Yesterday I stopped off at a newsagents to pick some sweets for my course delegates. I went to pay and stood behind woman in her late 40’s and watched as she counted the last pound of change she had in 5p, 2p and 1p pieces and then asked for ‘a number 9’ looking towards the cabinet of brightly coloured National Lottery scratch cards.
After I paid, I went back to the car, and saw I was parked face to face with the same lady So I watched her as she scratched her card. Her face fell, her hope had gone and off she drove into her day.
A familiar story. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this happen, in fact it’s what you would see most times people do this – that’s just the way the odds are stacked.
Why do people buy scratch cards and lotto tickets? Hope. A hope that against all odds, the jackpot will come, a hope kept alive by the one person in millions who does hit the jackpot, but never dashed by the millions of people who are simply sponsoring the prize-fund.
Hope, the same as faith is only ever as good as the thing that you put your hope or faith in.
Today, there are so many things trying to draw our faith and our hope. The lottery offers hope to many. They look to a day when their financial worries will be gone. A day when they can escape the shackles of an oppressive boss. A day when earthly problems can cease. For the majority, they’ll lose more than they ever get back. Just buying a ticket a week for the 18 years since the National Lottery in the UK would have cost over £900. Could you use £900 today?
Yet, people need to hope. They need something or someone to put their hope in.
In Psalm 146, the writer tells us not to put our trust in princes – they can’t save and one day they’ll die, returning to dust. We can put our hope and our faith in one another, but we’ll let each other down. Husbands let wives down, parents let children down, friends let friends down, colleagues let colleagues down and in the church, Christians will let other Christians down – quite badly at times.
Hope and faith are only as good as the things that we put them in. The Bible says of Jesus Christ, the Son of God:
For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
(1 Peter 2:6 ESV)
When we believe in something in the way this verse is referring to, we put our hope into it and God tells us that if we put our hope in Jesus Christ, we’ll never be put to shame.
Paul explained to the Romans in his letter why this is:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:1-11 ESV)
God promises to us that our hope in Jesus is not futile. Unlike the lottery or anyone or anything else, it will never let us down and it’s promise of a life that will ultimately exceed any expectation that we could ever have of an abundant life. Hope in Jesus Christ also promises an escape from the punishment of eternal death that we justly deserve. Instead, rather than standing before God as guilty convicts, we are told that Jesus will present us ‘Blameless’ into the presence of the Father with’ Exceeding joy’.
I don’t buy lottery tickets – I know Christians who do, but my hope is in God through Jesus Christ.
I trust him for provision in this life and I trust him for salvation for eternity. When Christians hand over that pound, and take the lotto ticket, they diminish God and declare to Him that He can not provide for their needs. They raise the National lottery as a God above Him and look to it rather than Him to be their provider. The Bible calls than an idol or another god.
For everyone else, there is a hope that will never let you down, never put you to shame and promise you more than anything or anyone ever could in this life or the next.
His name is Jesus Christ.
He loves you, He died for you and He will save you if you trust in Him, so that one day He can present you, blameless into the presence of God the Father with exceeding joy.