All In

1 A Psalm of David. Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!

2 Take hold of shield and buckler, and rise for my help!

Psalm 35:1,2

I’ve never been much of a gambler, at last not the gaming kind. However, on the golf course I was always a risk taker. If the shot was difficult, or seemingly impossible I’d go for it, just like Arnold Palmer wrote in his book, “Go for Broke”. Of course I usually missed the shot. I was only 12 years old. On the course I was a gambler, but not so much in card games.

However, there was one time when my neighborhood friends and I were playing high-stakes poker. This was nickel ante poker, not that penny ante stuff most kids play. These were the kind of stakes where a kid could lose his whole life savings. I was about ten years old and I was in the game of my life. Things were not looking very good though. All the chips were down, so to speak.

If I lost one more hand, I’d not only be out of the game, I’d be out of my life savings, which wasn’t much but it was a lot to me. But if I won that last hand things would be different. You see I was all in. That’s right. I bet everything I had left on that last hand. The stakes were high as everyone around the table went all in too. Whoever won that hand was walking away with a bundle. There must have been at least $20 in that pot when the last boy called.

There are two things in life we can count on. One, Jesus said that because the world hated Him it will hate those who believe in Him also; they will be persecuted for His sake (John 15: 20). And two, if you’re a ten-year old with a great hand in poker who goes all in, you will be persecuted whether you win or lose.

In this life, anyone who follows Christ can count on suffering persecution in some form. In Psalm 35, David speaks in the prophetic voice of Jesus as suffers at the hands of His persecutors before the cross. Verse 7 speaks of Jesus’ innocence before His persecutors…

“7 For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my life.” (Psalm 35:7)

The suffering of Jesus was unjust, but He trusted His Father to vindicate Him…

24 Vindicate me, O LORD, my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me! (Psalm 35:24)

We can count on the LORD to vindicate us as well. Our suffering is only for a time, and then He promises to restore us. St. Peter speaks of the coming persecution of believers, but reminds them that God hears their cries and will answer…

8 Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.

9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.

10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. (1 Peter 5:8-10)

Suffering can by just or unjust. When we sin, we suffer for it. Are you in the middle of suffering? Look around and ask if your suffering is just or unjust. Jesus suffered unjustly. He did nothing wrong. Is your suffering just? If you know it’s not, the Father is calling you to repent. Our sins cause us to suffer. But if your suffering seems unjust, know your Heavenly Father sees it all. You too can pray the words of Psalm 35 crying out for deliverance. He will one day restore, establish, and strengthen you.

As for me, I don’t think I deserved deliverance from the ridicule I was taking for thinking I could pull out a last hand victory by causing all my friends to go all in and risk losing big. Gambling is a game of chance, and the chances tell us we will lose, most likely sooner than later.

I had a great hand, 3 Jacks and 2 Tens – a Full House. Not much beats a Full House so I bet it all. All the chips were down. I was all in, and so was everyone else. They knew I wasn’t that good at poker. They thought I was bluffing – but I wasn’t. I had the cards…but Frank had better ones.

My loss taught me a great lesson that day…gambling doesn’t pay off in the long run. My youthful prayer for deliverance that day went something like, “Lord, please don’t let me lose all my money in this game, my mother’s going to be really mad at me.” There’s only one sure bet in life that is worth going “all in” – faith in Jesus Christ.

Shalom,

Pastor Brad

image credit: http://bssb.be/politics-2/geopolitics/all-in-on-ukraine/

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