Lately there’s been an advertisement on the television here in France for the lottery. One couple wins and takes a trip around the world. Another man buys a big house and car with his winnings and still another one purchases the business he works for (but keeps his boss). You see what happens when you win the lottery!
The eminent “philosopher” P.T. Barnum once said something tremendously insightful, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” The cartoon cat, Garfield, wisely observed, “It’s amazing some of the things that people would rather have than money.” A lottery ticket for example.
Chances of winning the lottery rank right up there with receiving a personal email from the Man in the Moon. Yet people spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year hoping to win the lottery.
And there are a lot of happy winners of the lottery—the sponsors mostly. They grin widely as the suckers—excuse me—“players” line up.
Justin Wilson once told the story of a man who raffled off a dead mule. No one knew it was dead, though, except the owner. He sold 400 tickets at $2 a ticket. Minus $20 for printing the tickets and $50 for the original price of the mule before he died, the lottery sponsor made $730 on his project.
“Bet you made a lot of people mad,” someone observed.
“No, just one. And I gave him his money back.”
Humans play the lottery because they love to hope.
There’s at least three kinds of hope. There’s wild and crazy hope. People don’t pay $5 to win the lottery. They pay $5 to hope like crazy. And at the end all they had was the thrill of hoping a minute and the worthless lottery ticket in their hand.
This kind of hope can eventually sour you on the hoping business.
Then there’s hard-work hope. These people want to accomplish something in life so they put everything they have into it. Their body sweats, they deprive themselves to reach their goal, but during the whole process they’re buoyed by the image of what they hope to accomplish.
This is a lot more substantial than the lottery. Says the New York Times in a New Year’s Eve editorial, “Who can live without fresh intentions, new purposes? Who does not welcome a chance to start over, if only on a new page of the calendar? Life goes on, but it goes on so much better with hope and renewal and recommitment.”
Then there’s God-based hope. Hope in this case is joined at the hip with faith. This is not an “I-hope-I-win-the-lottery” hope or an “I-hope-I-catch-some-fish” hope. It goes beyond a “work hard for your dreams” hope.
It’s a powerful conviction in the center of us that God’s promises are true.
He’s promised forgiveness of sins so I repent and put my confidence in Jesus.
He’s promised eternal life and I’m living down here with the conviction that something even better is on the way.
He’s promised to come back and I live my life, influenced by the promise.
He’s promised to take care of me so when I’m in need I turn to Him with my whole heart and present my needs to Him.
He promised He would never leave me or forsake me so I have hope, even in the darkest situations.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13, NIV)
“Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!” writes Eugene Peterson in the Message.
Hope in Christ is even more tangible and powerful than hard-working human hope, though these two are often linked and honestly, where you find hope in Christ you find a hand-working “hoper” living his life with the joy of what he will receive.
And hope in the lottery?
If you believe in that I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to sell you.
“Our lives end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
– Martin Luther