Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Almost Persuaded

 “‘King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.’ Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’  And Paul said, ‘I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.’” – Acts 26:27-29

Whenever I hear or read those two words together, I am reminded of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing the song, “Almost Persuaded” – almost persuaded now to believe – almost persuaded Christ to receive – almost persuaded but lost. When Philip Bliss wrote that song in 1871, he must have been thinking about Paul’s conversation with King Agrippa. Philip Bliss composed the music “It Is Well With My Soul” written by his good friend Horatio G. Spafford. He also led the music at a number of D.L. Moody’s evangelistic meetings. It is amazing how God intertwines lives. Tragically, Philip Bliss and his wife died in a train accident in 1878 – he was 38 years old. 

That reminded me of another person whose life came to an abrupt end. Right after I was born again, a second lieutenant in the Army, I considered becoming a Chaplain. I figured that I was a Christian and I was an officer – so it made sense that I should be a chaplain – I was feeling the call to ministry.  I sought the counsel of a friend and mentor, who was a chaplain, as well as advice from other mature Christians. (Henry Blackaby wrote that we hear God’s voice through prayer, the Word, circumstances, and the counsel of other Christians – and  I found that to be true.) One of my friends, a Lieutenant Colonel – Ed Herr, talked to me about my decision.  At the time, I was in the Armor Branch (think tank corps) In the Army, officers where their branch insignia on their collar.  Ed said, “If you become a chaplain you will wear a Cross on your collar (designating a Christian chaplain) but as a “line officer” (a combat officer) you wear a Tank on your collar.  Soldiers expect Chaplains to act a certain way. But you will have a much more effective Christian witness if you are wearing the Armor insignia.  I took his advice and did not become a chaplain. But that is not the main point of the story. Ed was selected to go to the Army War College – the school that leads to a promotion to full colonel.  The night of the welcoming dinner, Ed went back to the car to get something for his wife. He was confronted by two men – robbed – and killed. Hard to understand.

Coincidently the last song that Philip Bliss had written before his death was the chorus and music for the hymn, "He Knows" which was written by Mary G. Brainard, which began as follows: "I know not what awaits me. God kindly veils my eyes..."

So many people we all know believe that they have plenty of time to choose Jesus or not. Christian or not, we are not guaranteed our next breath or heartbeat, let alone a long life. The Bible does not tell us about what happened to King Agrippa after his encounter with Paul – but it is not much of a stretch to imagine that he was never born again. Almost persuaded. 

You never know when God will use you as a stepping stone on the path that leads to someone’s salvation. Be ready and be faithful. Some are blessed to be present on the day  their decision is made – while still others, most, are one of many who point others to Jesus but never see that new birth. Whatever the place God puts you on the path – your responsibility is to be faithful in your witness. If Paul could not convince the King to be saved – what makes you think that you have that power.  Salvation is a personal, faith decision – a transaction between a person and God and not the product of a convincing argument made by man. An evangelist may speak – but it is God who calls and the Spirit who convicts the sinner. 

BTW – this was not the direction I thought this devotion was going – but it where the Spirit led. I trust that someone needed to read it for the glory of God.

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

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