The Game of Life

This Sunday’s sermon at Holston View UMC in Weber City, Va., will be “Seeking Signs,” based on Judges 6:36-40. If you want to view the sermon but cannot be present, the entire worship service will be available through Holston View UMC’s web page.

Today’s preparatory text: Ecclesiastes 9:11 (NLT)I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

By Chuck Griffin

I play backgammon, mostly online with other people. The game can be maddening―your moves are limited by rolls of the dice, and dice are fickle.

It is quite possible to lose at backgammon while making no obvious mistakes. Chance simply smacks you down. Of course, on the other side of the board, your opponent benefits from the randomness, having made some mistakes but rolling three doubles in a row, or some other combination that looks like wizardry.

Skill does remain important. Players who understand the principles of risk management and employ them early in the game win more than they lose. Mostly, they keep themselves positioned to take advantage of good rolls while minimizing the impact of bad rolls.

If your only exposure to backgammon is a James Bond movie, I should add that I don’t play for money. I wouldn’t want a district superintendent to get the wrong idea! I also have never worn a white dinner jacket during a game. Actually, I’ve never worn a white dinner jacket.

I do utter the occasional Homer Simpson “Doh!” or Charlie Brown “Aaaaargh!” after an unlucky roll, but I love the game because of the way it mimics life. I think the author of Ecclesiastes would soberly appreciate backgammon—the fastest, the strongest and the wisest don’t always end up winning.

My mind sometimes drifts to theology as I play backgammon. (A drifting mind will quickly put you on the bar, by the way.) At times, I’ve wondered whether it’s possible that original sin corrupted the holy math underlying creation.

The devil certainly seems to be in the dice some days, a miniature expression of the way evil impedes our progress through illness, accidents and other unwanted events.

If that’s true, then we can think of salvation this way: God loaded the dice to work to our advantage. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross rigged the game of life completely in our favor, even though we do not deserve to win.

Perhaps you don’t like my comparing salvation to a heinous act like cheating, but in his own way, Jesus went just as far, describing himself as a burglar plundering the house of a strong man, Satan.

There’s nothing wrong with cheating sin and death out of victory, our prize being eternal life.

Lord, help us to see the tremendous advantage you offer us through our belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. As we better understand the eternal life we are given, help us to offer your saving grace to others. Amen.

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