I loved poker in my sixth form common room. Debts were created and tensions mounted between friends as we gambled our spare cash. I relished going “all in”. “All in” was my favourite, most exhilarating decision in a poker game. When you say “all in” you’re betting everything you have on your hand winning. It’s win big or go bust.
Jesus frequently called his disciples to be “all in”. Head, heart and hands, money, job, the lot! Nothing in life is left out of his call to “Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15). Everything is included when we enter the Kingdom of God. Christ gives all of Himself, for all of us, for all of time. It’s “all in.”
In my first year of university, I pivoted between compulsive computer gaming, study, drinking beer and hours reading the bible. I grew up going to church but finished in my mid-teens with a sentimental connection to church and a vague belief. At university I had a hunch there was more to my faith than comforting tradition rooted in myths and legends. I couldn’t shake off the hunger to know who Christ really was.
As I read the bible I could see the Jesus I grew up with was far more dynamic and full of life than the meek and mild one I perceived him to be. As I saw Christ clearer in the bible, my view of God as a distant and aloof Heavenly Being became untenable. An internal conflict raged as I slowly accepted that God was real and I was living as if He wasn’t!
How could I call myself a Christian when I was so half-hearted about following Him?
Jesus wasn’t afraid to call people to change their mind and make a decision about whether they would follow Him or not. His message was essentially “Think again and trust me; God is near!” (Mark 10:15)
A crossroads moment came for me at the end of my first year of university. I was to discover in a powerful way that God was nearer than I’d dare to believe and more loving than I could imagine.
"I was at a crossroads. My decision was clear."
It was the final night out before I went home for summer, which for me meant drink drink drink. I returned to my halls in the early hours to cause a host of problems. The next morning I woke up bleary-eyed, lying on the floor, ashamed and dreading seeing my after some regrettable antics.
Remaining on the floor I prayed out loud, “I’m sorry”. Before I could reel off my misdemeanours to God I felt this weight of shame lift. I experienced this loving presence and realised forgiveness was not an abstract idea but a living reality.
It was like in Jesus’ story in Luke 15 when the father cuts off his son’s apology speech with a loving embrace and restoration to the family.
I was at a crossroads. My decision was clear.
Would I be “all in” following Christ? Or would I follow in name only missing out on the calling on my life?
It was time to think again in light of God’s love and go “all in” to follow Christ.
Have you faced this crossroads? Have you decided to go “all in” and follow Christ?
What could “all in” mean for your university years?
Have you experienced your new identity as a beloved child of God?