1. Are We Almost There?
We went for a mini three day vacation and it was so special to have part of our family along with us. Michael and I decided to go get pizza and we helped strap the grandchildren in the car and backed out of the driveway. After the first turn, little Maggie asked, "Are we almost there?" And we actually were, because it was just up the road. I remember going on vacation with our children when they were young, and facing several hours in the car, it never failed that about ten minutes into the journey one would ask, "Are we there yet?" Do you think the Children of Israel asked Moses this same question in their murmurings in the wilderness? Look at Deuteronomy 1:2-3, "(There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.) And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;" God brought them out of Egypt under the hand of Moses, to bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey. Because of their disbelief and sin against God, they turned an eleven day journey into forty years. How many times in our lives were we almost there, and something happened that turned us around? For the next few days let's look at some of the "almost" times that fill our lives.
2. Almost Home
Since I started having breathing issues two years ago I often have problems in new surroundings. We breathe without even thinking about it, but allergies to dust and smells, and even weather conditions can make it challenging for me at times. After spending a beautiful day at the beach, I could not sleep in the upstairs bedroom and moved down to a lower level where I propped up on the sofa so I could breathe more easily. I made it through the night but the next morning I had to take some medication, and use my inhaler, but as my breathing became more difficult and I didn't know what had caused all the problems I just wanted to go home. I hated leaving so soon, but I hated the thoughts of ending up in a hospital even more, so Michael brought me home. I began feeling better as we got on the road and I kept thinking, "Almost home..."
As I hear more and more bad news and think about how far mankind has fallen in sin, I keep on thinking, "Almost home." I believe that we are in the last days and I am looking for the Lord to come back soon. I find comfort in His Word. "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3) Jesus, my Lord and Savior has prepared me a home in heaven and I feel that I am almost home. As the world grows dark and dim let's keep our light shining for the Lord and keep trusting in Him. God has given us just a glimpse of our new home, and we can read about it in His Word. I leave you with these closing words of comfort from our Holy Bible. "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." (Revelation 22:20-21)
3. When Your Cupboard Is Almost Bare
Today I want to look at a familiar story found in I Kings 17:10-16. Elijah had told King Ahab that it would not rain and there was a famine in the land. God sent the prophet to a widow woman in Zarephath, whose barrel was almost empty.
"10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.
11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.
12 And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
14 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.
15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.
16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah."
Have you experienced a time when your cupboard was almost bare? As a school teacher, my husband was paid once a month, and with five little mouths to feed this meant some careful planning at the grocery store. I would make a long shopping list and we would get as much as we could on pay day. But usually by the end of the month our cabinets were almost bare and we ate soup and peanut butter sandwiches. God did not continually replace peanut butter in an almost empty jar, but He did supply our needs. At times God would lead me to a part time job to help bring in extra money. Michael also found part time jobs in the summers when he was out of school. One time we came home and found a large box of groceries on the porch. A few times Christian friends would say God put it in their hearts to give us a some money. We put our faith in God's Word and were always thankful for the many ways God provided our needs. "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19) Now that our children are grown it is a joy for us to be able to help others as God leads. I enjoy working in my garden and I pray that God will bless it so that I can share the fresh vegetables with our family and friends. If your cupboards are almost bare, put your trust in the One who owns it all. And if your cup runs over with the Lord's blessings, ask the Lord to show you who could use a little extra blessing and send it their way.
4. When You Almost Quit
Have you ever said, "I quit!" or "I just give up"? Well, you are not alone. We read of the great prophet Elijah when he fled for his life from wicked Queen Jezebel.
"4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
7 And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God." (I Kings 19:4-8)
He almost quit, but God gave him strength to go on. And what about the weeping prophet, Jeremiah? He told the Lord that everyone mocked him. "Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." (Jeremiah 20:9) He almost quit, but the Word of God burned in his bones and he kept on warning the people of God's coming judgment. I want to encourage you today to keep on keeping on. I believe that we all grow weary and we feel like we are ready to quit, but we have come too far to quit now. The Lord is coming to take us home to be with Him forever. Hear these Words of the Lord, "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." (Revelation 3:11) We also have the Apostle Paul as an example. "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14) The Bible tells us that things will get worse in the last days, but don't quit. Keep on keeping on for the glory of the Lord!
5. When Our Steps Almost Slip
Our verse today is Psalm 73:2, "But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped." It may be that we all have felt as Asaph did when he wrote this Psalm. Let's look at the context of this verse.
"3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.
5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.
6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.
7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.
8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.
9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.
10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.
11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?
12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.
14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning."
As we put it into perspective we see a man who worked hard to follow God and walk in the paths of righteousness. He looked around him and saw the wicked prosper and in the poetic verse of the Psalms he said, "But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped." When describing something shocking we might say, "It almost knocked me off my feet!" We can also think of it as one who struggles to climb to the top only to see that he is pushed out of the way and stepped on by those who cheat and use dishonest means to "prosper in the world" and "increase in riches." Our writer "almost" slipped... "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors." (Psalm 73:17-19) What effect did this have on the child of God?
"21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.
22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." (Psalm 73:21-26)
6. When We Are Almost Down
Sometimes we fall. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes through no fault of our own. Sometimes we are almost down for the count, but somehow God gives us strength to get back up again. I am looking at Paul's letter to the Corinthian believers where we can find hope and help when we are almost overwhelmed with our troubles. "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;" (II Corinthians 4:8-9) As we look at the sinful world around us we can surely say "We are troubled on every side." But, let's not stop there... "yet not distressed." I like these words of encouragement because sometimes I do feel perplexed but I don't have to give up in despair. I need to look up in hope. Christians today are being persecuted, but God is with us and has promised never to leave us, "...for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5) And just as we began... sometimes we fall and sometimes we fail. We are cast down, but praise the Lord, we are not destroyed. Let's take another look at Elijah when he wanted to quit and he heard the still small voice of the Lord. "And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." (I Kings 19:13-14) Elijah thought he was the only servant of God left, but God knew better. "Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him." (Elijah 19:18) God always has a remnant. We are not alone. We may have trouble on every side, but we are not alone in our troubles. We may fall and be cast down, but we are not alone and God is able to lift us up again!
7. When Almost Is Not Enough
A few weeks back we looked at Paul's conversation with King Agrippa in Acts 26:27-28. "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." King Agrippa knew the prophets and the scriptures but he only "almost" believed. It is not enough to know what the Bible says. We also read of a man who kept the Ten Commandments and fell at the feet of Jesus in Mark 10:17-23, but it was not enough.
"17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!"
His riches could not save him. Neither could his good works. There is only one way to heaven. We must understand that we are lost and cannot save ourselves. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23) "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23) We must confess our sin to God and believe, asking the Lord to save us. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation... For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:9, 10 and 13) Jesus is the only way to heaven. Everything else will only "almost" get you there and "almost" is not enough. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)
8. We Can't Be Satisfied With Almost
As I close our devotions on "Almost" I hope this post will encourage us to do all we can to bring others to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. First, I want to look at these parables of Jesus found in Luke 15.
"3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."
The first shepherd had 100 sheep and one was lost. He had almost all of he sheep, but he was not satisfied with "almost" so he left the 99 to go and find it. The second woman had ten pieces of silver, and she, too, was not satisfied having "almost" all, so she searched and worked until she found it. If you continue with the passages in Luke 15, the next parable is about a man that had two sons, and one was lost.
"18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry."
In each of these parables we see that we can't be satisfied with "almost". We need to do all we can, seek out the lost, work, and pray, so that they can be found. What are we doing to bring the lost to Jesus?