I knew of two men who lived two completely different lives. One was a preacher who preached for over 50 years, and the other was a sinner who lived a riotous life. The preacher in his last years lost his wife in death and shortly thereafter began to live with a woman. The sinner lived a very sinful life, cursing, drinking, and having affairs with various women. Yet, he repented in the last days of his life and was baptized into the Lord’s church. It appears unfair to believe that the latter was saved and the first man was lost. Being close doesn’t count. Perhaps the saddest words ever sung are, “Sad, sad, that bitter wail-`Almost-but lost!” To think that one can be interested, perhaps even striving as hard as he is able, to get so close, and then to lose out completely. The Bible is full of such characters, those who almost gained the prize.
Rich Young Man
Mark 10:17-22 records the story of a young man who “ran” up to Christ-so eager and interested in salvation he could not wait. When Jesus questioned him, Mark says, “He felt a love for him” (Mark 10:21). Here he was so close to the salvation he had sought, a man Jesus could even love for his zeal and love of what was right. Jesus pointed out, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But, the Bible says, “At these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property.” So close! He had worked for so long-now it was right on the tips of his fingers, and he let it slip right through his hands.
The angels came down into the wicked city of Sodom to rescue Lot and his family from the impending doom God was about to rain upon the city. They even had to take them by the hand and bring them out of the city as they hesitated (Gen. 19:16). Once safely out of the city, they were instructed to hurry and flee for their lives, and not to look back-which they did. They were nearly assured of safety-almost free of the impending doom, “But his wife, from behind him, looked back; and she became a pillar of salt” (Gen. 19:26). Almost safe, only to perish with the rest because she did not obey completely.
Moses led the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt and tolerated much abuse at their hand, as he sought to lead them to the promised land. He got all the way up to the edge of the land he had worked so hard to lead the people into, but was never permitted to actually enter the land himself. Moses relates how he pleaded with the Lord, ” `Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ But, the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the Lord said to me, `Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter.’ ” (Deut. 3:25-26). So close-he even got to go up into the mountain to see the land itself (Deut. 34:4), but he was not permitted to enter because he had failed to do what God had instructed him (Num. 20:7-12).
Herod Agrippa II
In reasoning before Agrippa, Paul appealed to the prophets and sought to reach the king. He drove his argument home-“King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do.” Agrippa, feeling the effects of Paul’s logic, replied, “In a short time, you will persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:27-28). These words of Agrippa truly represent the condition of many living today. They are almost persuaded to obey the gospel and become children of God. They are so close to having the prize right there in their hands-and that is as far as they ever seem to go.
Almost has never been enough to please God. He told those of the Old Testament, “You shall thus observe all My statues, and all My ordinances, and do them: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:37). And James says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (Jas. 2:10). Do not let “almost” stand between you and salvation! : As the song concludes, so do I: Almost’ cannot avail; `Almost’ is but to fail! Sad, sad, that bitter wail-`Almost-but lost!’ “