Message summary: Today let us consider the “agony of almost”.
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“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian'” (Acts 26:28). “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Once again I begin this message with a football illustration, which I realize will not connect with everyone, but please give it a try! If not scroll down to, “Exposition begins here:”
This last weekend there were four NFL playoff games and three of them were very close. In any game loss whether it’s close or not there is disappointment for the losing team and its fans. But some losses are agonizingly close. Last night’s final minutes of the game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles was very suspenseful. Living in this area most are Eagles fans but the coach of the Bears, Matt Nagy, is from a neighboring town (Manheim) so there is some division in the fan base even in our area.
The game came down to what should have been the game winning field goal for the Bears from a distance where almost all field goals are successful. The kicker, Cody Parkey (who used to play for the Eagles), lined up for the kick and, a second before kicking the ball successfully through the uprights which would have won the game, the Eagles coach called a timeout in a desperate effort to “ice” (frazzle) the kicker.
After the brief time-out once again there was another attempt at the game-winning field goal. (Pause: I was very conflicted at this point. Although I favored the Eagles I really hate to see a game won by a missed field goal.)
The kicked football hit the goalpost upright and then bounced down and hit the crossbar before bouncing out for an agonizingly close miss. The Eagles won the game. Elated joy for one side and unbelievable agony for the other! The Bears had almost won the football game.
I felt for the kicker who was experiencing, along with the rest of the Bears team and fans, the “agony of almost“. However a brief glimpse of him joining a group of other players on the field for a post-game prayer was an inspiring moment.
Exposition begins here:
Today let us consider an infinitely more important “agony of almost“.
Anyone who has witnessed for Christ, whether one on one, or in a group setting has dealt with rejection or a lack of receptiveness to their message and appeal to renounce sin and follow Christ.
Paul experienced this when he was testifying before King Agrippa and the Spirit led him to pour his heart out and challenge Agrippa to become a Christian. Agrippa responded, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian”. This is how the scene ends and we are left to wonder if Agrippa ever chose the way of Christ.
Some 1900 years later songwriter Philip P. Bliss was assisting an evangelist named Rev. Brundage. During the sermon, the evangelist quoted Acts 26:28 and declared: “He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost.” This prompted P.P. Bliss to write a hymn titled “Almost Persuaded”.
Agrippa properly recognized that Paul was seeking to persuade him to be a Christian. That’s significant. It wasn’t a sneaky, back door approach that Paul used. Agrippa knew just what Paul was doing, but in the end, the decision to follow Christ was Agrippa’s to make. We can only prayerfully present the truth and live the Christian life, but we cannot force people into a decision for Christ.
In today’s two texts we have a contrast between the peril of “almost persuaded” and the blessing of “fully persuaded”. Where do you stand? Join us in this declaration: “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber