Pentecost 9C August 7, 2022 Luke 12:32-40
Harley Halverson was my father-in-law and he was a remarkable man. He never went to high school. Still, throughout his life he was a successful self-taught contractor, inventor, manufacturer, and artist. And yet, as much success as he found in these endeavors, he could never settle down on just one of them. His adventuresome spirit and creative drive always kept him moving from one thing to another which meant that his family would often face the ups and downs of having plenty and being in want. The one thing that kept food on the Halvorson family table was the fact that Harley was a gambler and he was a good one.
One of the things that Harley taught me is that faith is a gamble. Look at the quintessential definition of faith in the Bible from Hebrews 11: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things yet unseen.” Doesn’t that sound a lot like gambling? When you gamble you are betting that you have a winner in your hands. You may not know what else is out there but you know the odds and the odds of winning give you “the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things yet unseen.” Could you be wrong? Yes, no matter what it is, there’s always that chance. But it is the assurance and the conviction that comes through faith that allows you to take the risk and to gamble on what you believe to be true.
That means that faith is more than just an intellectual agreement with a certain set off beliefs. You can intellectually believe that you have the best poker hand at the table but if you don’t actually take the risk of acting on that belief and making a bet, you aren’t gambling. Gambling, like faith, always requires action. Gambling, like faith, means putting your money where your mouth is – or more accurately, where your heart it – your heart: what you believe to be true deep down inside.
It also means that faith is more than just a blind leap into the unknown. If you have ever watch one of those poker tournaments on TV you would know that what separates the good gamblers from the great ones is that the great ones have figured out the odds, and they can read the signs, and they have that keen sense of intuition guiding their decisions of when to fold and when to go all in. Those qualities don’t just come by accident. It takes a lot of learning, a lot of practice, a lot of winning and losing, and a lot of sheer determination to be a strong gambler and the same can be said of a strong faith.
So, what are you gambling on with your life? What are you betting will win the prize? What are you putting your faith in?
The problem, of course, is that there are so many things tempting us to believe … so many things vying for our trust … and that can get confusing and leave us anxious because it’s not just a matter of figuring out what is good and what is bad for us. Most of the time those things tugging for our investment are all good things and it is hard to decide between what is good and what is the best thing to give our heart and life to. So, if what you are betting your life on is making you feeling nervous and uneasy, listen again to these assuring words of Jesus: “Have no fear, my dear little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Your heavenly Father has some wonderful things to give you; God wants you to have a kingdom that is filled with forgiveness and love, with mercy and grace, with peace and justice, and with joy and harmony. God is offering you a chance of a lifetime. God has raised the ante and bet the life of his son Jesus on you. What you have to do every day and every moment is decide if you are in or out. Are you betting on God’s promises or aren’t you? This isn’t just an intellectual decision. Faith, like gambling, requires action; it requires looking at life the way God looks at life, acting the way God acts, and striving for the things God strives for.
And this isn’t just a blind leap of faith into the unknown, you’ve got a great crowd of witnesses to follow and you’ve got the wisdom of the scriptures to guide you. But, best of all, you have been given the gift of forgiveness of all your sins so that when you make a mistake and bet on the wrong thing and loose your way, there will always be a fresh start and a new beginning no matter how many times you need one.