Last night I almost won a game of poker. I say almost won because tiredness and poorliness won out over the desire for complete victory. Two of our fellow players had, after some impressive come-backs and occasional dare-I-say fluke-some hands, been forced to go ‘all-in’ and lost. At that stage in the night where you are running low on chips you end up betting the lot on one hand of cards and hoping something comes good. If you’ve got to the point where you have very little to lose then sadly you aren’t likely to turn the game dramatically in your favour but you might quadruple your chips and scrape your way back into the game.
On the other hand, going all in when you have heaps and heaps of chips is a much more game-changing move. At the climax of the poker game in Casino Royale four players including the game leaders Le Chiffre and Bond end up going all in. I tried to recreate the scene in the photo here but I don’t have any of the fancy rectangular chips that represented one or more million dollars.
All four players had good hands, including a flush (all spades), a full house (8s and Aces) and a better full house (Aces and 6s). Any one of these hands might have been expected to win the pot, but Bond was the one with most reason to go all in. The dealer announces that his straight flush (4, 5, 6, 7, 8 of spades) is the ‘high hand’ but the cards he was dealt (5 and 7 of spades) are the ‘nuts’ – the best possible hand leaving him in an unbeatable position.
Rushing the game to a close last night, my remaining opponent and I both went all in on a final hand and he was dealt a better hand and so technically won. I don’t think either of us would have chosen to go all in with the particular cards involved, and he was generous enough to say that I would have won, and even more generous to offer me a lift home. Either way, it had been a very enjoyable night with some tasty Chinese food. We probably could have used prawn crackers for poker chips but they wouldn’t have stacked so nicely. I have had longer and more involved games of poker but this was the first that had been inspired by a sermon.
A few weeks back our church leader had used a poker analogy to make a point about the resurrection. We were looking at the apostle Paul’s argument to the Corinthian church where he basically says that if you don’t believe in the resurrection, your entire faith is futile:
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor 15)
This is a powerful passage – Paul goes ‘all in’ on the doctrine of resurrection, saying that nothing else matters if Christ wasn’t miraculously raised to life again. It’s a dramatic move, but perhaps not that risky if he is confident that he has an unbeatable hand.
I’ve been challenged recently thinking about taking risks for God and what I have faith for. A colleague of mine is currently going through an emotionally challenging time and I felt I should take the step of offering to pray for her about it all. This was a rare step for me, and perhaps an indication of how few other options she could see that she agreed saying at this point she’d try anything. As she’s been through a really bumpy time with it lately I felt convicted that I need more faith. I don’t feel I can promise her the perfect outcome but I do want to keep praying and see God meet her needs. I may not be ready to ‘bet the farm’ but I can see that she is really heavily invested in the situation and I’m hoping and praying that things all turn out for the best.
While there are examples of prophetic words in the Bible and in church life today I don’t think God usually offers us certainties about specific happenings in our lives. I’ve said before that I have had friends who were absolutely confident that God had a husband for them and they are now both married. I might sometimes wish this were true for me but I don’t have that certainty. I wouldn’t go all in on saying I will get married. But there are firmer promises that seem more dependable. God says he will never leave us or forsake us. He says he has plans for our good and he says if we believe, one day we will be with him. That’s the hand we’ve been offered: the choice to go all in is ours.