“Congratulations son! I’m so proud of you.”
Bill and his son, Johnny, had been through a lot in recent years so his high school graduation was a special moment. And Bill was feeling it deep within too that, in just a few months, his boy would be heading off to college.
“Now son, I know you’ve worked hard and I’m proud that you graduated with honors. But the world you are stepping into is very different from high school.”
With a puzzled look, Johnny replied, “What do you mean?”
“Well, even with its own difficulties and pressures, high school really is a protected environment. So much is provided and set up for you. There’s a lot of work involved for sure but we parents also wanted to protect you guys … so you could have fun too.”
“I guess I see that.”
“But now, you’re taking a huge step into the adult world. In a lot of ways, the time for ‘just fun’ is over. It’s time to get serious about your future. After all, life isn’t a game.”
“I hear you dad.” Johnny answered respectfully even though he felt his dad was being way too serious, especially today. Just then, Jim, their pastor, showed up at the house. The three had planned to go out to lunch after graduation to celebrate.
Johnny greeted him first, “Hey Pastor Jim!”
“Hello Johnny and congratulations! You should be very proud of yourself.”
Quietly and with little emotion, Johnny replied, “Thanks Pastor.”
“What’s wrong? I figured you’d be excited about today and heading off to school in September.”
“Well, Dad was just giving me some advice about getting serious about my future and that the time for fun and games is over.”
Bill chimed in, “Just trying to get the boy ready.”
“Yeah, I know. He just wants me to be prepared. Like he said, life is not a game.”
After a brief pause, Pastor Jim stated sharply, “I disagree.”
They both just looked at him. Johnny stayed quiet as Bill directed his comment to Jim.
“What do you mean? How is life like a game?”
“There are three ways. First, it’s like a game in that it has rules. For us Christians, life’s rule book is called the Bible. As in a game, there are severe penalties for breaking the rules. The rules are there to make sure you play the game right and that you get the most out of it.”
Bill thinking intently said, “Okay, I guess I can see that.”
Pastor Jim continued, “The second way life is like a game is that you have an opponent. Our opponent in life, Johnny, is the Devil. But he is not just our opponent, he is truly our enemy. He’s not just interested in winning himself but in your total defeat and destruction. Any ideas on how you avoid that?”
Thinking, Johnny offered, “Follow the rulebook?”
“Yes! His method of defeating you centers on getting you to play his way, playing against the rules. But the only way to have true joy in life is to follow the instructions God has given us.”
Johnny began to smile again. He really liked Pastor Jim’s perspective.
“And the third way life is like a game, and I want you to remember this, is that the purpose of it is for you to win. You were not put here on Earth just to play. You’re a winner! God created you to be successful, to go into whatever you choose to be and to soar, not just to survive. So go out there with the mindset of a champion, not just a player.”
Johnny got excited, “I will Pastor!”
Bill looked at Johnny, “I’m sorry son. Pastor Jim is right. I do want you to be successful but also to enjoy life. I didn’t mean to put a damper on things.”
“It’s okay dad!”
“And thank you Sir! I appreciate your analogy, any final words of advice before we go eat?”
Pastor Jim stopped for moment, then turned to Johnny with a big smile and said, “So … let the games begin!”
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