Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Is The Payoff Worth The Gamble

“If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.” Mark 8:35

If we played the word-association game, what would your first thought be if I said, “Gamble?”

I admit, more than a single-associated thought pops into my mind.

When I see or hear the word gamble, my head fills with a flood of images—very defined images. I see shiny red and white dotted dice bouncing along a decorated green felt table. I hear the clickity-clack of a spinning, checkered black and red roulette wheel. I see a deck of playing cards being expertly cut and shuffled. I can feel the growing sound of thunder as the pounding hoofs of horses round the last leg of a race, as kicked up clouds of dirt linger along the trail. To top it off, all these images I visualize behind flashing Vegas-style neon lights.

Okay, I have a bit of an over-active imagination, but I’d be willing to bet (no pun intended) many of the things I described above are similar to thoughts that pop into your mind when you hear and see the word, “Gamble.”

Believe it or not, whether we realize it or not, we gamble every day. We gamble with our lives when we get into a car; we gamble with our health when deciding what food to eat; and we gamble with our spirituality when we choose a certain way to live our lives.

Many years back I worked as a freelance writer for a local paper. I covered human-interest stories throughout Rochester. I loved meeting and interviewing interesting and intriguing people.

One night I covered an event at a party house where volunteer firefighters were being specially recognized for achievements throughout that year. I listened to one particular captain talk about a fireman under his command. Without using a lot of adjectives to try and make his story more interesting, he spoke in a simple, matter-of-fact way, which I believe had an effect bringing the rendition to life.

Goosebumps scaled my arms as I listened to the details of a dangerous rescue. That winter a child had fallen into a body of icy water and went under. The first volunteer fireman on the scene dove into the water, searching for the child. The temperature outside was frigid, but the temperature of the water was deadly. The fireman was in just as much danger of drowning as the boy he hoped to recover. After a seemingly impossible amount of time had passed, the fireman swam to the surface, the unconscious boy in his arms. After performing CPR and other life-saving techniques, the boy regained consciousness and lived.

When the captain called front-and-center the fireman up for this courageous award, I was a taken aback because I not only knew the man, but worked with him as well. He was an attorney-by-day at Kodak. Never in all of our dealings together did he once mention that he was a volunteer fireman. Never once did he mention that he had saved a child from drowning.

Mark 8:35 talks about the risk of only living for oneself. The rewards from God come when we deny self, pick up our cross and follow Him. Living for others, serving others, helping others is clearly Jesus’ reoccurring theme throughout the Gospels and the New Testament. Don’t misunderstand me, good works will not get you into heaven, if that were the case, then Jesus’ death on the cross was pointless. (Salvation is a free gift to those who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and invite Him in to their hearts, to be the center of their life). But as a Christian we should want to live our lives doing for the benefit of others.

I am not a volunteer fireman, but metaphorically speaking, I do know many people who are drowning in some pretty icy water. The question I often ask myself is, will I just stand where it is safe with the rest of the onlookers—hoping help will arrive in time, or like my friend the attorney/fireman, will I dive in and attempt to make a difference . . . one person at a time?

Thomas Phillips,
Author of the suspense thriller, The Molech Prophecy

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