Thursday, July 17, 2008

Just One Degree of Difference

Mark Twain wrote, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is... the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." The same principle applies almost everywhere in life--"one tiny" difference can turn out to be a huge difference. Five degrees is the difference between a healthy body temperature and a high fever. One millimeter's rise can lift a flooded river over its levee. And if you try to jump a ditch twenty feet wide and twenty feet deep, and fall short of your target, it won't matter whether the downward drop starts after two feet forward or nineteen feet eleven inches--the final stop will be just as painful.

Several Bible translations, including the King James, render King Agrippa's words in Acts 26:28 as some version of "You almost persuade me to be a Christian." Well, "almost" isn't enough. Many people have gotten to the verge of giving their lives to Christ, lost their nerve at the last second, said they needed time to "think it over," and forgotten all about it. Ultimately, they lost much more than their nerve. But the unsaved may not be the only ones to weep tears of regret on Judgment Day. How many have trusted Christ to redeem them but have never taken an opportunity to do anything significant for Him? How many of us will really hear Christ say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" as we enter into Heaven? Might not some of us be greeted instead with a sad, silent look, and the painful realization that after we were born again, we remained infants the rest of our lives (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11-13)?

Ultimately, Christ will wipe every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). But in the meantime, He wants us to dry a few tears here on earth. We may find in Heaven that the most honored saints are those who cared enough to give their lives to "little" acts of service, acts that passed on to touch thousands.

One degree of difference in our attitudes can make a world of difference.

Just one degree of difference turns a simmer to a boil;
Just one degree of difference turns cold water into ice;
And, as sure as crops and flowers will take root in fertile soil,
Just one degree of difference can extract a heavy price.

As solid turns to liquid, and the liquid into gas,
With gradual increase in heat to past a certain point,
So, with "just a little" sinning, bit by bit, one day we pass
The spot, without our knowing, where all life comes out of joint.

As gas returns to liquid, and the liquid state turns firm,
When, growing slowly colder, it drops past the keypoint spot--
Any heart that slowly hardens from its love of God will turn,
Perhaps to one day hear those fatal words, "I know you not."

And likewise, but one tiny act of will may stand between
The life as "lukewarm Christian" and the one that does great things;
If we spurn God's patient calling, if our fear just keeps us green,
We cheat ourselves of knowing all the fullest life He brings.

Just one degree of difference brings a boil or starts a freeze;
Just one degree of difference can mean choice of life or death.
Just one tiny speck of difference can divide resolve and ease--
Just one degree of difference: small, but vital as each breath.

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