In case you haven’t heard, I did not win the lottery. I did not win because I did not purchase a ticket. I decided to keep my dollar. As one man said, “I went to Las Vegas recently. I lost my car, I lost my watch, I lost my money. I lost everything but my good-luck charm.”
Gambling is a serious issue in our society. Once restricted to such tourist destinations as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, its presence is becoming commonplace on cruise ships, Native American reservations and in convenience stores through state lotteries. There may even have been some office pools over the event last Sunday Night.
Even though it is acknowledged that recreational gambling takes money from the very people in our society who can least afford it and inevitably brings in its wake an element of unsavory behavior, it is promoted as a painless way to support schools and to fund other government programs. It has become part of the quick-fix, no-fault, minimum-commitment mentality that grips our society today.
Anyone who seriously follows Jesus though, gambles on God. When you put your life in God’s hands, God does not provide you with a written guarantee of safe passage through life. That’s what it means to walk by faith. “Faith,” says the writer of Hebrews, “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
If we know beyond all certainty what lies ahead for us, we are not living by faith. Faith is the courage to follow God’s leading even though the way ahead is uncertain and treacherous. There is a stairway at a church where I used to serve as a pastor that has this saying on the wall at the bottom of the stairs. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” When I visited he Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington D.C. I learned that it is one of his famous quotes.
We know about God today because of men and women who were holy gamblers, who believed in God and trusted God and sacrificed their time, their gifts, their resources and in some cases, their very lives. But they did it with only an assurance of things hoped for and a conviction of things unseen. So you could say that I am a gambler. But I choose to gamble only on the sure things…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. I choose to gamble on God.