Don’t Blame the Dice!

Most games have some element of luck to them.  Random elements make the game somewhat unpredictable.  It forces the players to be adaptable in the event of unforeseen circumstances.  One of the most common of these elements is dice.  Rolling a pair of dice does not produce a completely irregular pattern; a seven has exactly one chance in six of coming up, while a two or a twelve each have one chance in 36.  Considerably worse, obviously.

Those odds do not change from roll to roll.  Statistically, one would expect 16 or 17 rolls of seven out of 100 throws.  But that is an average, not a guarantee.  It is entirely possible, though hardly likely, to roll 16 sevens in a row.  I’m sure it has been done at some point.  And if it were to happen today, the chances of another seven are exactly what they always were.  One in six.  Just short of 17 percent.

That is what people mean by the expression, “The dice don’t have memory.”  You are not “entitled” to any particular outcome in a random encounter.  As Mrs. Barlow used to tell Kylie in kindergarten, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.”

I say all of this because people have a habit of whining, whether in games or in life, when things go unexpectedly.  “What are the odds?” they ask, implying they should be excused for their unpreparedness because they could not reasonably be expected to have anticipated things to go as they did.

But that’s the whole point of being prepared — foreseeing the unlikely.  It takes no skill, courage or intelligence to merely show up on time.  The character of an individual shows when life gives you three “snake-eyes” rolls in a row.

If you know the parables, you may already be thinking of Matthew 25:1-13 and the story Jesus told about ten virgin girls waiting to play their part in a wedding feast.

In fact, this parable is nestled within a long series of analogies Jesus told on the same theme.  Whether the particular event in question is the destruction of Jerusalem, the final judgment that awaits us all, or a moment of trial or opportunity that may cross our path at any given time, we have to be prepared. 

Be prepared for moral temptation

It’s fine to imagine we will be like Joseph in a time of crisis, able to resist the devil’s advances and even to abandon a situation when it becomes impossible to stay (Genesis 39:11-12).  But it is poor judgment to just imagine ourselves victorious in a variety of hypothetical situations; we should examine ourselves on a daily basis to see how strong our resolve is in the face of sin.  If we have trouble saying no to a “minor” temptation, why would we think we would do better when the stakes were higher?

Be prepared for doctrinal challenges. 

Most of us are familiar with 1 Peter 3:15 — “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”  But how good are we at actually doing that?  As in moral situations, imagining circumstances and scripting our responses may be good practice.  But ultimately we have to face live fire from unfriendly opponents.  The more we study, the more prepared we will be — and the more determined we will be to improve if we wind up less prepared than we had hoped.

Be prepared for future stages of life. 

Young people grow into older people, all things going according to the normal course of events.  And things will be expected of them — whether in society, in the family, or in the church — that were not necessarily expected in their youth.  We can settle for on-the-job training, and the mediocre results that invariably result.  Or we can, with the help of trusted mentors, begin training early.  Teaching thirtysomethings about divorce is all fine and good, but isn’t it a better plan to teach teenagers about marriage?  Proverbs 22:6 reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Learning to be a proper child is good; learning to be a proper adult is even better.

We can choose to cross our fingers (or whatever other superstitious habit we may prefer) in hopes that the dice continue to roll favorably.  But eventually things will go otherwise.  In that day, complaining that other people are luckier or that we get more than our fair share of “bad luck” will do us no good.  We will wish we had made better preparations.  So would it not make more sense to start making those preparations now? 

— From Newness of Life, Feb. 4, 2018

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