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Only Slightly OffOnly Slightly Off
by Tom Norvell


    The kids had the day off from school so my daughter, one of her friends and I were having lunch. I enjoyed their laughter. We talked about the food, boys, and life in general. I had noticed a strange phone number on my cell phone and we discussed who it might have been. After some discussion my daughter’s friend made an interesting statement: “Have you ever noticed how in a phone number if you get one number wrong, the whole thing is wrong.” My daughter and I joked about her statement, yet we came to realize as we thought about it, that there were a profoundness in her statement.

    For instance, in some situations one mistake does not mean total failure. If you a taking a test and you miss one problem, you have not blown the entire test. Just one problem. If you are in a basketball game and miss one shot, chances are you have not lost the whole game. If you are playing golf and mess up on one hole you always have the next shot hole. If you are playing the pinao and miss one note you have not ruined the entire piece of music. Being slightly off does not always mean disaster. There is room for error in some situations.

    However, in other areas, as in telephone numbers, there is no room for error. If you are addressing a letter one number can delay the delivery. If you are counting money, one misplaced decimal can make a major difference. If you are keeping score in a ball game, one wrong score can mean the difference between a win and a loss. If you are looking for an address, one number can make the difference between finding who you are looking for and meeting a total stranger. If you are programming your VCR one wrong number can mean the difference between seeing what you planned to see and being very frustrated. One letter omitted in an email address means the message will not get to the intended recipient. Being slightly off does sometimes make a difference.

“...in a phone number if you get one number wrong, the whole thing is wrong.”
    My young friend is not only right about how being slightly off can make a difference in phone numbers, but being slightly off can have even greater ramifications when it involves how we live life. Jesus said, “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21, NIV). One might think that just saying the words would be enough, but Jesus says otherwise. The rich young ruler was right about most of his life, but he was lacking one thing. That was enough to change eternity. In Matthew 25 we have a scene where it appears that many people had lived fairly decent lives, but they missed out when it came to really centering in on what mattered. There are some things where being slightly off makes a major difference.

    I’m glad that we have a Father who forgives innocent mistakes and overlooks some of our foolish errors. But, He cannot and will not overlook it when we fail to live the life He wants us to live. In that case, being slightly off is very costly. This slight error in judgement can mean the difference between eternity with God, or eternity separated from God. Just saying the words is not enough. There must be a life that is consistent with the words.

    If you dial a wrong number chances are all you need to do is say, “Excuse me.” If you fail to live the life, you could miss it all.

      © 2002, Tom Norvell. Used by permission. A Norvell Note is a weekly email message from Tom Norvell. Check it out!

      Title: "Only Slightly Off"
      Author: Tom Norvell
      Publication Date: April 27, 2002


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