Are you gambling with your soul? Over the last several years gambling has become a way of life in West Virginia. We have put families in harm's way for the sake of tax dollars and revenue. It's heart-breaking to hear the stories and to see the families that are devastated by addictions to gambling. It seems to be that this gambling spirit has permeated our society, apparently because the benefits seem to outweigh the unseen destruction. Ironically enough, I'm not writing this article to slam the gaming industry, why wouldn't business owners want fast, easy money. After all, it's not designed for the owners to lose, is it? Otherwise, they would be out of business. A lot of people have gotten rich or done very well who have owned these small cafes and the casinos, and a lot of families and senior citizens have suffered. Enough of that!
My heart is really broken by the fact that so many are gambling with something far more valuable, and extremely more important than just money - The bible says, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his own soul." Or, "What will a man give in exchange for his soul." I've told this story before, but it needs to be shared again. A champion chess player was asked by his friend to come to visit him in his home country of Australia. He wanted the champion chess player to see a painting in a museum. He agreed and flew to Australia, and his friend took him to the museum, where he showed him a painting of the devil playing a man in a game of chess. You could tell by the look on the man's face that they were playing for his soul, and he thought the devil had him check-mated. The champion chess player asked his friend to get him a chess board and chess pieces. He did! The Champion placed all the pieces on the board just like they were in the painting, and then, he looked at his friend, and said, "I'll take his place, and I'll beat the devil!"
Friends, that's exactly what we are doing. We are gambling with the devil for our souls. Many of us blindly, proudly, boastfully living our lives in disobedience to God's Word, and the devil gets us checkmated, but, just like the champion chess player, Jesus, says, "I'll take their place and I'll beat the devil," and he did 2,000 years ago. Whether you're rich or poor, young or old, successful or feel like a failure. You need God's plan for your life, because your clock is going to run out some day, and neither you nor I know when that day will come. This isn't a chess game! You don't get to do it over again. You get one life.
Pastors, Priests, and Ministers are waiting and praying for people in the Ohio Valley to wake up from this spiritual slumber that has come upon us, as though a strange mist has covered the eyes of most in this valley and in this nation. The last 40 years our nation has been on a spiritual decline and the hill is getting steeper and steeper, and we are picking up speed, racing to a head on crash with an eternal alarm clock.
We have crowded, pushed, and kicked God out of some of the most vital areas of our lives. Forty years ago when people got in trouble they ran to the Church. They cried out to God and He delivered them. We have generations now that have never been to church, and they don't know how to pray, and they have no moral compass, because we took prayer and the Ten Commandments out of our schools. We might as well have told many of them to go to hell, because without God that's where we end up, not because God wants us to, but because people have rejected him, and many of them under the guise of choice. How can you choose God, if He's not on the menu? Let's not play stupid! Give your children and yourself a chance. Our leaders have already helped make the choice for many.
Did you know that 80 percent of people who make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ do so by the age of 13 or 14? In a time when so many are fighting brokenness, the pain of divorce, drug and alcohol addictions, gambling addictions, and poverty, families need hope, children need hope, the elderly need hope. You and I need hope.
It's time to turn your life and your family around! It's time to run to God! Wake up from your spiritual sleep, and quit gambling with your soul and your family's souls. Forget about all the lies that you have heard about God and Christianity and Church. Come and find out for yourself. Open the bible and read it! Find a life-giving bible preaching church. You just may discover an amazing life that was always just a prayer away. I'm not talking about a life lived with rose colored glasses. Hurts and pain are part of life. But you can learn to live with a power that overcomes every obstacle you will face. You can have a winning life, and a winning family. It won't be perfect, but it will be blessed!
You can start right now! Just say this prayer: Lord I'm sorry for my sins. I know I've broken your laws, and did it my own way. Forgive me and come into my life. Give me your Holy Spirit, and let me be a child of God. Give me a new heart, and a new mind. I receive what Jesus did on the Cross, as full payment for my sins, and I receive your forgiveness now. Thank you, In Jesus name.
If you said that prayer, find a life-giving, bible preaching church and become a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ. Find somebody to mentor you and you will do great. God Bless you on your new and exciting journey with God.
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)