Joe thought he understood the rules of life pretty well. He had played the game for more than 30 years. He had carefully been taught the rules by master players before him. He had watched them closely, observing what it took to win the game.
He had learned to ruthlessly take out any player who got in his way. He had amassed more and more wins. Joe was wealthy, both with money and power. He had progressed from one level to another, until he was very close to being at the master level. He was so focused on the winning, he never made a mistake … well, almost never, that is.
The day came when Joe turned a corner on the board and ran headlong into a large sign. It said, “Game over!” Joe tried every technique from battering it down to attempting to go around it. He was stopped “dead” in his tracks.
Suddenly a Deep Voice broke Joe’s frantic thoughts. “It’s time to pay up, Joe.” Joe smiled. He now understood. He was to give up part of his winnings in order to progress to the next level. Fortunately, he was sure he had more than enough. “Maybe,” he thought, smugly, “I can advance two or three levels with all I’ve got.”
He threw down half of all he had won and waited for the “go ahead” sign. Silence. He waited. He had learned that sometimes patience is all that is needed to take an opponent. Stare ahead confidently. Don’t blink first. Be ready to move on a moment’s notice. Joe waited all that day … and on into the next … and on … and on. His unknown opponent never spoke or budged.
Finally, Joe was beginning to tire of the game at this level. “OK,” he thought. “If I have to give it all up, so be it. I’ve won this much. I can quickly replace it as soon as I get to the next level.” He lay down the rest of all he had. He waited, expecting victory at any minute. But the deep, penetrating silence continued.
Joe was hungry and thirsty now. He screamed into the silence, “I’ve given you all I have. Let me pass to the next level!”
The Voice spoke again, this time softer, but steady. “Show me that you have followed the rules … all of them … and I will let you pass.”
Joe was ecstatic. He understood. This worked like accessing his computer! He had put in all his winnings; that must be his username. Now the game master must want his password. He had to prove he deserved to enter the next level. He quickly recited every rule of life he had learned.
The Voice replied, “You have an invalid ID.”
Joe was now angry. “No, I don’t! I know every rule for playing this game of life and I have recited every one to you. You must let me pass.”
The Voice stated firmly, “You have an invalid ID. Game over.”
Light flooded into Joe’s path. An Unseen Hand showed him the Book of Rules for Life. The Voice read each rule to him and told him sorrowfully he had not followed most of them.
Joe was shocked. “Those are not the right rules,” he protested. “You are in the wrong game.”
The Voice countered once more, “Joe, you and I are in the right game. But you have played by the wrong rules.”
“How can that be?” Joe asked. “Look at all the opponents I have taken out. Look at all I’ve won.”
“What do you expect to find, Joe, at the master level? Where are your winnings going to take you? How many times are you going to say, ‘I win’, before you truly win. What is the prize, Joe?”
Joe searched for words. “It’s the winning itself, isn’t it? It’s the feeling of victory that leads to another victory that leads to … you know … more winning.”
The Voice sounded more compassionate now. “Joe, winning the world, but losing your soul, is not a victory. You just won the world, but you have lost your soul. I cannot let you pass.”
Joe was now distraught. “No! It can’t be this way! You’ve got to give me another chance. I can learn new rules. I can master this. I want to be a master.”
Joe heard something like a heavy door closing. The lights were dimming. It was getting cold. Joe’s stomach growls suddenly sounded like wild animals. He felt he had entered the arctic section of Hell. Even the “Game Over” sign was beginning to disappear from view.
Joe had a thought he had never had before. “I don’t need to win it all. I don’t even need to be a master. I just want to be in the game of life.”
Joe became aware of an Arm around His Shoulder. He suddenly felt warmed from the inside out. He looked up into the clearest eyes he had ever seen. He heard a Voice that sounded like the music of a thousand symphonies.
“I hear you need a Master, Joe. I’m here. I’m The Master.”
Joe fell to his feet in the Presence of all he was not, overtaken with desire to be all this Master was. Joe sobbed, feeling the emptiness of every win he had ever had, realizing how petty and useless they were now.
He asked the Master for forgiveness. He asked the Master to teach him the rules of the Game of Life.
“The first rule, Joe, is that this is not a game. It is Life.”
“Do I have to go back to the beginning?” Joe asked.
“No, you can start from this moment and this place. But in order to advance, you must be with Me.”
For the first time in his life, Joe was truly silent. The restless thoughts in his mind that had always pushed him harder and further stopped. Joe became acutely aware of his emptiness.
But Joe also curiously had no desire to try to fill the emptiness. He stood still in the Presence of the Master, waiting to be filled. It was indeed a Peace that passed all understanding.
“Come on, Joe,” the Master said. “Follow Me.”
Joe heard the Master speak to The Voice. “Father, this is My Friend, Joe. Father, please forgive him. He did not know what he was doing. I’m here to take the responsibility for him. I ask You to let him pass, not because of anything he is bringing to You, but because he is Mine. I want him to be with us where we are. You know I’ll stand good for whatever he owes You. I’d like to bring him home.”
Joe heard the sound of doors opening all around him. He heard voices he recognized as those who had gone before him … and the sound of angels, singing in glorious harmony. And Joe heard the Voice saying, “Welcome home, Son. Bring Your Friend, Joe, right in. I’ve got the place You prepared for him all ready.”
And Joe, the Father and His Son, The Master, lived happily ever after.
If this story sounds a little familiar, it may be because you heard it from the cross, the day Jesus brought a friend home from earth to Paradise. His friend was once called a thief on earth, but in heaven, he was called another son of God.
This story may be your story or the story of someone you know. If so, there is no better time than now to meet the Master!
Hear the Words of Jesus Your Intercessor
Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My Glory,
the Glory You have given Me, because You loved Me before the creation of the world.
In My Father’s House are many mansions;
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a Place for you!
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the Will of My Father Who is in heaven.
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Truly, I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise!