Gambling Your Life on God
October 8th, 1986 @ 7:30 PM
GAMBLING YOUR LIFE ON GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-8-86 7:30 p.m.
Now let us turn to the second chapter of the Book of Philippians; Book of Philippians, about halfway through your New Testament, the Book of Philippians, and we are going to read beginning at verse 25 to the end of the chapter; then we are going to turn to the last chapter and read 18, 19, and 20 verses. Now you have it? The title of the message is Gambling Your Life on God. And it is a message concerning Epaphroditus. Ready? Philippians chapter 2, beginning at verse 25, together:
Yet 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.
For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.
For indeed 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 ye see him again, ye 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, to supply your lack of service toward me.
Now, chapter 4, the last chapter, we are going to read verses 18, 19, and 20. You have them? Ready?
But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.
But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Gambling Your Life on God. You did not read it knowingly, but it is there in the text, and one of the most unusual words that Paul will use in all the New Testament to describe a servant of Christ. What you read was this: “Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life” [Philippians 2:30]. Now that word “not regarding his life” sounds very gracious and fine and nice in our English language. But in the language in which Paul wrote that, parabouleuomai, that is a gambling term, parabouleuomai means “to take a risk, to expose oneself to peril”; a gambling term here referring to a man who stakes everything on God, betting his life on God. The first Christians were called parabouleumone, from that word parabouleuomai which means “to stake everything on a throw, to bet your life”; the Christians were called that, parabouleumone, because they bet everything on God; they risked their lives on the truth of the revelation of God in Christ Jesus.
I returned this afternoon from a dedicatory service last night in Oakridge, Tennessee, in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. Dr. Tom Melzoni, who was our assistant here, is pastor of the church there. They have built a beautiful sanctuary. There were two thousand people present last night at that dedication, about two hundred pastors; all that part of the world, it seemed to me, was present. And Dr. Melzoni, by the way, sends you his love and greeting, his prayerful remembrance. He’s doing a marvelous work. Well, anyway, when I go on a plane, I read all the magazines that are on it, which is about as unprofitable thing as I know to do, but nothing else to consume the time I just read all those magazines. And what impresses me, looking through those publications, some of them are psychological, some of them are sociological, some of them are theological, some of them are the commentary, one’s named The Commentary; they are publications of the mind of America, discussing all the issues of business, and economy, and politics, and social custom, and amelioration. Well anyway, my impression of the whole gamut of it is this: “There is nobody who writes in those publications who thinks about God, or even believes in God, or addresses God. It is an infidel and heathen approach to life.” And once in a while, as on this journey, I’ll read articles where a man will statedly say, “There’s no life but this life, this one. And there’s no accounting but in this world. And there are no subjects that are worthy of our attention but those that concern these present days.” They read out God, they read out an afterlife, they read out all the things pertaining to the revelation of our Lord. They just, they just don’t make in their minds room even for the thought of God or godly judgment, or a life beyond this one in which we are now engaged.
Now the opposite of that is what Paul is describing in this man Epaphroditus. Betting your life on God; now let’s look at him just for a moment. First of all, he’s a pagan, he’s a heathen, and he was converted out of his paganism and his heathenism. His name is Epaphroditus, which means “handsome, charming”; and the name is built upon “Aphrodite,” which is the Greek goddess of love and beauty. In the Assyrian language, the goddess was called “Ishtar.” In the Phoenician language, she’s called “Astarte.” In the Egyptian language, she’s called “Isis.” In the Roman language, she’s called “Venus.” Every idolatrous system had a goddess of love and charm and beauty. Now in Greek, her name is Aphrodite. She came, she arose out of the sea; whence her name, “Aphros,” “aphros” is the word for “sea foam,” and Aphrodite came out of the sea, and was named “Aphrodite” from “aphros, the sea foam.” In the Iliad written by Homer, she’s the daughter of Zeus and Diana. Her worship in every language, in every culture, in every nation, her worship was the most degraded of all idolatrous practices. In Corinth, for example—if you’ve ever been to Corinth, right up there on the Acrocorinthus was the famous, famous world famous temple to Aphrodite—and she was worshiped with a cohabitation with prostitutes. In the temple, there were always there at least one thousand prostitutes. To us who have been reared in the Christian faith, and in the Christian sense of decency and morality and chastity, to worship God by prostitution is unthinkable and unimaginable; it just shows you what Christ has done for the culture of the world, beyond anything that we realize. It’s hard for us to go back into the depths of the depravity of the life of that ancient Roman world; but that is difficult. Aphrodite was worshiped by prostitution. And of course, her statues are famous all over the world. The most famous is the Venus de Milo that you’ll see in the Louvre museum in Paris, France. Aphrodite tou Milou, milou, the Greek word for Milos which is a Greek island; and the statue was uncovered, discovered, dug up, on the island of Milos.
Now it was out of that that Epaphroditus was converted. He’s a heathen, he’s a pagan. He is a Greek convert, and as such came into the lovely, beautiful Christian way of life and dedication. Now he lived in Philippi, which was, which was a Roman colony. And when Paul was imprisoned in the capital city of Rome, the sweet dear people at Philippi sent Paul a gift [Philippians 4:18]. And they sent it by this converted, heathen Greek named Epaphroditus [Philippians 4:18]. And while he was in Rome, having brought the gift from the church at Philippi to the apostle, while he was in Rome, he became sick, tragically ill, Paul says, “sick unto death” [Philippians 2:30]. And the folks at home heard that he was ill [Philippians 2:26], and they were greatly distressed. It must have been that the young man was greatly loved and endeared to the congregation at Philippi. So when they heard that he was sick, they were greatly moved. So Paul writes them a letter, and the letter is what you call the letter to the Philippians. That’s the sweetest letter ever penned. There’s none like it in human literature. Paul writes a love letter to the church at Philippi, and he sends it by the hand of Epaphroditus, in order that they might know how God answers prayer. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? God hears. God is moved. God bows down His ear to hear the supplications of His children. And that occasioned the letter of the apostle Paul called Philippians.
Now Paul’s appreciation of him is an amazing, an amazing tribute. In that twenty-fifth verse, he writes in an ascending scale. First he calls him adelphos, a common faith, a brother; adelphos, “my brother in a common faith.” Then he calls him sunergos, a common work, sunergos, a fellow worker. Then he calls him sunstratiotes, in a common danger; he calls him “a fellow soldier.” Then he, ascending, he calls him an apostolos; now you recognize that word, “apostle,” he calls him an apostolos. He is a chosen messenger sent on a heavenly mission. And finally, he calls him a “leitourgos” “a leitourgos,” “liturgy” comes from that, “leitourgos” refers to a minister who stands before the seat of government; then it became used to describe a minister who stands before the throne of God to serve. And that is his description of Epaphroditus [Philippians 2:25]. That word is used in Hebrews 1:14, “All the angels are leitourgoi” plural, “they are ministering spirits, standing before God to help us.”
Do you believe such things as that? I read them in the Bible, and I just simply stumble at some of the things that God says to us. The author of Hebrews is saying to us that all of the angels—and they number myriadas myriadas, thousands upon tens of thousands [Revelation 5:11], you can’t translate it—the author of Hebrews says all of those angels, millions and millions of them, are ministering spirits, standing before God to help us, to work for us, to minister to us [Hebrews 1:14]. All of the forces of God in heaven and in earth are on our side. They’re for us. It’s a marvelous, marvelous revelation.
He uses that word again, referring to us. In Hebrews 1:7, “He makes His ministers,” those leitourgoi, “He makes them flames of fire.” A dull, dead Christian believer is an anomaly. How do you reconcile our indifference and our commonplace attitudes to the wonder and the glory of the presence of God that is supposed to live in our lives and to be in our churches? I just, you just, some of these preachers I listen to, they are so dead! Man alive, you want to kick them and say, “Man, wake up, wake up, wake up! We’re alive, did you know that? Know that?” And we’re praising God, and we’re happy in the Lord. Dear me! Too bad I’m not a charismatic; isn’t that the Lord’s truth. I tell you. That’s right. That’s right.
And this marvelous tribute that he makes about Epaphroditus, gambling his life on God [Philippians 2:30]; now I have a comment to make about that that comes to my mind. He says, Paul says, that this man who put everything on a throw of the dice, on a turn of the roulette wheel, on a card—and I don’t know how to talk because I don’t know how to play blackjack and all those other things they play, poker and all—but he put everything on a gambling chance, on God. Now what Paul says about him is that that was well pleasing to the Lord, for him to put everything in this prayerful hope and commitment that God lives, that He answers prayer, and that He blesses us in our missions. He says here, in the eighteenth verse of the fourth chapter, that it was “acceptable to God, and it was well-pleasing to God” [Philippians 4:18]. Well, what do you think about that, just going all out for the Lord?
Well, I find that often in the New Testament, I mean, in the Old Testament. Let me give you an instance of it. When Elijah came to Zarephath because of the great drought, there was a widow there in the house. And he said to the widow of Zarephath, he says, “Would you bake me a cake?” [1 Kings 17:8-11]. Now the drought and the famine, you remember he left that region on the other side of Jordan because the brook dried up, and the drought is everywhere, and the people are starving. Well, the widow of Zarephath says, “All I have, all I have is a little meal and a little oil, and I am baking a cake for me and my son, and then we are going to die” [1 Kings 17:12]. Well, what the prophet says to the widow of Zarephath is this: “You bake that cake, the one little dip that she had left, “and give it to me” [1 Kings 17:13]. What do you think about such a thing as that? You offer to the prophet of God what little you have, which is all you have, and then she says, “We were going to eat the cake, and then die.” And he says, “You give it to me.” Well, to the praise of that unnamed widow, she did it; she gave to the prophet of God what little she had. Then he says, “You bake, and you bake, and you bake, and you bake, for you and for your son.” And God took care of them, the meal did not fail, and the cruse of oil did not waste until the famine was over [1 Kings17:14-16]. Giving everything to God brought to the home, to the widow and her son, an incomparable blessing. It’s an astonishing thing, just going all out for God!
Let me give you an instance of it in the New Testament. Jesus is seated over against the treasury, and while He is seated there, there comes a poor widow. And she places in the treasury of the Lord two mites that make a farthing. I have in my study – and you’ve seen them, I’m sure – a mite; it’s about one-eighth of a cent. That’s all she had. And the Lord looked at it, and He said, “This woman has given more than they all, because they out of their abundance have brought into the treasury; but this woman has cast in all of her possessions, everything she had” [Mark 12:41-44]; betting her life on God. Well, you’d say, “That’s foolishness, that’s not prudence, that’s not good judgment.” God doesn’t say that. The Lord is pleased with us when we bet everything we have on Him. That’s the Lord. He is just like that. Now I want to speak of the ableness of God to bless when we go all out for Him and when we bet our lives on Him.
I read a story one time about Queen Elizabeth I. The present queen, you know, is Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth I, back yonder, long time ago in the days of Shakespeare, Shakespeare lived in her day. Sir Walter Raleigh lived in her day. Queen Elizabeth said to a merchant in London, “I want you to go overseas for me.” And the merchant man replied, “But dear Queen, dear Queen, if I leave and go over seas on your mission, I will come back, and I will be bankrupt,” we’d call it today, “I will lose my business. If I leave I will come back impoverished.” And Queen Elizabeth said, “You go on your business, you go on this mission for me, you go on this mission for me, and if you will take care of my business on which I send you, I’ll take care of your business while you’re gone.” And when he came back, when this merchant man came back, through the sponsorship of the queen herself, his business had flourished enormously, through her patronage. “You take care of my business, and I’ll take care of yours. You go on this business, you go on this mission.” I think God is like that. God is like that: you do My work, and you be faithful, and I will repay, I will not let you down. And isn’t that the benediction? “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory, by Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:19]. “My Father is rich in houses and lands, He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands” [from “A Child of the King,” Harriet F. Buell, 1877].
Do you remember this story in the fourth chapter of 2 Kings? Elisha comes to a home, and the woman is weeping, she is in distress. Her husband has died and left her in debt, and according to the culture of that day, the creditor came to take her two sons into slavery for the debt [2 Kings 4:1]. Oh, those things, the way the people used to live; to us Christ has done so much for us, hard for us to realize how people were before His day. Well, that was the culture of that day, and the business practice of that day: the father died, and the creditors came to seize her two sons, seize her two sons, and to sell them into slavery in order to pay the debt. So with great lamentation and tears and distress of heart, she laid her case before Elisha [2 Kings 4:2]. Now do you remember the story? Elisha said, “You borrow from everywhere you can, empty vessels, wherever you can find them, borrow empty vessels; not a few,” he says, “everywhere you can find them, borrow them” [2 Kings 4:3]. So she went from house to house and neighbor to neighbor and friend to friend, gathering all the empty vessels that she could find. Then he said to her, “Now you take the little oil that you possess and you pour” [2 Kings 4:4]. And she did, and she poured, and she poured, and she poured, and she poured, out of that one vessel [2 Kings 4:2], she poured and poured and poured, until all the vessels were filled [2 Kings 4:4-6]. Then he said, “Now you take the oil and sell it and redeem your two boys; and you will have more and abundant to spare” [2 Kings 4:7].
Lord God in heaven, we’re just like that, bringing our empty vessels before the Lord God and asking God to fill them, and to fill them, and to fill them, and to fill them. What does He…”According to His riches in glory, by Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:19], just fill them overflowing, overflowing, overflowing. That’s the Lord God.
I have to close. As I do, I want to talk about a deacon in this church in a long time ago, long time ago, before my day. I never did see him; he died before I came to be undershepherd of this sweet dear church. But there was a deacon here in the church named H. Z. Duke, H. Z. Duke. All over this part of the world, there used to be a chain store, variety store, it was called Duke and Ayers. Now I’ve seen Duke and Ayers stores, all over the country there were variety stores, Duke and Ayers. Well, the Duke, Duke of that Duke and Ayers, was a famous, godly, wonderful deacon here in this church. Well, he must have been a marvelously, unusually dedicated man of God. I’ve read about him, and I’ve just come across the dedicated work of that wonderful deacon, I’ve come across it many times. Now this is what he did. He went everywhere witnessing for the Lord and encouraging people to tithe, to give a tenth of everything they had to Jesus. And he did an unusual thing. He said, “You try it, you try it, and if God does not bless you, I’ll give you the money that you have tithed to the Lord. I’ll give it to you, I’ll repay it. You just try it.” So I’m going to take one of the witnesses, one of the testimonies that I read.
He was a guest in a preacher’s home and in a preacher’s church. Stewardship, and he was there. So after the service was over, why, he talked to the preacher, the pastor of the church. And he said to the pastor of the church, “Do you tithe?”
And the minister, the pastor, said, “No, Mr. Duke, no, I do not tithe. I cannot. I’m too poor,” he replied to the deacon, “I cannot, I’m too poor. I have a wife, and we have five children. And it takes everything that I can possess to take care of my wife and my five children. And I have nothing, nothing by which I could even begin to give a tenth to the Lord.”
And Mr. Duke, our godly deacon, said, “Pastor, I’ll make a deal with you. You begin tithing, and for the immediate year, everything that comes to your hands, everything, no matter what it is, everything, first of all, you set aside a tenth for God. Then,” said Mr. Duke, and this is what he usually did, “Then,” he said, “at the end of the year, if God does not aboundingly bless you, I will give you the tenth, I’ll repay it, I’ll put it in your hands, I’ll give you the tenth that you dedicated to the Lord if God doesn’t bless you.” Then he added to the preacher, “I’ll do that every year, every year. I’ll do it this year, and then the next year, and the next year. You just send me the bill. You have set aside for God this tenth, and God didn’t see you through, He didn’t bless you, send me the bill and I’ll pay what you’ve given to the Lord.”
Well, then the preacher writes. He begins the experiment, remembering that he could not lose; he’s going to send the bill to Mr. Duke, who was a wealthy man, going to send it to Mr. Duke if God didn’t bless him. Now the testimony of the preacher. He starts off, he’s got a wife and five children, and he has a meager income. Well, he says, “I don’t know what happened, and I can’t explain it. But we had no illness, the children weren’t sick, and my wife and I were well, and nothing was spent for medicine or for healing; we were well.” Then he said, “I cannot explain it, but the children’s shoes didn’t wear out so soon. And their clothes lasted longer.” Then he said, “And I cannot explain it, people began to bring to the parsonage things for us to eat, flour, and meal, meat.” He said, “I cannot explain it, but when the year came, we had our finest year. And all I did was just write Mr. Duke, saying, ‘We’ve had our best year, just trusting God.’” Then he said, “The next year was better than that one. And the next year even better than that.” And he says, “Now it never enters my mind to write Mr. Duke, sending him a bill for how much I have given to the Lord.” That’s a marvelous thing.
As I came back from the airport, the man who came to get me has a very, very wealthy twin brother. And right by the side of his brother’s home, a man here in Dallas, one of the richest men in the world, has built a five and one-half million dollar home, just completed it. And they were talking, they were visiting together. And the man said, “My boy and I, in a business here in Dallas together, live next to bankruptcy and poverty all through those years.” And the father said to the son, “Son, I’ve made a decision in my heart. From now on, whatever comes into our hands, first of all we’re going to set aside one-tenth of it for God, and then trust Him for the rest.” And that richest man here in this city of Dallas said, “From that minute on, we began to prosper, and to prosper, and to prosper, and to prosper.” And now he’s worth millions and millions and millions of dollars. And everything that comes into his hands, the first thing he does is set aside one-tenth of it for God. Oh! “My God shall supply according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:19].
I want to close with these one comment about that. I’m not saying that I can make a deal with God, “I’ll give You this tenth if You will give me forty tenths over here.” I’m not even thinking that. What I’m talking about is, the kind of a heart, and the kind of a soul, and the kind of a life, and the kind of a faith that will thus put God first, somehow, is the kind of a life that God will aboundingly bless. Trust. Trust. That kind of a commitment, that kind of a love, that kind of a devotion, “God will be first in my life. And whatever I have, the first part will belong to Him.” That kind of a devotion, God somehow will aboundingly bless. Try it. He invites you, “Prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, [that] there is not room enough to receive it” [Malachi 3:10]. Bless His name, and bless you.
Now, Denny, I want us to sing us a song. And while we sing the song, opening wide the doors of the kingdom of God, of our wonderful church, of the happiness of being a fellow pilgrim with Him, a joint heir with Jesus [Romans 8:17], while we sing this song, to put your life with us in the church, to accept the Lord as your Savior, to dedicate your life to Him, as God shall say the word, answer with your life. Come, and welcome. “Pastor, this is God’s day and God’s moment for me, and I’m answering; I stand before Him now.” If you’re in the balcony, there’s time and to spare. On this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “This is God’s day for me, pastor, and I’m on the way.” Make the decision now, and when we stand, stand making that first step; stand coming. And may the Spirit of God bless you, and angels attend you as you say, “Yes,” to our Lord. Do it. While we stand and while we sing.
GAMBLING YOUR LIFE ON GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Philippians 2:25-30, 4:18-19
A. Paraboleuomai – gambler’s term meaning to bet your life, stake everything on a throw, to expose oneself to peril
B. In that day often Christians were called paraboleumone – they were riskers, betters on God
C. Article that stated there is no life but this one, and nothing worthy of our attention but that which concerns these present daysII. The pagan convert – Epaphroditus
A. Saved out of gross idolatry
1. Named for Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility
2.Worship of Aphrodite most degraded of all idolatrous practices
3. Statues of her found all over the world; most famous the Venus De Milo
B. His mission to Rome from Philippi
1. Sent with a gift for Paul
2. In Rome, involved so heavily in the work for Christ he became “sick unto death”(Philippians 2:27)
3. Sent back home with this letter of love and appreciation
C. Paul’s written appreciation of him – five words in an ascending scale
1. Adelphos – “my brother”
2. Sunergos – “my fellow worker”
3. Sustratiotes – “my fellow soldier”
4. Apostolos – “apostle”
5. Leitourgos – a minister who stands before the seat of government(Hebrews 1:7, 14)III. Gambling his life on God
A. How could that be well-pleasing, wise, prudent?
1. Widow of Zarephath and Elijah – the barrel of meal and cruse of oil (1 Kings 17:7-16)
2. The widow who gave all she had, two mites (Mark 12:41-44)
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. Elisha and the widow with the cruse of oil that filled all the empty vessels, to sell and redeem her sons(2 Kings 4:1-7)
C. We bring our empty vessels before the Lord, asking Him to fill them
1. H. Z. Duke