The Gambler in Kenny Rogers’ song offers sage advice when he turns to his fellow traveler on a train bound for nowhere and tells him that he needs to “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.”
Like many of you, I had a bout with gambling – craps was my game. And when you have put a lot of money on the table, there is a strong compulsion to keep playing the game until you get that money back! Also like many of you, I make other kinds of poor decisions as well. I invest a lot of time, energy, emotion, and sometimes money in things that I should not be involved in. There is a sense in which every time we sin (and we all sin every day), we are investing at least some resources in something ungodly. And, like so many gamblers, we have trouble leaving our investments behind.
Several months ago I spoke with a young lady who was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a married man. She was a Christian and this troubled her greatly. When I counseled her to turn from that and to trust God in her desires for companionship, her response was, “but I have invested so much in him.” A couple of years ago I asked a man at the Starbucks up the street, “What could possibly keep you from accepting Christ as Savior?” His response was honest: “If I did that I would have to admit that the things I have spent my life doing are sinful.” In both cases, these dear people, like the gambler and like you and me, could not repent (literally “turn from” sin) because of the difficulty in leaving investments behind. Like them, we too need to think well of and make good on our time, energy, emotion, and money – even when spent on unworthy pursuits. And in as much as that is the case, we are very great fools.
In 2 Chronicles 25 we have an account of King Amaziah making an investment that demonstrates a culpable lack of faith. As the king of Judah, he appears to have gotten his reign off to a good start, but in verse six we read that during a period of war with the Edomites he was not certain that his forces were strong enough to prevail against the men of Seir, so he hired a mercenary army from Israel. At this time Israel was unfaithful to the LORD and so a prophet rebukes King Amaziah and informs him that if Amaziah puts his trust in hired soldiers, he will certainly fail. If, on the other hand, he puts his trust in God, he will succeed. Amaziah’s response is the same as those listed above: “But what about all the silver I paid to hire them.” (2 Chronicles 25:9).
It is hard to accept that our investments of our precious resources must sometimes be left on the table. Sometimes we spend great amounts in pursuit of some felt or real need that we try to satisfy our way instead of trusting in God. In those situations, we must be prepared to simply write off the silver (literally tons of it in Amaziah’s case!) and recommit ourselves to seeking the Lord’s will for our lives – his way. For those of us who are called to that difficult obedience, the words of Amaziah’s prophet should bring great comfort and hope: “The LORD is able to give you much more than this!” (2 Chronicles 25:9).
Are there areas in your life where you need to discern “what to throw away and what to keep? “ Kenny Rogers’ Gambler again! Are there investments you have made that God is calling you to walk away from, trusting that he will himself make up more than what you have lost?