By Barr ETC Ogbusu, KSC

When you shoot at and miss a bird, it is either you did not aim well or that the bird out-smarted you. Either way, while you will be busy shouting “nearly”, the bird would be saying “thank God because nearly cannot kill a bird”. Yes, nearly cannot kill a bird!

I hate the word “nearly” because it never gets anything done. It is a word you usually would not say without biting your fingers. I hate the word “nearly” because, just like our people say “nearly cannot kill a bird”.

I understand that saying very well because I grew up in a setting where as a child, we had to use catapults a lot, chasing birds from one bush to the other. If it were to be now, judging from what is happening now, a lot of us would have been lost. Many times, we would shoot at birds, miss them and shout, “Nearly”. It could mean that our “bullet” got so close to it and that we missed it by inches! The truth, however, is that no matter how close your bullet gets to a bird, if you miss it, you have missed it. If you shoot at a bird ten times and shout “nearly” ten times, the fact remains that you missed the mark ten times.

Let us go into the football field. As you know, our people have developed this unquenchable love for football of recent. If you go to any place where a football match is being played or watched or even listen to radio commentary on a football match, you will hear “nearly” over and over again. It could mean that Mr. A or Mr. B nearly scored a goal. It could be that the ball hit the bar or went over the bar or missed the net by inches. It can also mean that the goal keeper almost caught the ball. In the end, the questions people ask remain, “Who won the football match?  How many goals were scored?” At the last blast of the whistle, no person is ever interested in knowing how many scoring chances that were missed because “nearly cannot kill a bird”. No one would be interested in how many goals the goalkeeper on the losing side nearly saved. What will please their souls is knowing how many he actually saved.

Again, let us look at this brilliant boy who was sent to the university by his parents to obtain a degree. He was supposed to do his course of study for five years. He maintained a track record of scoring grades of a first class proportion. But then, in his fourth year, he joined a secret cult and was expelled from the University. You can see that at that point when he was expelled, he had only one more year to go. You can also see that he almost became a graduate but never a graduate because “nearly cannot kill a bird”. If he went to study Law, he cannot be called a Lawyer. If he went to study medicine, he cannot be called a Doctor. Even if someone calls him a Lawyer or a Doctor, it would seem as if he is being mocked. It will only remind him of his failure.

We also have examples from the Bible of those who nearly killed a bird. For instance, during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife nearly got saved. But she looked back, contrary to advice, when she and her husband were asked to escape for their lives.         She became a pillar of salt (Gen. 19: 1-26)

Again, Moses nearly killed a bird. He was a fine servant of God. He was so loved by God and trusted with the task of bringing the Israelites out of the Egyptian bondage into the Promised Land of Canaan, flowing with milk and honey. But because he disobeyed God by doing what God wanted him to do, in the way He did not ask him to do it, God denied him entry into the Promised Land. He got so close to it and nearly entered into it, but did not enter into it.

Today, I am going to encourage us to persevere in running the kingdom race, till we brace the tape. I do so because I know there are people who start off the race but just fall by the way side before they come to the end of the road. We all know that in athletics, if you are running a race and you fail to brace the tape, you cannot say you concluded a race for which you deserve a prize or a medal. The Kingdom race is actually like the sack race. As you run the sack race, you have to be careful that you do not fall because it will not be an acceptable excuse that the sack pulled you down.

Apostle Paul, despite who he was, never gave up till the end. He was not reluctant to declare that he was pressing towards the goal          (Php. 3:14). Actually, everyone should press towards the goal, to score a goal and win a prize. When you score a goal in a football match, you are celebrated. That is how you are going to be celebrated in heaven if you press forward, through obstacles and distractions, until you pass through the heaven’s gate.

Again, it is not just running the race and bracing the tape that matters. What matters most is running and bracing the tape in accordance with the prescribed rules. If you brace the tape but do so by running through another person’s track, you will stand disqualified. There will be nothing like you almost or nearly won. Anyway, there is no shortcut to heaven. You cannot enter it by cheating or “shaunting”. You can only enter into it through the narrow path or way, not the broad way that leads to destruction.

I will like to admit that in the race for the kingdom of God, we are likely to have a lot of distractions on the way. It is like when you are running a race in the field. One is likely to be distracted by the cheering of his opponent by his opponent’s fans. One is likely to be discouraged if he thinks he is not doing well enough or that he started off much later than the blast of the whistle. This is the same as in the race for the kingdom of God. Many people already think they cannot get to the end of the race. They have discouraged themselves.

I am sure that you remember the story of the fast moving dog that was engaged in a race for the golden crown with the slow moving tortoise. On their way, the dog saw faeces and while trying to feed on it, the tortoise crossed him and braced the tape first. The tortoise got the crown to the chagrin of the dog and against the expectation of other animals.

As we run the race, therefore, we need to be extremely careful that we may get to the end, and not nearly to the end. Just remember that that beautiful girl out there may be your own faeces. The porsche car you always dream of may be your own faeces. Money you see on your way may be your own faeces. Do not let them make you run the heavenly race half-way.

Quest for power and acquisition of material things, and even the thirst for the “good things” of life may distract one’s focus as they run. If you must finish the race, and not just nearly finish the race, you must be focused on no other than the Lord Jesus Christ. He too ran his own race to the end and is now seated at the right hand side of his Father. Not even the grave could hold him!

You must also have a purpose for which you are running, that is to say, to get that crown which no other person than Christ himself gives. To run a race like this without a purpose is to stress oneself unnecessarily.

To be able to make it to the end, you must be ready, if need be, to pluck off your eyes or cut off your hands if they would not let you get there. On the other hand, you must be willing to run with one leg, even if you lose one in the attempt to run the race to the end (Mt. 18:8).

The journey through life to the kingdom of God is long, winding and tortuous. Only those who persevere can go through it to the end. Just imagine your father sending you to the market to buy something for him. You cannot get to half the road to the market and come back, only to say you nearly got to the market. Your father will surely not take that for an answer because that is not what he wants to hear, particularly, when he gave you everything that would make it possible for you to get to that market, like transport money.

In this life, God has sent us to the market to go and buy, and come back or return to Him. That is why we die, and that is the reason for the judgment we expect in the end. It is a time we must give account to God of what we bought from the market. What are we going to tell God if in the end we do not buy what He has sent us to buy? Are we going to tell Him that we nearly bought them? Of course, He would not take that for an answer because that is not what He wants to hear. He wants to hear that we went, we saw and bought exactly what He sent us to buy.

God sent King Saul to the market but he could not buy what he was asked to buy. God told him to kill every Amalekite. He went there, and even though he won the battle, he took hostages and spoils which he claimed he would use to sacrifice to the Lord. Of course, to God, to obey is better than sacrifice.  Even though he nearly bought what God asked him to go and buy, God did not take nearly for an answer (1 Sa. 15). So, you can see how disobedience, pride or personal ego or aggrandizement, the influence of people, perhaps, friends and so called well-wishers, companions or peer groups, business associates and even political or religious associates, can prevent one from running this race for God’s Kingdom to the end.

Brethren, when you are going but you have not reached your destination, you must continue to go. That is a popular saying among our people. The reason is simple! If you retreat, all the efforts you had made would be invain. So, in the journey to reach God’s kingdom, if you stop or backslide on the way, all the previous efforts you had made would be equal to wasted efforts.

Actually, I am in sympathy with those who claim they have worked for God for donkey years and as such, other people should be called to act in their stead. It is understandable when, as a result of sickness or extreme old age, you find yourself unable to physically work for God. In that case, you can take up advisory roles, rather than give up on the way. Christ may decide to come at the moment you chose to slow down or discontinue pressing forward, and you will become the worst kind of loser. The fact that you nearly made it to the end will not be an acceptable reason before God.

You should not ever think you have done enough for God. He does for us without checking or counting times. Or would you want other people to work to the end and take the crown waiting for you at the end? I think no one would want this to happen to them. I also think the best is to run to the end and declare, like Paul did, as follows: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me, the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day…………….” (2 Ti. 4:7-8).

Brethren, the spirit of nearly is a very bad spirit. We must begin to pray against it. Everything which will stop us one inch short of getting into the Promised Land should stand rejected and cancelled in Jesus name!  Anything which will make our hands nearly touch the fruits just above our heads and not being able to pluck them should stand cancelled in Jesus name! Anything which will make us fall back into the pit wherein we have been cast, after we have nearly climbed out of it, should stand cancelled in Jesus name! Anything that will make us nearly escape from the Egyptians coming after us should stand cancelled in Jesus name!  Most importantly anything which will make us nearly come into the kingdom of God but end up in hell should be cancelled over and over again, in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen!

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