“Almost” may be the saddest word in the English language. No matter what you pair it with, something misses the mark. “Almost perfection” is not quite there. An “almost win” doesn’t count. “Almost passing” is a worse-than-lousy grade.
That’s why I cringe when I read Acts 26. It contains a gaping “almost.”
Lots of people wanted to get rid of Paul. He was detained in Caesarea (a Judean city that Herod the Great had built as a sign of his loyalty to Rome). Festus, the new governor of Caesarea, faced a dilemma. Charges against Paul were political, but the evidence for them was theological. Both were unproven. Festus couldn’t send Paul to Jerusalem as the Jews wanted because Paul had exercised his privilege as a Roman citizen in appealing to Caesar to be tried in Rome. (Paul likely knew of the plan to kill him on the way to Jerusalem.) So Festus invited Jerusalem’s Jewish leaders and King Herod Agrippa II to come to Caesarea and hear Paul’s defense. Agrippa was intrigued. When Paul laid out his pedigree and testimony, he ended with this question:
“King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Can you persuade me in such a short time to become a Christian?”
“Short time or long,” Paul replied, “I wish to God that not only you but all who hear me this day may become what I am, except for these chains.”
(Acts 26-27-29, BSB)
That was a brilliant political maneuver on Paul’s part. And he did it while keeping his sense of humor (vs 29), even though his life was in peril. Agrippa didn’t dare risk alienating the Jewish or Roman officials present that day.
Agrippa couldn’t find Paul guilty of anything. But what’s sad is Agrippa was almost persuaded to be a Christian. Almost.
Let’s bring that closer to home. Are there parts of your life where you’re almost persuaded that what God says is true?
In my case, after years of striving to overcome a life-threatening case of Lyme disease, with divorce thrown into the mix, I wondered if God still cared about me. At my lowest points, I couldn’t see or believe that God’s promises were at work in my life—regardless of what I read in the Bible.
You don’t need to struggle with long-term illness to be “almost persuaded” about what God says. Society pressures you to compromise God’s values. Bad church experiences or insensitive comments from Christians may wound you. Friends may desert you when you need them most. All those shovel dirt and doubt on God and His Word. Battles can batter you to the point that you lose your roar. There are countless reasons to be “almost persuaded” about God.
That’s exactly where the enemy wants us: doubting or wondering what’s the use in trying. That’s how we lose our God-ordained influence.
In contrast, God says you are saved, secure, called, given authority, and empowered.
We need to be fully persuaded of that. Otherwise, we won’t be part of His glorious plans that we’ll never fully understand this side of heaven. Can you give God your unqualified “Yes, I’m fully persuaded” without knowing what He will ask of you?
Dear friends, the life God intends for you is_worth_it. If you’re only almost persuaded about that, then contend with God until you are fully persuaded. And ask God if you need a new strategy to stand and stay the course.
Paul was fully persuaded. God told Paul that his Christian life wouldn’t be easy—but it would be abundant. The same applies to you and me. Listen to pure power and joy gush from these words:
For I am convinced [totally sure; fully persuaded] that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NIV)
Wonder where to start with being fully persuaded? May I suggest Susie Larson’s book Strong in Battle? It’s helping me stand strong through some tough times. It can do the same for you, too.
Father God, thank You for who You are and for all the people who will read this. There is none like You. Yet sometimes we lose our grasp on Your truths. Lord, show us any area of our lives where we are only “almost persuaded” so we can fully lay hold of Your promises, rebuke any false storyline swirling around us, and walk in Your calling for us. There is no reason to doubt what You say—even when it doesn’t make sense at the moment—for You are God Almighty. Amen.
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