Poker Table

From the first time I heard the word, perspicacity, I was intrigued by it, because it encompasses several important abilities that we as followers of Christ should either possess or strive to posses. The simple definition is keenness of mental perception and understanding; discernment; penetration. The way it was presented to me was simply understanding where you are in any particular situation. This was a teaching my father tried to instill in us as children, as opposed to losing it when things get tough and giving up.

Later in life, it proved a great tool in all aspects of life, but for now I want to talk about how it applies to playing poker. If you play poker at all you understand the importance of perspicacity, from simply understanding where you are in relation to other players, how your chip stack compares to theirs, the location of the dealer, the small and big blinds, who acts first etc. A lot of importance is given to “reading” other players by their “tells”, habits if you will, to figure out what their cards are and such, but if you posses true perspicacity, that is, the ability to know and understand your situation at any time, even while it’s changing, a deep understanding of psychology is not nearly as important. Now I’m not a great poker player at all, but understanding this makes me better than the sum of my skills and abilities.

And the reality is that this serves equally well in all the other aspects of life, most importantly in our faith. There are times that we all have that feeling that God is standing strong beside us and we cannot fail, and then come those times that we feel alone and defeated. It seems to me to be a difference in perspective as opposed to a particular situation. God gave me a message to take to the jail last month on the story of Elijah when he confronts Ahab and the followers of the gods of Jezebel on the mountain (1Kings 18) and challenges them to a God duel. Talk about powerful, here is Elijah in the face of enemies who wanted him dead, but he possessed the perspicacity through faith to be obedient and be not just a spectator, but a participant in the power of God. Elijah had the right perspective because he understood that he served a God who is able to come through in challenging times, and indeed God does come through. Indeed, Elijah was performing beyond his own skills and abilities on the mountain. But read chapter 19 and notice the difference in the perspective of Elijah after he leaves. “Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”” 1 Kings 19:3-4 NLT

Elijah was strong as long as his perspective was on the Lord, but as soon as that perspective focused on him, in his mind, all was lost. Now we know that Elijah was not finished, he just lost his way for a time, read the rest of 1&2 Kings, God used him in huge ways. We serve the same God that saw him through his season of doubt and trouble, only to continue to use him again and again.

Just like most Christ followers, I want to do more, be better and live a righteous, effective life. However, far too many times, I find myself forgetting where I am at the table, forget who else is at the table and how my actions might affect them. As long as we lean on our own skills and abilities, we find ourselves sitting under that tree with Elijah, depressed, frightened and finished.  That’s the time for us to shift our perspective away from ourselves and back on the Lord; He is not done with us yet! This frail body we inhabit can deceive our hearts and our minds if we let it, but we are not simply the sum of our skills and abilities, we are so much more as long as our perspective stays solidly on the Father who loved us so much that He gave His son in exchange for our sins. We have been given a promise, and what a promise it is! Thank you, Father, for giving me Your word, for giving me Your promise. Thank you for reminding me from time to time that if, my focus and perspective is on You as well as the promise You gave me, I can overcome this table, this world and just like Elijah, spend my reward with You.

~ Scott Boatner

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