Monday, August 31, 2015

Two Hundred Eleven

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

Two hundred eleven.

It seems kind of random, doesn't it? Really, there's nothing special about the number two hundred eleven. Except this. Two hundred twelve. At two hundred twelve degrees, water will boil. At two hundred eleven, it will not. That's less than a half of a percent difference in temperature, on paper; our nerve cells probably couldn't tell the difference. After all, hot is hot. But boiling point is special.

The boiling point of a substance is unique to that substance; it's like a name. Once reached, the substance doesn't increase temperature, even if more heat is added. But the coolest thing?  It's the difference between remaining a liquid and becoming a gas. Change in state. Change in form. From a liquid state that retains its volume but not necessarily its shape - to a gas state with no volume or shape limits.

Two hundred eleven.

One degree short.

How often does that happen to us? How often do we try and try, work and work, and come up one degree short?

If we knew -- that with less than a half of a percent increase in effort, in motivation, in attitude, in whatever it is that's stopping us from achieving that thing we want to achieve - a name, a label, a job, a leveling out, a confidence, a state of no restrictions or barriers -- wouldn't we push ourselves just that tiny bit more? Less than half of one percent.

I've been looking for a parallel term in scripture. What does it mean to go that extra bit? To make the extra effort? I decided to try the phrase: make every effort in a search. Sixteen passages came up. Cross-referencing those passages into the Greek (and in the last case, Hebrew), gave me these words - synonyms for what it means to push through that last degree.
  • be diligent: 1. be constant in effort to accomplish something; be attentive and persistent in doing anything, 2. do or pursue with persevering attention; painstaking
  • earnestness: 1. serious in intention, purpose, or effort; sincerely zealous, 2. showing depth and sincerity of feeling, 3. seriously important; demanding or receiving serious attention
  • strive: 1. to exert oneself vigorously; try hard, 2. to make strenuous efforts toward any goal, 3. to contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; compete, 4. to struggle vigorously, as in opposition or resistance, 5. to rival; vie
  • pursue: 1. to follow in order to overtake, capture, kill, etc.; chase, 2. to follow close upon; go with; attend, 3. to strive to gain; seek to attain or accomplish (an end, object, purpose, etc), 4. to proceed in accordance with (a method, plan, etc), 5. to carry on or continue (a course of action, a train of thought, an inquiry, studies, etc), 6. to continue to annoy, afflict, or trouble, 7. to practice (an occupation, pastime, etc.)
  • labor (verb form): 1. to perform labor; exert one's powers of body or mind; work; toil, 2. to strive, as toward a goal; work hard (often followed by for), 3. to act, behave, or function at a disadvantage (usually followed by under), 4. to be in the actual process of giving birth, 5. to roll or pitch heavily, as a ship
So, I realize, that as insignificant as that one extra degree seems to be, when looking at the numbers, or the percentage, it may not be easy to achieve. Constant effort, persistence, painstaking attention to detail, serious intent, vigorous exertion, strenuous effort, depth and sincerity, planning a course of action, exert body and the mind... These aren't easy, slide-by concepts. This is meaty, down-and-dirty, sweaty-it-may-take-some-first-aid to recover kind of stuff.

Is it worth it? That one degree. The difference between liquid and gas - between limits and limitless? 

Is it worth it?
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-11 (NIV) 

  • We can live a Godly life through Jesus
  • We benefit from his great and precious promises - to participate in the divine nature and escape the world's corruption
  • We develop in faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, love
  • Our lives become effective and productive in the knowledge of Jesus
  • We live in gratitude, remembering grace, cleansed from past sin
  • We have the opportunity to share the message of Jesus, the Good News
  • We serve and glorify God

Is it worth it? Yes.
The effort? The work? The labor? The planning? The hardship? The endurance? For one degree?


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