Gambling Your Life on God
October 9th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
GAMBLING YOUR LIFE ON GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10/9/77 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church bringing the message entitled Gambling Your Life on God. It is an expounding of a passage in the Book of Philippians, and if you would like to turn to the book and read it with me, you are so encouraged to do so. Philippians chapter 2, and I begin reading in verse 25; Philippians 2:25:
I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants and needs.
For he longed after you all . . .
Isn’t that a good word: “you all?” Paul was a Southern Baptist: “You all.”
For he longed after y’all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.
He was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when you see him again, you may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.
Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation;
Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, in order to minister to me what you could not do because you are not present.
Now, in the last chapter—just turn the page—chapter 4:18-19:
I am full. I have everything, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, a savor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.
And in His turn, on His part, that same God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
[Philippians 4: 18-19]
You have here in presentation one of the most remarkable men in the New Testament, and far more remarkable than you think for just summarily, casually, peripherally reading these words in the English Bible. This man, Epaphroditus, a Macedonian who lived in the town, the Roman colony of Philippi, he must have been saved out of gross idolatry. I’m sure that he was. The whole pagan world was idolatrous. And this man, Epaphroditus, was a member of that heathen, immorally religious world.
He was named for Aphrodite. Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty and fertility. Without exception, those ancient civilizations had such a goddess. In ancient Assyria, they called her Ishtar. In ancient Phoenicia, they called her Astarte. In ancient Egypt, they called her Isis. In ancient Rome, they called her Venus. In ancient Greece, they called her Aphrodite.
The worship, in many instances, of those goddesses was immoral and unspeakably vile in the extreme. Had you visited the great city of Corinth, the greatest merchandising city in the Greco-Roman world—had you visited Corinth on the sea, on the isthmus, sloping up precipitously, just beyond the city is the Acrocorinthus, and on that acropolis was a beautiful Greek temple to Aphrodite. The wealthy men of the empire took their most beautiful slaves and dedicated them to Aphrodite. They were called temple prostitutes. And you worshipped her in that immoral orgy in that beautiful temple on top of the acropolis. You today cannot conceive of religion being expressed in unspeakable iniquity, in vile immorality, but that’s because you’re a Christian or you have been introduced to live in a society that has been changed by the Christian faith. That was religion in the ancient world.
You have beautiful statues of Aphrodite. They’re seen on every hand. The most famous one you’ve seen pictures of a thousand times over again: Venus de Milo. It’s in the Louvre in Paris, France. Her name is not Venus de Milo. That’s a Latin word that has come down to us in modern day. Her name is Aphrodite, and she was named Aphrodite, and her actual name would be Aphrodite tou Milos, Aphrodite of the isle of Milos. That’s one of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.
So this man Epaphroditus, named for Aphrodite, is a convert out of the pagan, heathen, idolatrous world. Having been saved, he became a remarkable Christian. Now you look at how Paul describes him. He says, “Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life” [Philippians 2:30], paraboleuomai, paraboleuomai, and when I say paraboleuomai, or when it is translated here “not regarding his life,” you don’t get the meaning of that at all.
Paraboleuomai was a gambler’s term. The meaning in the beginning was paraboleuomai, “to be venturesome, to expose yourself to peril.” This became a gambler’s word. Paraboleuomai meant to stake everything on a throw, to gamble your life, to bet your life; if you were playing dice, to gamble everything, to put everything on a throw of the dice; paraboleuomai, “gambling, betting everything you have on a throw.” And Paul takes that word, paraboleuomai, and he applies it to this man Epaphroditus. He gambled—he bet everything on God. To expose yourself in great peril for the Lord—that became a word that finally was used to describe all of the Christians in those early Roman centuries. They were called paraboloni, paraboloni, which, literally, means “gamblers, riskers.” Paraboloni; these Christians are paraboloni. They gamble their lives on God. They expose themselves to great and awesome peril.
Then, as you know, the word is well-chosen for them—some of them exposed to the lions in the Coliseum, some of them exposed in gladiatorial combat, some of them burned at the stake, all of their properties taken away from them and their rights deprived of them; paraboloni, gamblers for God, betting on God, exposing their lives, in great peril for God, dedicating everything to the Lord. So this man Epaphroditus, this gambler for God, exposing himself to great peril, made the difficult journey from Philippi in the far eastern part, in Macedonia, all the way to Rome, bearing a priceless gift, a marvelous remembrance, and dedicating it to the use and to the blessing of this apostle of Christ, the apostle Paul.
Then Paul describes this gift. “I have everything. I am abounding, overflowing. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, this savor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God” [Philippians 4:18]. The image, of course, is that prayer, that golden altar of incense before the veil, rising up before God, pleasing to the Lord [Revelation 5:8]. And then God does something: when He looks upon that, when He sees that man gambling his life, betting his life on God, Paul says, “God, in return, shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:19].
I want to ask you what you think about that. What do you think about that? Is that wise? Is that prudent? Is that shrewd? Is that astute? This man Epaphroditus, who gambles everything, who stakes everything, who bets everything on God, what do you think about that? Well, it’s a remarkable thing how God responds to a thing like that, and you stagger at it.
For example, the Lord said to Elijah, “You leave this brook that has gone dry and the ravens that feed you [1 Kings 17:5-6], and you make your way to Zidon, and there you will find a woman in the little town of Zarephath, and you live in her home” [1 Kings 17:7-9]. So, Elijah comes to that poor widow’s house, and he says to her, “I am thirsty. Will you bring me a drink of water?” and then he says, “I am hungry. Would you bake me a cake?” [1 Kings 17:10-11].
And the woman says, “I have no food in the house, but just a little handful of meal. And I have just a little remaining in a cruse of oil. And I am gathering these sticks that I might bake a little patty, a little cake for my son, that he might eat, and then both of us die” [1 Kings 17:12].
And Elijah says to that poor widow, “You take that last handful of meal, and you take that last drop of oil, and you bake the cake for me, and give it to me, and then you bake for your son” [1 Kings 17:13]. Bake for your son and for yourself? “There is just a handful of meal and just a few drops of oil. There’s nothing left for me or for my son, if I give this last bite to you.”
But Elijah says, “Bake it for me. Give it to me” [1 Kings 17:13].
Is that prudent? Is that smart? Is that wise? Is that astute, to finish what you have—the little you have—and give a whole thing to the prophet of God? She had enough faith somehow to obey the Word of the Lord through Elijah. And the story says, “And thereafter, that barrel of meal did not waste, and the cruse of oil did not fail until God sent rain upon the earth” [1 Kings 17:14-16]. She kept taking out of the barrel of meal, and she kept pouring out of the cruse of oil. It never stopped. It never failed. That’s God!
Or take again this in the New Testament. Jesus is seated over against the treasury, and He is watching the people give into the treasury of the Lord. And those who were rich, wealthy, affluent gave out of their superfluity and out of their abundance. But there came a poor widow, and she cast into the treasury everything that she had, two mites that make a farthing, a piece of a cent. And the Lord, watching her, said, “You see that widow? She has cast in everything that she has, even all her living” [Mark 12: 41-44]. That’s the Bible describing her. “She has cast in all that she has, even all her living.” And the Lord commended her for her wisdom and her prudence.
What do you think about that? Here is a widow who takes everything that she has and gives it to the Lord. It sounds to us inane and unreasonable and unwise, imprudent, yet the Lord, seeing that, commended her, was pleased by what she has done [Mark 12:43-44]. There is something here that I need to know, I need to learn, I need to recognize. What is it? Then, as I study it, pray over it, immediately it becomes apparent. You see, you’re not dealing with just a man. You’re not dealing with a human being. You’re not dealing with one of your kind when you’re dealing with God. It’s in another category, in another elevation, in another description.
For Paul says, when he speaks of Epaphroditus who gambled everything that he had on God and brought to him that amazingly abounding, abundant gift, he said, “My God, for His part, shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory” [Philippians 4:19]. Man, you’re dealing with somebody who has the whole world, and you, in His hands [Psalm 95:4-5]—all of it, all of it. My breath is God’s breath. The air I breathe is God’s air. The life I live is God’s life. He could take it away in a moment. These eyes I see with, God gave them to me. They’re His. The life that I live is God’s life. He gave it to me. The world on which I walk, everything I possess, is His [Psalm 50:12].
My Father is rich in houses and land. The wealth of the world lies in His hands. I am not dealing with just other human beings when I’m dealing with God. This man Epaphroditus, who gambled his life on God, staked everything he had on the Lord [Philippians 2:30]; or that widow of Zarephath, who took what she had and gave it to the prophet of the Lord [1 Kings 17:8-16]; or that poor widow who cast in everything that she had [Mark 12:41-44]: God saw it, God responds, God replies, and God does it marvelously and bountifully and triumphantly, gloriously.
Let me give you an instance of that—an exact instance of that that I read in history. Queen Elizabeth I called in a gifted merchantman in London and asked him to go on a business trip for her across the seas, which at that time meant to be gone possibly years. And the merchantman in London said, “Your Majesty, I cannot. My business would be ruined! I would come back home bankrupt and a pauper! I cannot!” And Queen Elizabeth replied to the wealthy merchantman and said, “Sir, you take care of my business, and I’ll take care of your business.”
And under mandate of the queen, he left on the mission and went abroad beyond the seas and was gone, oh, so long. And when he came back, expecting ruin and bankruptcy and pauperism, instead, under the patronage of the queen, his business had grown astronomically, and he was a thousand times more wealthy than he had ever been before! His queen took care of his business when he was on the queen’s business.
That’s exactly as it is with God. You’re not dealing with just somebody ordinary. When you’re dealing with God, and when you’re gambling on God, and when you’re staking everything you have on God, and when you’re all out for God, God looks upon it, and God starts something in response.
May I illustrate that in another way? This is a crazy way. This is a screwy way. This is a funny way. I still don’t know whether that fellow was talking to me about something that had happened or whether he was just kidding me, but I was way up there in those mountains in the eastern Kentucky and a fellow said to me, he said, “I was invited to dinner by such-and-such down the holler, and when I sat down to eat, he said to me, ‘You’re very welcome to eat everything on the table. But, remember, every bite you take is taken out of the mouths of my hungry children.’ Well,” the fellow said, “I sat down to eat and I took a bite and I thought of those hungry children, and I took another bite and I thought of those hungry children. After about two bites,” he says, “I just couldn’t eat anymore. I just couldn’t.”
And I want you to look. Suppose you are invited to dinner, and the host sits over here, the fellow sits you over here, and there you are eating. And you take a bite, and the fellow right here looks at you. So you take a second bite, and he looks at that bite. And you take a third bite, and he looks at that bite as though you were robbing him. After about three or four bites like that, why, it doesn’t taste good.
My brother, when you’re invited to the banquet of the Lord, you’re sitting at a King’s table! You’re not sitting at somebody’s house or somebody’s table who grudgingly and miserly and penuriously bestows the bounty upon you. No! You’re seated at the banquet table of the great God Almighty, who says, “The wealth of the world is Mine.” It says it here: “The riches of God in glory” [Philippians 4:19].
It’s another thing. It’s another way. And when a man gambles his life on God, when he goes all out for God, it is astonishing how God begins to go all out for him. “You take care of My business,” said the great King, “I will take care of yours.” You don’t lose on that bet. That’s a gambler’s chance that never fails.
Our church has always had in it, as far back as I can remember, our church has always had in it some noble laymen, godly laymen. They were there in the days of Dr. Truett, and they have been here in my day. Some of the finest laymen in all God’s world belong to this church. One of them in the days of Dr. Truett was named H. Z. Duke. He and a Mr. Ayres, whom—it’s just a name to me here, but Mr. Duke and Mr. Ayres joined together to build throughout all of this great Southwest, Duke & Ayres nickel stores, dime stores, variety stores. They were everywhere, just proliferated all over this part of the earth.
I talked to a man after the 8:15 service this morning, and he said, “I did business with Mr. Duke and Mr. Ayres for over forty years—fine, noble people.” Mr. H. Z. Duke was a deacon in this church and a very successful and wealthy businessman. He went around all over the country speaking for the Lord and especially in stewardship convocation. And as he would speak everywhere, he made the proposition, saying, “If a man will tithe, trust God and tithe, if he has any need in the year, if God doesn’t take care of it, write me a note. I’ll send you a check by return mail. Just try it, just see, and if it doesn’t work for you, if you come into need or want, I’ll send you a check by return mail. And I’m a wealthy man. You need not worry. I’ll send you the check immediately.”
Well, he was out here in central West Texas, and after having spoken at the meeting, he went home to be with the preacher, in the preacher’s study. And he asked the preacher, “Do you tithe?” And the preacher replied, “Mr. Duke, I have thirteen children”—boy, was that another age—”I have thirteen children, and whenever we sit down, there are fifteen of us who have to eat.” And he said, “I make $125 a month. That’s my salary, my whole salary.” And he said, “I cannot tithe. I cannot do it. I cannot feed and clothe my family. I just don’t make enough. I cannot.”
And Mr. Duke said, “Pastor, you try it for a year, and if at any time in the year God doesn’t provide for you, and at the end of the year if every one of your needs is not met, you write me a note. I’ll send you a check.” And then he repeated that “I’m a wealthy man. I’ll make good my promise. Just write me the note; I’ll send the check in the return mail.”
“Well,” the preacher said, “I couldn’t hesitate at a promise like that.” And he told Mr. Duke, saying, “I preach to people ought to tithe, and I encourage my people to tithe, but I don’t tithe, myself, and I feel guilty and wrong before God. I’d love to tithe, and with your promise, I will.” So, he began tithing. When he got his little salary of $125 a month, $12.50 he took out of it and gave to the work of the Lord.
Then the preacher said, “I can’t explain it, and I don’t know what happened, but,” he said, “all through that year I’d drive my little buggy to church, and when I got in it to go back to the house, there would be a crate of chickens tied to the back of the buggy. I’d go to church, and there underneath the buggy seat, there would be a ham. There would be a whole bucket full of eggs.”
He said, “Why, one of the men came by and said to me, ‘Pastor, I’ve had the finest corn crop this year, and my bins, my cribs, will not hold it, and I brought this big load of corn over for you so you can feed your horse.’” And another one of his members said, “Pastor, I have the finest yield of hay this year, and I brought a whole load of hay over here for you, so that you can feed your cows.” And he said, “Somehow, and I can’t explain it, we had no doctor bills at all that year. We were all in health and the children were well.” And he said, “Somehow, and I can’t explain it, our clothes seemed to last longer.” And he said, “When I came to the end of the year that Mr. Duke spoke to me about,” he said, “I had had the finest year of my life, giving month by month that $12.50 and living on the rest.”
“Well,” he said, “I began thinking about that,” and then he said, “my conscience smote me, and I bowed in contrition and in confession before the Lord my God.” He said, “Here I was, acting upon the promise of Mr. Duke, that deacon in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. He said that if I tried it, that he’d be responsible to meet all of my needs, and just to tell him and he’d send it by return mail.” He said, “I did that on the basis of the promise of Mr. Duke in the First Baptist Church in Dallas,” and he said, “and my heart smote me. I refused to do it on the promise of God! I did it on the promise of a man, and I had refused to do it on the promise of God.”
“My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory” [Philippians 4:19]. And he said, “I confessed my lack of faith, and I confessed all of these doubts and hesitancies that I had before the Lord, and said, ‘Lord, from now on I’ll trust Thee.’” Do it. Man, when you’re gambling on God, you can’t fail. When you’re placing all in the stake, and God is the One who is answering, you will not fall into any want or into any need. God will see to that.
Let me tell you exactly how this is. In the fourth chapter of the Second Book of Kings, there is a woman of the school of the prophets, there is a woman of the school of the prophets, and she comes to Elisha and says, “My husband has died, and the creditors have come, and they are going to take away my two boys for bondmen. What shall I do?” [2 Kings 4:1].
And Elisha said, “What do you have in the house?” and she said, “Nothing at all except a cruse of oil” [2 Kings 4:2], and Elisha said, “Go to all your neighbors, and borrow all the empty vessels that you can, and put them in the house, and then take the cruse of oil and just fill every vessel that you have in the house.” So she sent her boys—the Book says—she sent those two boys, those two sons, out and scoured the whole countryside and gathered together all the empty vessels that they could find, borrowed them all. And then, according to the word of the man of God, she shut the door and then she took the cruse of oil and she poured, and she poured, and she poured, and she poured, and she poured, and she filled every empty vessel in the house out of that one cruse of oil [2 Kings 4:3-6]. Then she returned to Elisha the man of God, and said, “And now what shall I do?” And Elisha said, “Take the oil. Sell it and pay your creditors” [2 Kings 4:7].
That’s exactly what this is. Lay before God every need. Place before God every empty vessel, and let God fill them. Fill them to the full. Fill them to the overflowing. Fill them gloriously and bountifully and abundantly. You are not dealing with one who can barely reply, barely supply, barely answer.
“My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory” [Philippians 4:19]. Man, He has got the world in His hands, He has you and me in His hands, He has us in His hands, He has our children in His hands, our businesses in His hands; our work is in His hands. And you can’t make a mistake gambling on God. Make a partner out of Him in your business. Make a partner out of Him in your shop. Make a partner out of Him in your company. Make a partner with Him in your work. Make a partner with Him in your house. Make a partner with Him in the lives of your children.
“Lord, it’s You and I raising these children. Lord, it’s You and I building this Christian home. Lord, it’s You and I founding this company, carrying on this work. Lord, it’s You and I with this corporation. You have got it, Lord, and I’m a partner with You. I’m betting on You. I’m gambling on God.” And see what happens to you, to yours, and to what you are doing in this world. O Lord—you can’t fail, you can’t when “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory” [Philippians 4:19].
And that is our appeal to you today. Don’t leave God out of your life, out of your house, out of your home, out of your children, out of your business, out of your work. Don’t. Talk to your Partner about it. Ask Him for wisdom and advice. Lay every need before God. See if God does not answer aboundingly and abundantly [Ephesians 3:20].
And to commit your life and your heart to the Lord, would you come down that aisle this morning? “I have decided for Jesus. I’m on His side. He is going to be my partner. I’m betting my life on God, both now and in the hour of my death, that He will take care of me, and I’m trusting Him for it.” Man, that’s how to live, and that’s how to die. You’ll not fail. He won’t let you down. He will see you through. And thus to trust Him as Savior, or to come into the fellowship of this dear church to be with us in our pilgrimage to heaven: “I want to come by baptism, on confession of faith,” or “I want to come by statement.” That’s a letter; a letter is a piece of paper. You can’t get a letter. Forget it. We’re interested in you, not a piece of paper. Or “I’m coming from another church. They have my name on the roll,” and out of kindness and courtesy to them, we ought to write and tell them you now belong to us. Come. You are family, all of you. Come. Out of that balcony, there’s time and to spare; down one of these aisles, make it to the front: “Here I am, pastor. I have made that decision now in my heart, and I’m on the way.” Do it. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
GAMBLING YOUR LIFE ON GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Philippians 2:25-30, 4:18-19
10-9-77I. The pagan convert – Epaphroditus
A. Saved out of gross idolatry
1. Named for Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility
2. Degraded forms of worship
3. Most famous statue of Aphrodite – the Venus de Milo
B. Gambling his life on God(Philippians 2:30)
1. Paraboleuomai – gambler’s term meaning to bet your life, stake everything on a throw
a. To expose yourself to great peril for the LordII. The gift well-pleasing to God(Philippians 4:18-19)
A. The man himself
1. Is it wise to bet everything on God?
a. Widow of Zarephath and Elijah – the barrel of meal and cruse of oil (1 Kings 17:7-16)
b. The widow who gave all she had, two mites (Mark 12:41-44)
2. The Lord commended and blessed these who gave all
B. The ableness of God to bless – His “riches in glory”
1. Queen Elizabeth I taking care of merchantman’s business while he took care of her business abroad
2. Sit at a dinner, told to eat everything, but it is robbing hungry children
a. The banquet of the Lord
C. The riches of God’s blessing
1. H. Z. Duke