One afternoon, many years ago when my daughter was only about six years old, she shyly peered around a corner at met and softly called to me, “Daddy.”
“Yes, honey,” I answered.
“Do you want to play a game with me?” she asked.
I took a long look into her searching eyes, a short glance back at my project (which I had been staring at for hours), and then looked back at her and said, “I would love to, sweetheart.” The fact that I needed a break had less to do with it than the fact that right then she needed some time with me (a point, I confess, that we dads all too often let slip through our fingers unaddressed).
She had evidently taken it on faith that I was going to join her because after she had led me to the dining room table and had me sit in a chair especially chosen for me, she slid a pile of her princess cards to me. She in turn held some cards fanned out in her hand while a pile of cards lay on the table between us.
“So what are we playing?” I asked. She looked over her cards at me and smiled.
“A game I made up,” she said. “It’s called, ‘Sticky Russian’. So do you have any fours?”
“Um…,” I answered scanning my hand. “No… no fours. So what happens now?” I asked.
“You say, ‘Sticky Russian’, Daddy,” she answered. “Then I pick a card from the middle.”
“Oh, okay. Sticky Russian,” I said. She drew a card but apparently found a match. She laid down a pair of sevens and then looked up at me for me to take my turn.
While we played, I finally ventured a question that was on my mind, “So why do you call this game, ‘Sticky Russian’?”
“Because that’s what I call it,” she said grinning broadly. All righty then… it’s hard to argue with that kind of logic.
We played out our hands, sometimes getting matches, sometimes not and having to draw from the middle when the opponent announced, “Sticky Russian.” I didn’t fudge any in my plays, just so you know, but I was hoping that she would win. So, when we finally matched all the cards, I counted out the pairs and found that she had two more than I did.
“Good job!” I said. “You won. You have more cards than I do.”
“No, daddy,” she explained patiently, shaking her head gravely. “I lose and you won. Who has the most cards loses.”
“Oh,” I said, surprised.
“Good job, daddy,” she said as she started gathering up her cards. I thanked her for the game, kissed her on her head, and then returned to my work, unable to shake the feeling that there had been a lesson in that little visit together.
What was largely noteworthy, as far as introspection goes, was the fact that I assumed that the one who had the most cards would be the winner. While I did play very aggressively with my children when they were younger, I was nevertheless taken aback at the end of our little game when it was revealed that the one who had the most was the loser.
Why didn’t I know that? Because I simply didn’t ask I suppose. But in life the rules about who is going to “win” and those who are going to “lose” are already spelled out for us in the Word of God. Granted, many of us prefer to run on our assumptions (which is what I was doing in our little game of “Sticky Russian”) or just don’t have a clue as to where to look to learn the rules of life, but they have been given to us nonetheless.
The Bible tells us that we are big-time “losers” if we do not have Jesus Christ. At the end of life we will ultimately have only our sin and its “wage”, which is death (see Romans 6:23). But if we do “have Christ”, then we have stripped from us our sin (the ugly progeny of our selfishness), are healed of the spiritual oppression with which it afflicted us, and are adopted into the family of God.
But just what does it mean to “have Christ” anyway? Well, this is really another way of saying that Jesus has us: our hearts, our minds, our will, our actions.
“Then (Jesus) said to all, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself” (Luke 9:23-25 ESV).
Great question for today, isn’t it? Just what good is it to have everything you thought you always wanted in this life and yet find in the end that not only do you forfeit an eternity with God, but have lost beyond recall all the “might-have-beens” that your life could have accomplished if only God had your heart?
I’m afraid that many, many people are going to spend their lives striving and earning in this life all kinds of prestige, experiences, and material things, and yet will wake up when their time is done and discover that they have really lost, wishing that they had given themselves instead to Christ Jesus.
Let it not be so for you. Reflect on Jesus’ love for you and His appeal to you to trust Him, receive Him as Lord and Savior, and then to follow Him wholeheartedly.
“Whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39 ESV).
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 21 years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)