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Not Far

What did Jesus mean when He told the scribe, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God”? (Mark 12:34). Was it a compliment, as in, keep going, you’re almost there? The following is an excerpt from pastor Tony Yang’s new book Real.

Imagine there were three boys—Tim, Matt, and Jake. They got together one day to talk about the one thing they all love: stars.

“Let’s camp in my backyard tonight so we can look at the stars,” Jake suggests.

“Sounds good,” Matt replies. “I’m in.”

But Tim isn’t so quick to pack his sleeping bag. “Hold on, guys!” he says, as he flips open his laptop. “I’ve been learning about all kinds of stuff about stars on this Web site. It’s really cool. Come check it out.”

Jake and Matt look at the screen over Tim’s shoulders as he continues to explain. “It’s gonna be so much better if you guys learn this stuff with me before we go out there. Think about it. We’ll know how far away they are, how big they are, maybe even call each star by its name.”

“I…guess…that’d be cool,” Matt says hesitantly. “Uh…”

Before Matt could finish his next sentence, Tim starts barking out orders. “Great, let’s get started. Matt, grab those books on my desk. Jake, help me finish plotting out the star formations and patterns on this chart.”

This goes on for hours. Tim, being a scientist—a self-proclaimed geek—is having a blast. Matt isn’t really into it at all but he goes along anyway because everything Tim says seems to make sense. Jake, on the other hand, getting more and more frustrated as the hours go by, manages to sneak away. It’s nighttime by now and the stars are out—shining and twinkling against the black canvas in the sky. In awe of the glorious sight spread out in front of him as far as he could see in every direction, Jake drops to his knees but keeps his head lifted up toward the celestial sphere.

Staring at the wonder above, he realizes that he doesn’t need to know everything about the stars to appreciate them. In fact, it’s because he can’t understand them that he loves the stars so much. How could he possibly comprehend something so big, so grand, so wonderful, so mysterious, and so complex? It’s beyond his understanding and comprehension. And so, with that realization, Jake’s content at simply seeing and experiencing the stars.

Meanwhile Tim’s still busy inside, zipping around like an excited hummingbird—his face buried behind a book one minute, then over to a chart to draw a line or two, then over to his laptop to enter some data, and then back to the book. Matt keeps up with Tim, even writing something in a notepad now and then, but it’s clear his heart isn’t into it. He’s just following Tim around—doing a lot of things but not really understanding why he’s doing them.

Just then Jake comes back. The door slams shut behind him, interrupting Tim and Matt, who finally realize Jake had been gone all this time.

“Hey, Jake,” Tim says in a hurry, his eyes quickly shifting back to his book. “Where you been?”

“Uh, just outside,” Jake replies.

“Yeah? What were you doing out there?” Matt asks.

“I was, uh, looking at the stars.”

Tim’s eyes shift back to Jake. Matt closes his notebook. They both see something different in Jake, who says with a big smile on his face, “You ought to see them, guys. They’re so amazing, so beautiful.”

All three believed the stars existed. All three knew the stars were real. All three even loved the stars. But there were important differences among them, too. Tim was preoccupied with learning about the stars. Matt wasn’t really into it and just went through the motions. Jake was the only one who took the time to actually see the stars for himself. In doing so, he experienced the beauty of the stars.

Many of us are like Tim. We study the Bible, sing songs of praise and thanksgiving, learn the beliefs and doctrines of our religion, and maybe even faithfully go to church every week. Obviously, these are all good things, even necessary in a healthy relationship with God. The problem arises when we spend so much time learning about God, we fail to actually know Him.

Others are like Matt. Our hearts aren’t really into it but we go through the motions. And, in the process, we might even stay very busy—actively involved with evangelizing, witnessing, and participating in outreach events, maybe even a mission trip now and then. Again, these are all good things. But if we don’t really know why we’re doing them—other than they seem like the right things to do, or they’re what we’ve been told to do—then we’re missing the point.

And, so, like both Tim and Matt, we find ourselves almost there—“not far.” And, as a result, we forget to do the most important thing: see and experience God. God doesn’t want you to just believe He’s real. He wants to be real in your life. He wants you to see Him the way Jake saw the stars—to say, “God, you’re so amazing, so beautiful.”

So, where are you? Can you say that about God? If Jesus were to size you up like He did the scribe, would He say you’re “far away” from, or “inside,” the Kingdom of God? If your answer is neither, there’s only one place left—“not far.” This is the most dangerous place you can be because, like the scribe, when you think you’re there but in reality you’re not, you can spend your entire life never realizing it. That’s a tragedy.

So, do you believe God is real, yet that real God you believe in, well, isn’t all that real in your life? If that describes you, I invite you to keep reading to discover not just a real God, but a real God who’s real to you.

To read more of Real, visit amazon.com/author/tonyyang

Tony Yang is an author, speaker, and pastor. His gift of storytelling—both through the written and spoken word—to share God's love led to Tony Yang Ministries. He combines his professional work experience, which includes two Emmy awards, with his passion for sharing the Gospel message to fulfill the mission of Tony Yang Ministries: “Telling God's Story through our stories.” He has written and published two books: Are You Sure You Want to Love God? (You Might Start Using the “O” Word) and Real.

Stay connected with Tony Yang Ministries at

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