by Bruce W. Durbin
"Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore. And have the keys of hell and of death."
How close are you to falling into the depths of Hell?
1 Peter 4:18-19 relates:
"And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"
How close to Hell have you come? Have you been "almost" to Hell?
Consider the number of decisions that you've made in your life, from what to have for lunch to what college to attend to what career to enter to what clothes to wear today.
Now, compare the infinite number of decisions you've made throughout your life, with the single decision to repent of your sins and follow God. Consider the number of situations that arise where temptations are presented. Now, compare the infinite number of occasions where you could have sinned, with the single decision to repent of your sins and follow God.
Until we reach Heaven, we are always walking the journey where we're either almost to Heaven or almost to Hell.
One of my favorite hiking trails traversed a deep ravine. Where the trail traversed the ravine, a tree had fallen across the deep ravine, creating a natural bridge to the other side.
It was a bridge that had no handrails and the weather would determine whether safe passage would be granted. In the rain, the log would become slippery. Through the years, the weather softened the log and portions would often crumble away, with pieces of the tree tumbling into the ravine below.
As I would carefully walk across the log, I would often be tempted to forget about the other side and look down into the ravine, just to see what was down there. The bottom of the ravine would race up to me, tempting me that the distance wasn't very far. When I began to lose my sense of balance, as the bottom of the ravine swept towards me, I would rip my eyes away from the bottom of the ravine and refocus on the other side.
The very motion of moving my attention from the bottom of the ravine to the other side would enhance the sense of being unbalanced. I would have to wait, until my balance returned, before I could continue my walk across the log.
Only, when I had safely reached the other side and my feet were firmly planted on solid ground, would I look back across the ravine where I started and, then down into the ravine.
As we walk along the trail of our lives, we often come to the point where the trail ceases to be level and we must cross a deep ravine. Lying in the depths of the ravine are such things as troubles, sorrows, and despair. The ravine can also contain temptations. Crossing the bridge to the other side, we are often tempted to peer down into the ravine and see these things.
The troubles, sorrows, and despair may loom bigger and more threatening, then they would actually appear upon closer examination. The temptations may be appear more attractive, then they would actually appear upon closer examination.
Whatever resides in the depths of the ravine (Hell), by focusing on the bottom of the ravine, we lose sight of what is on the other side (Heaven). We lose sight of the continuation of our journey.
Psalms 119:101-102, 105 instructs:
"I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word. I have not departed from thy judgments.Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
What harm lies in focusing on what resides in the depths of the ravine? What harm is created in looking at sorrows, troubles, despair, and temptation?
As in the physical world, when you gaze down into a ravine, your eyes become focused on what is in the bottom of the ravine, not what is on the other side. If you gaze too long down into the ravine, you will eventually lose your balance to the point, where you join what is at the bottom of the ravine.
As you slip from the log and begin your rapid descent into the ravine, not only does the substance (sorrows, despair, troubles, and/or temptations) of the ravine race towards you, but you also begin to race towards the substance at the bottom of the ravine. The point where you meet the bottom of the ravine is not likely to be an experience that you will enjoy, rather it will be the end of your life.
It is not enough to stand in the middle of a log, jutting across a deep ravine, and say, "Look at me and how far I've journeyed. I'm almost across the ravine." No, it is the end of the journey that matters.
"Almost" across the ravine and "almost" to the end of your spiritual journey doesn't count for very much, because a missed step in both journeys will find you either at the bottom of the ravine or in Hell, not "almost" at the bottom of the ravine and not "almost" in Hell.
Proverbs 4:25-27 encourages us to focus on the other side of the ravine:
"Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids lock straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil."
No matter how slippery the log is that you cross, no matter how deep the ravine, and no matter how long your journey has been, God is always faithful to His children.
Bruce W. Durbin is a freelance writer, whose articles have featured on many Christian online publications. He is also the author of Almost Heaven and Almost Hell (www.iuniverse.com and www.barnesandnoble.com).