of treason against Rome. He had defended himself before a succession of three Roman officials, each one passing Paul along to the next.

Finally Paul made his defense before Agrippa, king of Palestine. As Paul spoke, Agrippa interrupted him. "Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian" (Acts 26:28).

Almost. What does it mean to be almost persuaded?

The rumor ran along the shore, the ship was unsafe. A serious leak developed while the vessel was making its preceding trip. The safety of all hands was in serious doubt. A traveller heard the rumor, and was almost persuaded. But it was only a short trip across relatively safe waters and he had to make his next connection. At the last moment, he boarded the ship and drowned when it sunk a mile off shore.

The stock was soaring. The market had never seen anything like it. Every day the issue closed at a new high. And yet something wasn't quite right. Cautious investors were holding back. One man was almost persuaded. But it seemed too good a deal to miss. So he liquidated his entire portfolio and bought every available share. The next morning the house of cards collapsed and he lost his entire fortune.

Agrippa, almost persuaded. The traveller, almost persuaded. The investor, almost persuaded. And all three, lost.

Almost may count in horse shoes. But when God promises everything you need to become a part of His Kingdom, why would you want to risk settling for almost?

-30-


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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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