e-Literature

Just Fifteen Inches

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Young Pedro was walking on the way to high school. When he got to the railroad track, the crossing gates were down and a train approaching. He made a run for it. But he had missed his mark by 15 inches. He was struck by the train. The efforts of emergency crews were of no avail. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Fifteen inches for poor Pedro was the difference between life and death. He was probably planning on another typical school day, but it turned out so differently.

Many of us can think of narrow escapes—times when just inches or fractions of an inch were the difference between serious injury or death versus continuing life as normal. Many of us have marks on our bodies as telltale stories of these events.

The news article did not say how far Pedro had yet to go to avoid the train. We don’t know if 15 inches of additional ground covered would have preserved his life or not. The 15 inches we are talking about is the distance from the head to the heart. The measurement is an approximate distance to the physical organ. However, as we use the term heart through the remainder of this article, we are talking about the soul, not the physical heart. We’re talking about a good head knowledge that fails us because it never reached into the soul.

Pedro had some facts in his head that seemingly hadn’t reached his heart. He was old enough he would have known even before he got to the tracks that the crossing gates being down meant a train would soon reach the intersection. He would have known that meant the tracks were not safe to cross. He would have known that for the train to hit him would most likely mean death for him. Even with all these things in his head, Pedro took the fatal dash. Why? These things were not convictions in his heart. Likely also a part of his head knowledge was the fact that he had successfully crossed the tracks in front of approaching trains before. In his heart, he didn’t believe he could ever be hit by a train. His conviction was that his judgement was a safe guide.

Put yourself in Pedro’s shoes for a minute. Now stop and be honest with your thoughts. Most of us will have to admit to thoughts such as, “Why did he cross when the train was so close? I would never be so ridiculous!” God tells us in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” This was not directed to the wicked. It should be no surprise that our hearts have a challenge absorbing the truth. We can be so good at getting it into our heads, but the battle comes in absorbing it into the heart.

For example, sitting in church Sunday morning I hear a message that inspires me. It is so true and real to life. After church I comment to my friend how good the message was and how it inspires me. But by the time Tuesday rolls around, I cannot recall what the message was even about. Did it reach my heart? Probably not. My heart directed me on to the things I in my innermost being believe are important. Hopefully these were other items of spiritual blessing from personal Bible reading, an earlier message, etc., but our deceitful hearts have a way of focusing on material things and crowding out these spiritual things.

How does a head knowledge versus heart experience play out in real life? Its outworking can take on various forms all stemming from the same root. Jesus in Matthew 13 recounts to us the parable of the sower. He relates four different soil types: the wayside, stony places, thorny places, and good ground. All received the same seed. The ones on the wayside He tells us didn’t understand the Word, and it was snatched away. These didn’t have a head or heart knowledge. Those on stony places understood and started transferring it to their hearts, but when it became hard they just gave up. Those on thorny places understood and started the process of rooting God’s Word into their hearts but let it get crowded out by material things they felt were more pressing. Then those on good ground soaked up the truths and opened their hearts to God to do with them whatever He desired. These brought forth much fruit for God.

If your experience is a wayside experience, there is only one good recipe for you. Pray and ask God’s Spirit for understanding and an open heart and then study the Word of God.

Maybe you find yourself a good outstanding Christian. You practice the church standards to the letter. People look up to you. You often find yourself receiving jobs at church such as song leading, Sunday school superintending, teaching a Sunday school class, or even outreach. It could be you’re even the preacher. You’re respected by your leaders. This tends to make us feel good and secure. But really the question is, what is in the quiet depths of your heart? Is it stones? Much quiet, honest evaluation will show you whether your “Christianity” is indeed flowing from a heart full of love for God, if it is external walls you’ve erected to avoid scrutiny of church leaders, or if it’s mere habit you’ve put on because it’s what you grew up with. Jesus tells us the stony heart will show its true color when hard times come. So consider how we respond when challenged, when a right decision would kill our popularity, or when we are on vacation and no one else is around.

Maybe you’re a “tired” Christian. You’re tired of ministry approaching you on “little things” that they call standards violations. Maybe you’re tired of a guilty feeling you need to squelch when work overruns attendance at prayer meeting, Bible conference, mission meeting, or other conference services. Maybe a few extra features on your car are important to you. How about a residence that appears “right” or a business that’s well managed and yields plenty of opportunity to make church donations. The deceitfulness of riches can dominate our hearts. Or maybe you’re just so busy with good things like providing a living or taking care of children that the better things are crowded out. Don’t let the thorns get the upper hand. Consider honestly, how do I respond in relationships when I’m under pressure? How do I respond when someone criticizes my character or touches my things?

Let us spend time in quiet and take a long look at our heart. What is its desire? What convictions do I find there that drive my responses to life? What do I really feel there as I stop and take time to feel? Am I settled and happy or am I frustrated and despairing? Am I at peace or am I in turmoil? Is there love or hatred? Does my heart thrive on spiritual blessing or material success? Is there dependence on God or confidence in self? Are the things I know in my head reaching the recesses of my heart? When I face that split second decision as Pedro did, what will my heart reveal?

Today our churches are built of people. If the people are weak, the church is weak and will struggle or fail in times of testing. If our people have a heart after God, that atmosphere will be in the church. First Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” Christ knows our hearts. He already knows if we are in His Church. So the challenges are, am I absorbing the truths I receive? Am I telling myself the truth about what’s in my heart, or am I a master of head knowledge? That is 15 inches that will make the difference for all eternity.
~ Bronx, NY
April 2015