Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Family Forte: Every Hand's A Winner and a Loser

by: Topher Wiles

My mom used to sing along with a sad old Kenny Rogers song on the car radio that was released the year I was born.  This morning I woke with those pensive lyrics on my mind about winning and losing.  The Gambler’s chorus reads like this:
“You’ve 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 dealin’s done”

The chorus is easy to sing, but one line of the song jumps out at me today, “Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser…”

(personal disclaimer: No, I don't condone gambling or drinking alcohol.
I participate in neither in my life.) 

Perhaps it was my dad’s racing team that got me focused on winning and losing.  At three days old I was at the dragstrip as that 1968 royal blue Chevy Nova careened down the asphalt.  When I was big enough, dad put me in charge of pulling a water sprayer in my red Radio Flyer wagon to cool off the radiator after every run down the track.  Then I began to win and lose myself.  Bridge building, speech, glider flying, math bowl, science quiz-bowl, mechanical drafting, spelling bee, baseball, tennis, basketball, wrestling, and bowling are just a few of the events I competed in during my adolescent years.  Add to that the twenty-five seasons that I’ve coached athletic teams and you can tell I’ve won and lost a lot of games in my 40 years. 

One of the most important concepts that keeps me competing is what Kenny Rogers summed up when he sang, “Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser…”

At first read, this line sounds like a logical contradiction.  I know parents who believe a pretty saying like this can’t possibly be true.  I know players who find it too confusing to have any merit.  It’s true that for many of my opponents over the years who have such a short-sighted view of competition, this verse remains an enigma.  For people who only care about the physical scoreboard when time runs out, this line makes no sense.  To truly understand the deep and profound wisdom of “Every Hand” from The Gambler, you need to know these three fundamental truths. 
  1. The true game is life.  The way some people lose their religion when competing makes it appear that trophies, rings, and scoreboards are all that matter.  Jesus didn’t sum it all up by saying, “Win competitions and bring home some hardware.”  The Lord of all Creation knew that our competition is beyond the ball field when He shared His winning strategy, “Love God and Love your Neighbor” (paraphrase of Matthew 22:36-40).  Winning at life is the only thing that matters.
  2. You can’t control the hand you’re dealt.  Just like any gambler will tell you, we can’t control what cards are laying on the table of life.  You can’t control where you were born, the social class you were born into, the skin color you were born with, or the parents you were given.  Jesus, in sharing wisdom about life said it this way, “He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and unjust alike” (Matthew 5:25b).  Each event contains the potential to win or lose toward the game of life.
  3. Whether each hand is a win or a loss is determined completely by you.  Every hand truly is a winner or a loser based solely on your perspective of sunlight and rain.  Paul shared the winning perspective this way to Roman Christians who struggled with bitterness in life, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28a).

Yes, I took this photo on our
baseball diamond!  Clayton
was safe! 
Coaching Little League baseball has been a great reminder that we need for positive life perspective.  Our 9-10 year old team is made up of undersized (almost all 9 year olds), under-experienced, and underage players compared to the other three teams.  In our 10 straight losses the scoreboard has always been set against us, whether it was the three times we lost by one run in the last inning or the three times we’ve been run-ruled.  It is easy for parents, coaches, and players alike to see that scoreboard as the determination for winning and losing if we forget our three simple rules. 

1) The true game is life, not baseball.  Each game with our pint-sized players is just a small hand in the game of life.  2) We can’t control the team we started with as we drafted blind, the player that broke his hand mid-season, or the kid whose bat just got hot.  3) Whether each game is truly a win or a loss is completely up to how we decide to keep score. 

I’m blessed with a coaching staff who puts a higher value on physical, mental, and spiritual growth than on the actual scoreboard.  We consider each game a win when the players choose to lead a group prayer before the game.  We consider those games a win when our players choose to get on the fence to cheer on a teammate rather than sulk after a strikeout.  We consider each game a win as the kid with the broken hand feels like a needed part of the team.  Combine those scorecard metrics with the fact that our players are progressively getting better at the skills of baseball itself and you see that we are consistently producing winning hands in the game of life. 

The great wisdom writer of Ecclesiastes went through all the high and low hands in the game of life and at the end he concluded with a winning strategy and perspective that we’ll be blessed to learn. “The end of the matter; after all has been heard is this. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13

"But in his final words, I found an ace that I could keep.
You’ve 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 dealin’s done” – Kenny Rogers in “The Gambler”

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email,, or through our website,