I am not a gambler and neither have I ever been a gambler. I may have dabbled with a scratch-card or two that cost me R5.00, but more than that, gambling has always been a no-no for me; taboo to say the least! I do not waste my money on wagers, lotteries, or anything else that would give me supposed “free money” in return.
Generally, the “free money” always comes at an expense and that’s why I like to call it “Expensive Money”! I know a man who, after he received a text message saying that he had won R250,000.00, all he had to do was pay in R10,000.00 to secure and claim his prize. The message went something like this; “Dear so-and-so… We are excited to tell you that you, as our golden customer, you have won R250,000.000 and all you have to do is opt in by texting “Yes” to the following number, (xxx xxx xxx). Immediately he typed back “Yes” and shortly afterwards he received another message which told him that in order for him to secure his large payment that same day, all he had to do was pay an admin fee of R10,000.00 into the bank account details that they supplied him with. Without giving it much thought – obviously the Rand signs were sparkling in his eyes – and without even consulting anyone with a bit of wisdom for that matter, he promptly went to the bank and took out a loan of R10, 000.00 and paid it into the supplied bank account.
Well, a week went past, and still, his bank account had no trace of his so-called prize-money. With much dismay he contacted the relevant messenger and, believe it or not, they answered him. This time he was told that they had experienced a clerical issue, and for him to expedite the payment on his behalf, all he had to do was pay in another R10, 000.00. Lo and behold, and without giving it another thought about whether he was being ripped off, he promptly went to the bank again and took an additional loan for R10, 000.00. This time weeks went past and eventually, weeks became months and still no moola in his bank account.
When he had told me the story I immediately asked him if he did not even think for a moment that this was too good to be true. Furthermore, to add insult to his own self-inflicted injury, he went ahead and defended the so-called company who was giving out this large sum of money to “Golden Customers!” Now, in my mind, the only word that was bouncing back and forth and to and fro was the word “IDIOT!” and in his mind; SPACE INVADERS!
“Free Money”, as I said, always comes at an expense, and can even bankrupt a person, and such is the case above because this chap is still trying to pay back the R20, 000.00 plus interest to the bank. The bank is smiling, the con-artist is smiling, and this guy still revelling in his shallow feeble-mindedness. And the worst part is that; he cannot bring himself to admit that he has been ripped off!
Now, let me move away from the gambling, even though money is still part of my train of thought here. The Bible says that, “… All the earth is the Lord’s and everything contained therein…” (Psalm 24:1, 1 Corinthians 10:26) and therefore, even the money that you think you own, even though you may very well have worked hard for, is only yours because God has given you grace and gifts and talents to be able to earn that money! Nevertheless, even “Your Money”, in fact, belongs to God, that is; if you honestly believe, embrace, and yield to the fact that, “All the earth is the Lord’s”. If that is your stance and your conviction then obviously your hard earned moola would then fall into the same category of belonging to the Lord.
However, just because I am not a gambler, it does not mean that I cannot draw an analogy from gambling and turn it into a spiritual and biblical truth. When a person plays the lottery, their hope is that they will win the lottery notwithstanding the fact that they know that their chance is one in 1 million or more. Why is this? It is because – and this is what most gamblers believe – all of their troubles will disappear, and quite ironically, so will their debt. Hmm; debt leading to debt? As false and as foolish as that truly is, allow me to flip the analogy around.
Have you ever heard of someone who wishes and hopes that someone else – a perfect stranger – would win the lottery? In other words, it is like me spending all my money on buying lottery tickets, but yet, my hope is that another person – someone I don’t know at all and do not care about it all – would win the lottery. Nuts, is it not? Ludicrous and beyond bizarre!
Allow me to unfold my analogy with a story out of God’s Holy Bible to make my point. In John chapter 17, we read an account of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer as it is better known to us Christians. Jesus starts off by thanking God for those who God has given to Him. Take special note that Jesus does not pray for the world at all but only for His own. The point is that God has chosen some to belong to Jesus whereas some, in God’s sovereign foresight and knowledge, He has not chosen but rather has rejected them! Why? As I said, and this may be rejected by many, but again, God is sovereign and with His sovereignty, He does as he pleases. I say this with much trepidation and deep concern because, after all, there are so many people that I personally care about who reject Christ out rightly, and there is nothing I can do about it at all except to continue praying for them.
But, and here is the “Big But”; this does not mean that we should give up hoping that He [God] will choose others. We do not have a clue who God has predestined for glory and who He has predestined for eternal damnation. But, as John 17:20 says, “… My prayer is not for them alone [those whom God has chosen already] but I pray also for those who will believe in me through their [our good news about Christ, the hope of glory] message…”
Again, no one knows who will come to believe in Christ even though many are presently rejecting His gift of grace and mercy and salvation which he offers freely, “… To whosoever would believe on Him…” (John 3:15-17, 5:24, 11:26). Many times, especially concerning those that we deeply care about, it doesn’t matter how much Christ-like love we show them and how much we preach God’s love story – His Word – their lives are so far from God and they continue to reject God assiduously. To make matters worse, it actually seems as if they are part of the predestined rejected ones.
However, the point is this; we hope against hope. Romans 4:18 says that, “… Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations…” In other words, the force of the preposition – believed in hope – gives you and I, as praying Christians, the meaning of “grounded his faith upon hope”. It is that subjective hope that was strong within Abraham’s heart even though there were no objective grounds for hoping! Even though we see people vehemently rejecting Christ and even revelling in their sin with a party-spirit, we are called to pray to our King – Jesus – for the salvation of their souls!
Now, as nuts as this may sound, and forgive me for this very bad comparison, but if salvation was a lottery (WHICH IT MOST DEFINITELY IS NOT) this is when you hope and wish that the other person will win that lottery. You have already won and so, you hope that they will win this time. To put it another way, and perhaps in a more Biblical way; salvation is freely given, but Jesus is our ultimate prize (Philippians 3:14). Salvation is not a lottery at all but it is of utmost importance for people’s eternal future. My conviction is this; we should be fasting and praying for those whom we love and can see that their lives are godless and spinning out of control. Yes, we should even be praying for our nation, but the point I’m trying to make is closer to home and forgive me for sounding selfish, but we also need to pray for those whom we love and care for. As crazy as this sounds, even within my own church, there are godless and unsaved people that, even though they faithfully and religiously come to church Sunday after Sunday, their lives are empty and void of the redeeming power and sanctification of Jesus Christ!
Yes, nations need to be prayed for and pleaded for before God but, what about those in our close proximity; those we speak to on a daily or weekly basis? What about them? What about their eternality? Just like Jesus prayed for His own, I believe that, with the same passion and fervency, we are meant to pray for our own as well! Do we sit back with perfect insouciance, hoping that the “Lottery” will come their way, or do we plead before our Father God for the salvation of their souls? I recently heard of a man who, after spending almost 50 years in Church, committed His life to Christ at the age of 70. What was he doing for all of that time? What was this man hearing for all of that time? Yet, suddenly, his eyes were opened, his heart was softened, and the glory of the saving grace of Christ shone into his heart and soul. For almost 50 years he revelled in religiosity but was as far from God as the east is from the west. He honoured God with his lips but yet his heart was far from God. (Isaiah 29:13, cf. Matthew 15:8, Mark 7:6)
“…Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us…”
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.