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March 14, 2024 | Daily Devotionals | March 14

Gambling with the Future


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23


Related to selective obedience is what I call the 80/20 life. You know, 80% of the time you live and act like God’s man, but 20% of the time you don’t. It’s easy to achieve a form of Christianity that presents well. In fact, when a mutual friend, Clay, introduced me to Joel at Starbucks, I was impressed with Joel from the start. We seemed to connect immediately. We talked for an hour about our faith, our lousy golf games, and, also the emerging trends in medicine since Joel was a doctor in town. He made several statements that suggested a spiritual maturity in his walk with God, including his desire to connect and grow his marriage and his family.


After our first meeting, Joel started coming to my Thursday morning Bible study, where he grew tight with the men at his table. Technically, the guy was a model Christian. Tragically, however he was about to experience the folly of an 80/20 life. I later learned from Clay, and later from Joel himself, his dilemma. He was talking a good game and putting himself out there as a guy who was working his faith, but at the same time he was feeding a gambling addiction as fast as a grandma feeds dollar bills into a slot machine.


What started off as a willful but innocent diversion—the game of blackjack—now enslaved him as he spent nearly every available moment figuring out how to save his house, his medical practice, and his marriage. His future lay perilously in the hands of creditors. The next time I saw Joel he was a broken man, living out the consequences of an 80/20 life.


As Paul warned Timothy, many men serve their own interests “by having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). In contrast, when God’s man is tempted to enter 80/20 territory, he does what God would rather have him do––even if it’s less convenient or not nearly as fun. It’s called self-control, but we’re not talking about the “white knuckle” kind. We’re talking about the power that flows from the Holy Spirit that helps us stay on the narrow path. Accept the gift of God’s supernatural self-control. After all, He loves you, right?

Father, You are the best. The old hymn sums it up so well: “What a friend we have in Jesus.”


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