Every gambler knows
That the secret to surviving
Is knowing what to throw away
And knowing what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser
And the best that you can hope for
Is to die in your sleep
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sitting at the table
There’ll be time enough for counting
When the dealings done
Chandler, Marti and I played the longest UNO game in memory last night. Must have lasted an hour and a half. We were playing with two decks and some cards missing, so the odds of someone winning must have been drastically reduced. All three of us were down to one card numerous times but no one could clinch it. In fact, in over two hours, we only played three games and Marti won them all. That’s even with Chandler and me cheating. (I was passing colors to him under the table he didn’t have so we could somehow end that marathon game. After an hour and a half, we didn’t care who won, just if we could finish the darn thing.)
It made us think of that Kenny Rogers song about the gambler. It has some practical advice, some of which is good.
UNO doesn’t take well to the Gambler’s advice. You don’t get to walk away without finishing the game; at least Marti wouldn’t allow for it. So maybe that’s why life is more like poker — you can walk away, and indeed, there are times when we need to run.
This is the next thing Chandler’s going to have to learn by the time he graduates from his treatment and returns home for good: when to walk away and when to run. Many of you are dealing with addictions where this is true, but there is a way in which this is true for all of us. God will give us strength to do His will, but it is common sense, wherever possible, for us to avoid playing to our weaknesses. Play to your strengths. Count on your gifts. Trust in the Spirit, but don’t test Him by constantly putting yourself in the wrong places. There are times when we must face the enemy in order to do the right thing, but there are also times we need to flee the enemy to do the right thing. Turn tail and run. It might seem like it’s hard to tell the difference, but it’s really not. Ask yourself: “Did God put me here, or did I?” “Is He asking me to stay or to run?” I think you will almost always know the answer if you put it to yourself in this way.
There is more practical wisdom in this gambler’s song. Every hand’s a winner/And every hand’s a loser. We all were dealt a hand. What matters is what we do with it. It’s not that you were dealt a bad hand and someone else got a good one. What you got is what you got, and it came from the Lord. You had nothing to do with receiving it; but you have everything to do with what you do with it now that it’s yours.
So God, take these gifts and talents that we have — both assets and liabilities — and show us how to use them for your kingdom, so that when we die, it won’t be just dying in our sleep that we look forward to (how depressing is that?), but dying knowing we have done Your will, and when they count up our money (what we have invested in), it will be worth something for Your kingdom.
As Marti once wrote: “But life is not a card game, and we are not gamblers. And even though it sometimes seems that the odds are against us, and we are tempted to give up the fight, despair is never an option and hope is always available — because if you are breathing this very moment it’s because you have already received the greatest miracle of all today, the miracle of your life. We all woke up this morning; God intervened to a day full of possibility, hope, revival and restoration.”
Game over; now let’s start living.