YouTube video
(Kenny Rogers video)

It’s been a long, long, long time since I last played poker. But I’m certain I could still hold my own, if I had the desire to play.

Then again, I have no desire at all. One of my favorite TV movies was The Gambler, starring country western star Kenny Rogers. I had the pleasure in meeting Rogers 50 years ago on his Calabasas horse ranch while working as an installation supervisor for Pacific Telephone. I’ve been a fan ever since that chance meeting.

The 1980 film was loosely based on Rogers’ Grammy-winning song by the same name.

Let me share the well-known chorus of the song: “You got to know when to hold ’em / Know when to fold ’em / Know when to walk away / And know when to run / You never count your money / When you’re sittin’ at the table / There’ll be time enough for countin’ / When the dealing’s done.”

There’s a whole bunch of good advice in that catchy chorus.

In life, we are all dealt a hand that’s quite unique. Each hand is different since we all go through somewhat different life circumstances.

There are only 52 playing cards in a deck used to play poker. In our lives, the differences are unfathomable. Only God can keep track of such statistics. Although some super computer could come up with an astronomical number if desired.

Moving forward, let’s limit our discussion to playing the hand we’re dealt.

Let’s return to those lyrics of the chorus. First. “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em / Know when to fold ’em” speaks to me about life. In poker, the best hand doesn’t always win — many times the best hand in a given game is folded.

In our life journey, the person with the best chance of succeeding may not find the success desired and they sadly fold/give up.

As a Christian, I’m encouraged by the words of Paul to the younger Timothy found in 1 Timothy 4:15-16. Paul proclaims “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Next, “Know when to walk away / And know when to run” speaks to me of the need to be aware of all that surrounds us these days. There’s much evil in this world and, as a Christian, I need to remain as close to God and other godly people as I possibly can.

Paul instructs us in Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Then, “You never count your money / When you’re sittin’ at the table” tells me that we must remain diligent, not rest on our laurels and not be simply satisfied with what we’ve already accomplished in life, while we’re still in the race.

The author of the Book of Hebrews wisely instructs us in Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Lastly, “There’ll be time enough for countin’ / When the dealing’s done.” As we near the end of life, we can then take a deep breath and reflect on our life journey and let our Heavenly Father count our chips for us — let Him assess our faithfulness to Him and those He graciously placed in our path.

In Matthew 25:22-23, we’ve been blessed with these words of Christ in a parable: “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said ‘You entrusted me with two talents; see I have gained two more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

Life is not easy and we’re all dealt distinct hands. Our task is to simply play the hand we’ve been dealt as best we can, realize Who’s doing the dealing and thank the Lord of the Harvest for the hand we’ve been dealt!

Passages to Ponder

» Proverbs 1:7

» Ecclesiastes 12:13

» Hebrews 12:2-3

» 1 Peter 5:8-9

» James 3:17-18

Jim Langley has been writing for more than 30 years while working as a life and health insurance agent in Santa Barbara. In recent years, his passion has turned to writing about his personal relationship with God, and his goal is to encourage others to draw near to Him as well. As a longtime member of CBMC of Santa Barbara (Christian Business Men’s Connection), he started writing Fourth Quarter Strategies columns in 2014, and he now reaches an international audience through the CBMC International devotional Monday Manna. He can be contacted at for more information. The opinions expressed are his own.