“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
The other day I accompanied a buddy of mine to a trade show held at a casino.
I am not a gambler, but one thing I have noticed in my limited history with casinos is that there is often a stark difference between casino advertisements and the actual scene at the casino itself.
Often I’ll drive by billboards or notice other casino promotions that depict a group of people having just a cavalcade of fun. It might be around the craps or blackjack table, but in each case the person or persons playing are always celebrating that winning hand or roll of the dice. Oftentimes there are very attractive women in the advertisement who seem to be enjoying themselves as well.
And I often laugh, because my, how different my experience with casinos has been.
(Before I dive into the deep end, please allow me to say this: this is not an article to bash casinos or make people feel bad about gambling. Further, the last thing I want to do is to be presumptuous about why someone might go to a casino in the first place or what might be the driving force behind someone’s decision to play the slots. All I am doing is talking about what I perceived, and how this relates to our walk with God.)
So anyway, we pulled up to the casino and toured the trade show. After an hour or two, we broke for lunch, which was held inside the casino. To get there, we had to walk by hundreds of slot machines. Of course, they were blinking and making noises that sounded like money.
I could almost feel myself winning. I imagined pulling that lever and hundreds of coins tumbling to the floor. I imagined going back to my wife and saying, “Honey, look! We can pay our mortgage with this!”
As I continued to weave through the slots, I walked by several people who were playing. Because it was just after noon, the casino wasn’t crowded, and because of that I was able to notice each person individually. One by one, I looked at their faces, and in many of them I noticed something.
I noticed lifelessness.
There was a despondency I perceived as they sat in their stools and waited for a favorable combination: 777, three cherries, BAR BAR BAR, etc.
The face of one man in particular struck me. I studied him for a few seconds as I walked by, his face cloaked with hopelessness.
It was almost as if he wore the realization that the jackpot might never come.
I wanted so badly to go over to him and say, “Your life can be so much more than this!” “It doesn’t have to be this way!”
I don’t know why I didn’t. I guess I was scared to.
You know, I think many of us struggle with finding purpose in life. We wonder why we are put here on this earth and often pass through this odd corridor merely existing and not really living. Life is reduced to a series of insignificant events strung together over a number of years and then you die and are never seen or heard from again.
Some even believe that life means absolutely nothing. What a cold and despondent space we live in, some must think.
For many years, I lived on the edge of that lifelessness and despair. I wondered where God was in the midst of my circumstances. My heart was cold as a Moscow winter. I found little purpose in life and eventually got to a point where I didn’t care if I lived or died. I was like that man who was sitting in front of the slot machine—worse, even.
Over time, I have discovered there is a flipside to that coin. Life can have purpose and meaning. We don’t have to spend our lives sitting around waiting on the jackpot or the winning lottery ticket. Our lives are not dependent on chance, but rather a simple choice.
Many years ago I trusted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I strayed from him for a long while, but over time, God has slowly pulled me back. One of the things I have discovered through this refining process is that my life has infinite value and purpose. The fact that I’m writing this article right now, encouraging others to follow Jesus, is evidence of that.
Similarly, your life does have value and purpose. Your life means something. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the Creator of this universe cares for you.
You don’t have to pass through this world merely existing, perched in front of the slot machine of life, hoping to hit the jackpot.
If there is any redeeming quality to this article, I hope it is this: to help you realize there is another way. Your life can be different.
By the realization that we’ve already struck gold. The coins tumbled two thousand years ago when Jesus Christ died for us. With that selfless act, Jesus simultaneously provided a route to heaven and a way to an abundant life here on this earth. He didn’t die so our lives could be perpetually spent pulling a lever, going through the drudgery of motions until we are plugged 6 feet under.
He did so we can have life, and have it to the full.
This is supposed to be good news. This is supposed to be met with hallelujahs, yet we have failed to take hold of this special life. Why? Because we allow our circumstances to dictate our attitude, instead of Jesus dictating our attitude. Why? Because we have become distracted with lifeless pursuits, instead of the edifying pursuit of a life glorifying and serving a risen Lord.
Why? Because we settle for a slow drip when we can have the fountain.
When we believe in Jesus, a sense of purpose, worth, value, and meaning is immediately installed into our life. We don’t have to search for it. We don’t have to wait for the numbers to line up or the right combination of a spinning wheel. All we have to do is believe we have won and cash in our winning ticket.
The jackpot is Christ.
Praise God that our redeemer lives! Hallelujah and hallelujah! 78
Al Blanton is the owner and publisher of Blanton Media Group. He is not on Twitter.