Last fall, someone walked into Joe’s Service Center, a Mobile gas station in Altadena CA and bought a Powerball lottery ticket with the numbers 10 33 41 47 56 and 10. And when those numbers came upon Monday, November 7, the Powerball officials declared “we have a winner.”
Three months later, we still don’t know who that winner is. When you’ve hit the jackpot – in this case, the $2.04 billion dollar jackpot – it can take some time for everything to be officially vetted and for a winner to try to get his or her life ready for what is about to happen. And while it’s likely the winner will decide to settle for the lump sum cash payout – a mere $997.6 million – and will end up paying the government $206.9 million in taxes on the winnings, he or she will be busy for a while trying to figure out what to do with the nearly $800 million in take home earnings.
The winner beat the incredibly high odds. The chance of selecting the correct six numbers was calculated at roughly one in 292 million. And while we’re thinking about numbers, if the winner was able to somehow figure out how to spend $1 million a day every day for the next two years, he or she would still have more than $60 million left to live off of.
I have never purchased a lottery ticket. Not only do I understand that the odds are stacked against me, I’m also of a mind that I’m already sending enough money to the government every year. I’ll put the rest of my dollars to work somewhere else. And besides, if I won a big jackpot and my picture was on websites all over the world, who would really believe the pastor from Arkansas who swears up and down that the winning ticket was some kind of beginner’s luck!
Now, here’s a thought experiment for you. Let’s say you and I met at Chipotle for lunch and I told you an unbelievable story. Let’s say I pulled out of my pocket a piece of paper five sets of lottery numbers on them. And I told you that I the night before I had had the most vivid dream of my life. In my dream, it was February 13, 2023. And while I was online trying to figure out what to buy Mary Ann for Valentine’s Day, on a whim, I decided to pull up the Powerball numbers for the previous week. When I woke up from my dream, I found a piece of paper on my bedside table with the dates and numbers written on it.
At lunch, I told you I had a proposition for you. I would sell you my piece of paper with five days worth of winning numbers on it in exchange for everything you own. Since the current jackpot is $653 million, you’d be getting the deal of a lifetime. You give me everything you have and the next day, you’ll be rich beyond your wildest dreams. Are you in?
I can anticipate your hesitation. How can you know if my dream – and my numbers – are for real? That’s the best part, I explain. You don’t have to cash in everything for the first few days. I’ll put Monday’s numbers in a sealed envelope on Sunday night. When the numbers come up Monday night, we’ll open the envelope together and see if I actually had the winning numbers. And just to confirm, we’ll run the same test with Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s numbers. If after three days of testing, my sealed envelopes produce three days worth of winning numbers, we can make the deal at that point. Once you’re convinced I have the goods, you sign everything you have over to me and I’ll give you the last two numbers for the final two days of the game.
I know you’d still have a lot of questions for me. Why am I not keeping the numbers for myself? Am I running some kind of con here? Most things that sound too good to be true wind up actually being too good to be true, right?
But if you trust me, and if my numbers are legit, and if you’re willing to sign over everything you have to me, your life will change in an instant in a pretty dramatic way.
If my thought experiment was about a jewelry box full of pearls instead of lottery numbers, would you be more likely to make the deal?
“The kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said, “is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45–46)
As you likely know, things don’t often turn out good for the people who win a lottery jackpot. According to reporter Andrew Lisa, “The odds of winning the Mega Millions or Powerball are slim, but the odds of your life devolving into chaos if you somehow pull it off are actually quite good.” David Lee Edwards is a prime example. Five years after he won a $27 million jackpot, the Kentuckian was penniless and living in a storage shed with his wife. He died alone and broke before he reached is 59th birthday.
We can’t know what will happen to the man or woman who bought the winning Powerball ticket at Joe’s Service Center last November. Maybe he’ll beat the odds and figure out how to manage his new life and his new wealth. But for most people, giving up all you have for even a sure-fire mega millions jackpot is a dangerous bet.
Giving up all you have for citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven? That’s a whole different story. As millions of people will tell you, that’s a sure-fire, no-lose proposition. All you have to do is trust the One who is making the offer, sign over your life and watch what happens.
As I shared on Sunday, Karen Houk is out of the hospital and resting more comfortably at home. She has been diagnosed with a rare form of non-bacterial pneumonia, and her doctors have her on a treatment plan that will take several months to complete.
While she’s recovering from all her tests and procedures, there is a meal train that has been set up for Rick and Karen. You can click here and select a date when you’d like to provide a meal. Thanks in advance for your care for the Houks!
As you know from past newsletters, this weekend is the D-Now weekend for our Jr. High and Sr. High students. Please remember to pray for them and for the leaders who are putting everything together.
And plan to bring an appetite and some extra cash with you on Sunday. The students will have a table full of goodies for sale for a donation of any amount. All proceeds will go for summer missions projects in which the students will be involved.
SUPER EVENTS – super bowl wkend
|And while we’re on the subject of food, don’t forget the upcoming Soup-er Bowl Supper happening right after church on Super Bowl Sunday, February 12.|
|And the night before the game, plan to gather with others from RCC for a fun couple of hours of Super Bowling! Click here to sign up.|
|Ladies, you’re invited to a Women’s Gathering happening later this month at Jen Gurney’s home.|
|Meanwhile, men, we have a couple of food and fellowship events of our own happening soon. |
Next Tuesday evening, February 7, our First Tuesday men’s gathering at the church. Come for Goulash at 6:15. We’ll talk together about the marks of sanctified masculinity starting at 7:00.
|Then on Saturday morning, February 18, we’ll have our next Men’s Breakfast. Let us know if you’re planning to attend by signing up (it’s free!).|
|And it’s not too early to sign up now for the Men’s Spring Retreat, March 24-25. There are only 30 slots available. Pastor Jeff Terrell from Ascend Church in Kansas City will be our speaker. We’ll be getting away to the Cross Heirs Retreat Center an hour east of Little Rock.|
HAPPY 15TH ANNIVERSARY!
|It was 15 years ago this week when a group of about 60 people gathered together on a Saturday night to explore the idea of starting a new church in Little Rock. A week later, on February 9, Redeemer Community Church had its first worship service. This Sunday, we’ll take a few minutes during our morning worship to look back at our beginnings and to think about what God might have for us in the years to come.|
We’ll also be back in John’s Gospel, exploring what happens when stiff necked and hard-hearted people decide to put on trial the innocent and merciful Son of God, who calls them to acknowledge their sin, turn from it and follow Him. The injustice is staggering.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!