Thursday, January 12, 2017

Are You "All In" or Hedging Your Bets?

By John D. (Clemson University (Public), Flickr)
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)],
 via Wikimedia Commons
I would like to tell you a story.  But to do it, I am going to ask that you read all the way to the end, because it might not be what you think it is from the opening paragraphs.

Now it is no secret that I am a Clemson fan.  So to say that I am elated over their 2016 National Championship is probably a serious understatement.

For fun, I play Bowl Pick'em (where you choose the winners of each of the 41 college football bowl games) and try to get the most points to win the competition.  Each year I create two separate accounts.  With one account, I play against the people of my church.  With the other account, I play against my family.

Not to brag or anything, but I destroyed my church family (man that sounds bad...maybe I am bragging a little bit).  However, by the time the championship game came around, I had already won the competition.

Now I tried to pick the exact same picks for both accounts.  But a strange thing happened along the way and I missed a couple more games on my family picks, making the championship game the deciding game between me and my Dad.

As we were speaking to one another the week before the championship game, my Dad mentioned how he still had a chance to catch me on the final game.   I knew that in order for him to catch me, he would have to choose Alabama to win the game (I had the lead going into the championship game).

So I decided to play a little psychological warfare with him.  I told him that I could just be shrewd and choose Alabama for the title game, making it impossible for him to catch me.  His response to me was that I would never do that.  We laughed about it, carried on with our conversation and looked forward to a good game.

However, the little psychological warfare game I decided to play backfired.  Over the following days, I would find myself thinking about my choice for National Champion on my way to work and wondering if I shouldn't choose Alabama, just to ensure that I would win the game.  But every time that thought came into my mind, I was convicted over the fact that choosing Alabama, in any capacity would be choosing against my Clemson Tigers, a team I have been following for over 35 years.

There was a simple decision to be made, and I had made it all the harder with my "innocent" little statement to my Dad.  After days of deliberation, I came to the conclusion that my Dad (and probably everyone who has ever known me) knew I would come to:  I would choose Clemson no matter if it cost me the family title or not.  I would rather lose knowing that I was unwavering in my faith in my team, than gain a cheap victory by compromising my convictions.  But I'd be lying if I told you that the temptation to "hedge my bets" and gain a lesser victory didn't seem attractive at the time.

Yet it is that little dilemma that so powerfully demonstrates the temptations that we face as Christians to throw off our unwavering commitment for Christ for something that seems like a convenient (fleshly) victory.  We speak about how we have known Jesus and been committed to following Him for "X" years.  But then an "innocent" suggestion pops into our mind or is placed into our mind by another.  What seemed unthinkable grows in our minds the longer we entertain the thought.  We even mistakenly begin to believe that somehow that which God despises can be something He is okay with in our case.  "It isn't the best, but it isn't the worst either," we think.  Or something that God commands is something we can treat as a suggestion because God knows our heart.

The subtle draw of lesser "victories" threatens the commitment of every believer.

It happens when couples who confess Christ settle for living together rather than marriage, believing somehow its just as good.

It happens when husbands and wives forsake one another to chase after "greener pastures" because they believe things aren't as good in their marriage as it used to be and a change is better than where they are now.

It happens when people struggling financially believe that stealing or illegal activities that give their families a little extra income is okay because their situation is so desperate.

It happens when the truth costs more than a lie and it is easier to hold on to a position or a friendship instead of our integrity.

It happens when we believe we are justified in using language as a weapon against another because of a wrong that has been committed against us, or someone has cut us off while driving.

It happens when we actually think that we can get along just fine in our relationship with God alone because fellowshipping with others only exposes the frauds and fakes in the church and we can't stand the hypocrisy anymore.

With each sacrifice of conviction, we are drawn away from the amazing grace of Christ to the point where our relationship with Him doesn't seem as special as it once was.  Think about it, if we keep choosing against Christ over and over again in the meaningful decisions in our lives, how meaningful is Jesus really?  The more we do it, the less we really regard Jesus because our compromised victories take us further away from Him and shows us what we are truly treasuring.

If I would have chosen Alabama, I would have won the Championship.  I would have been able to have the best of both worlds (as Clemson won the National Championship).  But I would have also had regret in knowing that I had chosen against my conviction for expediency sake.  I would have wondered why I ever doubted the team I have followed since before their first National Championship 35 years ago.  Even if they had lost (which they did last year), I would have had the satisfaction of knowing that I chose in what I truly believed in, even if it cost me.

Dabo Swinney, the head coach of Clemson, has a well known philosophy when it comes to football and the players and coaches on the team.  It is the idea of being "All In", not merely "hedging bets" for what's expedient for the individual at the cost of the team.  It is that "All In" philosophy that brought Clemson to the National Championship game twice...bringing home the trophy this year.

It is that same "All In" philosophy that made my celebration of this year's championship (both Clemson's and mine in my immensely important Bowl Pick'em) so much sweeter to enjoy, because there is no regret for choosing something lesser.

If you're settling for lesser victories, let me encourage you to trade those in for true victories that are so much sweeter to experience...but you need to be "All In".

My prayer is that in the most important decisions of life and faith in Christ, we would be a people who are "All In" so that the rewards of faithfulness will be sweeter to enjoy and the losses that come from remaining faithful to Christ bring no regrets.

Lord bless you all.
 


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