January 13, 2023
“You won the game, Damar — the game of life.”
~ Dr. Timothy Pritts
On January 2, 2023, the Buffalo Bills were in Cincinnati, OH, to take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football. Early in the game, Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin suffered a hit in the chest in the end zone, which sent him into cardiac arrest. Thankfully for everyone, especially Damar, the NFL had the right equipment and right medical staff present at the game, and with their quick action, they were able to administer CPR and save Damar’s life.
Damar was taken to a local hospital, unconscious and in critical condition for a few days before finally waking up. While on a ventilator, he started communicating with doctors by writing. Hamlin asked them, “who won the game?” Dr. Timothy Pritts replied, “You won the game, Damar — the game of life.” This exchange between Damar and Dr. Pritts was heard and felt around the globe.
Many of you have played the board game “The Game of Life,” or sometimes just referred to as “Life.” Milton Bradly invented the game, and the game has quite a history. The early version of the game was centered on materialism and was considered quite depressing. Still, eventually, it transitioned into a moral-based game to help the player experience the game of life. In a perfect world, if you practiced certain morals in all your affairs, you would have a successful life.
What is the objective of the game of life (real human life)? The good doctor told Damar Hamlin he won the game of life, but he was merely referring to surviving cardiac arrest. So how does one determine if they have won the game of life? By getting into heaven? Living to age 100? Surviving a life-threatening illness or accident? Making lots of money and retiring early? Defying the odds? Seriously, what determines if you have won the game of life?
For many people of faith, how you live this life will determine if you live with God for eternity or if you are separated from God for eternity. If this is true, how does a person know if they are winning the game, and how can they secure satisfaction knowing they will be with God for eternity?
The most popular verse in the New Testament (Bible) is John 3:16:
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (New Living Translation)
So, this verse begs the question, so all you have to do is believe in God’s Son, that’s it, and you win the game of life?
What about these verses, again from the lips of Jesus himself (Matthew 7:13-14, NLT)?
13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow, and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”
Is there an expectation presented here that if you say you believe, then how you live your life on earth matters, or to say it another way, how you play the game of life makes a big difference in how your life turns out not only in this human experience but for eternity?
If you’re an atheist or agnostic, this proposition posed by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament is bogus and merely a fear tactic to get people to live a certain way and tithe their money to the religious system of the day. It’s a joke, and they are being duped. So then, how would an atheist or agnostic answer the question, “how do you know if you are winning or have won the game of life?”
If we use Darwin’s theory of evolution, it’s the survival of the fittest. But yet, some of the most dedicated people in the world, whose primary goal is to live a long a prosperous life have their lives cut short by accidents and unforeseen illnesses. If this happened, did they win the game of life?
All this kind of wandering leads to a question every human being is desperate to find the answer to, “what is the meaning of life?” This question, one could argue, is synonymous with “How does a person win the game of life?” Whatever answer you conjure up, you must take it on pure faith. Faith is defined as “not knowing and not needing to know.” So, do you have faith in your answer, or do you remain unsure, afraid, and desperate for the truth?
If you claim there is no God, and this human experience was born out of chance, and it’s all a mistake, then regardless of how a person lives their earthly life, at the end of their life, they can claim victory, regardless of how prosperous or tragic their life may end.
But if Jesus is who he says he is and is telling us the truth, then what? The trouble with this proposition is whether we accept it or reject it as truth; we are doing so out of faith.
Ponder these words from Jesus (John 20:29):
29 Then Jesus told him (referring to Doubting Thomas), “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
My personal experience is that there was a time early on in this life; I was living for my own self-interest. As a result of playing the game of life in this fashion, I burned my life into the ground, broke many hearts, and burnt many bridges. This left me irritable, restless, and discontent. I turned to worldly vices for relief; those vices wanted my soul in return, and I gladly signed it over.
At the age of twenty-one, with nowhere else to turn, I pleaded with God and surrendered to believing and living along spiritual lines. I have not done this to perfection, far from it, but my life has never been better. I made this decision over thirty-five years ago. Have I won the game of life? The evidence speaks for itself; ask anyone who knew me then versus now.
I put my faith in the words and person of Jesus, and I am committed to living a Jesus-centered life and following a Jesus-looking God, for the rest of my earthly life, with the confidence that I will spend eternity with God, the Creator of the universe, along with everyone who believed that went before me.
Do I believe that a loving God would choose to separate those who didn’t believe or live along spiritual lines while on earth for eternity? Jesus says, “yes, that is the truth.” You may push back and say, “it sounds more punitive than loving.” But is it any different than a child who rebels against their parents’ lives by their own code and principles and uses their parents only to satisfy their selfish desires? Then one day, the parents finally said, “enough already. We love you, but you can not be with us in this home, living the way you choose to live. You can live the life you desire, but no longer here.” I don’t think there is any difference, and I don’t think you do, either.
Whether you believe in God or not, you can’t argue against the fact that every human that has ever lived has free will. They have a say-so in how they will live and by what moral law, principles, and ethics they choose to live, whether their own or someone else’s. Jesus invites us to live along spiritual lines and practice spiritual principles in all of our affairs. By living a life of love and service for others, we will experience the countless promises a Jesus-centered life produces. Not only during this temporal life on earth but for eternity.
So, how are you doing so far in the game of life? Are you winning? How do you know for sure? Friends, God does not make too hard of terms for those who honestly seek, so seek, and you shall find. Knock, and the door shall open. God will welcome your request. God took my call and answered the door when I knocked, and I am the biggest corndog I know. That doesn’t sound too punitive, does it? It’s not at all; it’s the most loving exchange I have ever experienced, and the best news ever is you can experience it too.
God of love and all creation, thank you for this chance at life. There is so much mystery to life, so many uncertainties, and You made it that way on purpose; why? We, humans, exist on this planet, divided by our beliefs and selfishness, attempting to win a game we can’t agree on how to play. Today God, we pray for the willingness to have faith in the unknown, the mystery of creation. Please help us seek our real purpose for living, so we can put our beliefs and will in line with Yours. We all want to play the game to win, but we struggle to know which version of the game to play. Help Us! We pray all these things in Your Spirit and Name. Amen.