OK, on the surface of it, it may sound like I’m asking for a confession of sin or something, But in this post I’m actually encouraging you to gamble—just, not the way that you may think. I’m encouraging you to gamble God’s way.
In Philippians 2:30 Paul speaks of a dear friend from Philippi, Epaphroditus. His name may not roll off the English tongue with ease, but he was a major encouragement to Paul in prison. Epaphroditus had been the messenger of a letter and gift from the church in Philippi, while Paul was in a Roman prison. And in Philippians 2:30 Epaphroditus was the carrier of the letter from a grateful Paul to the Philippian church. Paul was full of praise and thanks for all that Epaphroditus had done for him—especially since it was a great risk.
Rome like any big city of that time was fraught with danger not only from big city crime, but also sickness in a world without aspirin or antibiotics. And Epaphroditus had indeed fallen ill, almost dying, during his visit to Paul. So, Paul praises Epaphroditus as one who had “risked his life” (v.30) to complete the Philippian church’s service to him. The word for risk here is the word “to gamble” (parabolano). Later, in early Christianity, there were Christians who visited the sick and those in prisons who were called the “parabolani“—the gamblers.
Indeed, risk is an integral part of the definition of faith in God. Faithful men and women of God step off into “thin air” without visible “safety nets”, only the commands and promises of God. Think of…
- Noah, who built an ark and preached repentance to a mocking world that was soon to drown in the great flood. Risk
- Abraham, who left home and family to follow God to a land that God would show him on the basis that God would make of him and Sarah a great nation (in their 70’s). Risk.
- Moses, who as a fugitive from Egyptian justice, upon command of God, returned to Egypt and had the audacity to demand that the powerful Egyptian Pharaoh to obey the command of the God of the Israelite slaves to “Let My people go.” Risk.
- Joshua and Caleb, who urged Israel to start the conquest despite the walled cities and the giant in Canaan. Risk.
- Gideon, who was commanded to attack a Midianite army of over 120,000 with 300 and did. Risk.
- David, who as a youth took up the challenge of a 9’6″ giant with a sling and 5 stones, because he had taunted to armies of the living God. Risk.
- Peter, who not only spoke up and asked to walk on water, but then stepped out of the boat to do it. Risk.
Faith is always more than just an opinion, it is action, the life that we live. Faith speaks up, when it is safer to be silent; faith goes, when it would be more secure to stay; and faith stands alone with God and truth, when it would be “wiser” to stand with the crowd.
Let me encourage you to…
- Risk by being generous with money, time, and skills for the Kingdom
- Risk by mentioning Jesus name and His saving message
- Risk by doing good toward an enemy
- Risk by “doing family” God’s way
- Risk by being an honest business man or woman
- Risk forgiveness
- Risk serving others in sickness or risky places
- Risk by doing mission work
There are risks, of course, that you should never take. Never risk your soul by failing to obey the Lord in the matter of baptism. Never risk your soul on a man-made doctrine. And, of course, never gamble in a casino.
But do live the life of faith, that steps out onto the water, when the Lord says, “Come.”
Epaphroditus risked his life to serve. What are you willing to risk?