When the Chips Are Down

     There are a number of idioms that are commonly used which come from gambling, especially from poker.  I used one of them in a message I gave about being “All In,” which, in poker, means that you have put all your chips on the table. You are risking it all, holding nothing back. That is the type of people for whom God searches and whom He uses–no, not people who gamble all their money away!  He is looking for people who are wholly devoted to Him. II Chron. 16:9 reads: “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His…”  God is looking for those who will be totally committed, holding nothing back, allowing Him to be Lord of all their life–every aspect,  just as the Apostle Paul challenged: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men” (Col. 3:17,23). 

     Another idiom that is often used  ( also from poker) is “when the chips are down.”  In poker it means you have made your bet, you are now committed, and must await the outcome of the game to determine your fate, good or bad.  It is a critical, nerve-wracking  time when things are now out of your hands. The idiom has come to refer to a crucial and important moment with a potentially bad outcome–a situation that is urgent or desperate, or both. It usually refers to a difficult situation when things are not good.  

     At such a time, you find out who your real friends are–those who stand by you in those difficult times when things are out of your control and you need wise counsel on how to proceed.  To whom do you turn at such times?  Maybe you are in such a situation right now. To whom do you turn for advice?  Hopefully it’s a wise friend or family member whose words are rooted in Scripture and faith. 

     Unfortunately, sometimes we listen to people who don’t have a biblical worldview, but speak from cultural trends or peer pressure. We saw a sign this week that said: “It’s always wrong to do wrong no matter how many are doing it; and it’s always right to do right even if no one else is doing it.”  Camped at the border of the Promised Land, on the verge of claiming everything God had promised, the Israelites chose to listen to the fearful majority report of the ten spies rather than to the faith-filled minority report of Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 13). Both groups agreed that the land was beautiful and fruitful but the ten were alarmed and frightened by the fortified cities and fearsome warriors. Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, knew that the Lord would win the victory as He had promised. Their attitude was, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Ro. 8:31).  Moses and Aaron supported their report (Num. 14:5-9), but the people didn’t listen. The bottom line: Israel refused to trust the Lord and obey His command to enter the land. They failed to live up to their identity as His “treasured possessions” (Ex. 19:5,6).  How often have we, at a crucial moment in our lives,  stood at the border of God’s promised blessing, and yet lacked the faith and courage to take the next step? Instead we follow the crowd and take the easy, comfortable path, and miss out on God’s rich blessings. 

      The Psalmist, David, often found himself in crucial, even desperate situations when “the chips were down,” especially when he was being chased all over the country by King Saul who wanted to eliminate him. David, “between a rock and a hard place,” would turn to the only One who could help–The LORD his Shepherd (Psa. 23:1). In Him He found a safe place. He wrote: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though the waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride…The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold” (Psa. 46:1-3, 11).  “As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God, the God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds feet, and sets me on my high places…The LORD lives, and blessed by my rock; and exalted by the God of my salvation” (Psa. 18:30-33,46).  

     So, “when the chips are down,” seek counsel from mature believers in whom “the word of Christ richly dwells” (Col. 3:16), but above all, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” (Pr. 3:5,6). (NOTE: The word for “trust” comes from a root meaning “to lie helplessly face down” –i.e., “when the chips are down,” turn to Jesus and to the Word). 

Forever His,

Pastor Dave

P.S.  Other idioms from poker:  “You bet,” “roll the dice,” “bet the farm,” “chip in,” “call someone’s bluff,” “best bet.”   Disclaimer:  I have never played poker!


About Pastor Dave

Until my retirement 2 years ago, I pastored an independent Bible church in Northwest Montana for nearly 38 years. During that time I also helped establish a Christian school, and a Bible Camp. I am married and have children and grandchildren. The Wisdom of the Week devotional is an outgrowth of my desire to share what God is doing in my life and in our world, and to challenge you to be a part.
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