Did you know that a clock that is five minutes off is more dangerous than one that is five hours off? Think about it. If a clock is five hours off, you will see that it is obviously wrong and not use it to tell the time. But a clock that is just five minutes off will fool you, and the deception can cause you to burn a meal, miss an important appointment, or be late to pick up your child.
Okay, now let’s apply this same idea to the realm of you discerning God’s specific will regarding a given situation. Oftentimes, the most dangerous alternative to God’s will is the one that is just “five minutes” off as opposed to the one that is “five hours” off. As a way of illustrating this, I’ll use an example that involves house-buying.
Let’s say that it’s God’s will for a newlywed couple to buy a specific house. We’ll call this house House A. The couple likes the house and can see themselves enjoying a wonderful life there, but they want to have the experience of at least looking at some other houses before they purchase House A. So, they find two other houses to tour and line up appointments with realtors to visit those houses. We’ll call the first of these two other houses House B and the second one House C.
House B is everything the couple could ever want in a home, but the house’s expensive price tag makes the purchase all but impossible for the couple. Consequently, when they tour the house, there is a lot of oohing and aahing but that’s as far as things go because they understand that the house is a pipe-dream for them. Using the terminology of “five minutes” and “five hours,” this house is like a clock that is five hours off. As such, there really isn’t much of a threat that the couple will miss God’s will by buying the house.
Now it is time for the couple to tour House C, and they can afford this one because it’s about the same size and style as House A (the house God wants them to buy). Actually, the main difference between House A and House C lies in the neighborhoods of the two houses. What the couple doesn’t fully understand is that House A sits in a neighborhood that features godly neighbors, solid churches, and schools with teachers that will better reach the two children that God knows is in the couple’s future. As for the neighborhood of House C, it is respectable enough itself, but it simply isn’t as good a fit for the young couple and the plans that God has in mind for them.
This brings us to the question: Which of the two alternative houses (House B or House C) serves as the greater temptation for the couple to miss God’s will in house-buying? Obviously, it is House C, the one that is the most like House A in terms of size, style, and price. That makes it the alternative that is just five minutes off while House B is five hours off.
I hope this practical illustration will help you whenever you find yourself trying to discern God’s will regarding multiple opportunities. While very few people step out of God’s will by chasing opportunities that are hopelessly far-fetched, many people do step out of it by chasing opportunities that are very doable. It’s the difference between driving a Ford or a Chevrolet, between attending one local school or another, or between working in an office building on 1st Avenue or one on 2nd Avenue. Yes, the slight difference might seem as harmless as a clock that is five minutes off, but God knows that just that little bit of difference can make all the difference in the world in terms of the course of your life.