Gamblers for Christ
We could use a lot of plain old fashioned unselfishness in the world today. That’s the lesson of the book of Philippians, which I have been teaching this semester and studying in my personal devotions. Alas, too many of God’s people go in for faith and knowledge but never learn how to be kind or giving. Anybody can gripe (Phil. 2:14). Only a truly great soul can love others selflessly.
How subtle are the devices by which Satan raises doubts as to what God has commanded us to do – to take the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). He would have us doubt the Word of God and fear men. “Don’t go to the Muslims! Don’t you realize you could lose your life?” Let us not be ignorant of Satan’s lies. He would have the church conform to the age and be squeezed into its mold.
Thankfully, there are men and women who are not moved by deceit, men like Epaphroditus who risked his life in the cause of the Gospel (Phil. 2:25-30). He was a humble, selfless, compassion-filled servant of God who was living out his salvation with humility and without concern for his personal safety. Through him the Philippians had sent Paul a gift, and in Rome he had become very dear to the apostle. Paul tells the Philippians to honor him because he had come close to death. He “risked his life,” says Paul, using a verb that means “to play the gambler.” Later the same term was used to describe a group of Christians who willingly and unflinchingly exposed themselves to danger in order to proclaim the Gospel. Calling themselves the Parabolani (the “Gamblers”), they visited the prisoners, the sick, and the infectious, jeopardizing their lives in doing so. One time, in AD 252, a plague broke out in Carthage and the bishop took a group of Parabolani and buried the dead, thus saving the city.
Epaphroditus was such a man of courage. He was willing to put his life on the line for others. Charles Hood, a Southern Baptist missionary to Colombia, was another. When he was gunned down and killed in April, 1998, the president of the International Mission Board wrote: “There’s no place in the world where the safety of a missionary can be guaranteed. But missionaries follow the call of God wherever it leads, even into dangerous places, because they value making Christ known and bringing the lost to salvation.” What examples! What courage! What commitment! Once you fall in love with Jesus, you will do everything in your power to introduce others to him.
My friend, loyalty to God is not always rewarded by a bigger church and a larger salary. The apostle John was faithful yet he was banished to a lonely island. A man loves himself properly only when he sees himself as God sees him – a lost sinner – and then, trusting Christ, sees himself as not his own but bought with a price and the personal property of the one he serves. When, like Epaphroditus and Charles Hood, we give our own selves to the Lord, we become free by becoming His captives.
Are you a gambler for Christ? Are you willing to risk it all? Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
Today we need more Epaphrodituses to call Christians out of their Laodicean lukewarmness and to gamble everything for Christ.
September 21, 2006
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.