We were there just for the weekend. A sort of impromptu New Year's retreat. Just the two of us. We had had a lovely day filled with a little shopping, a little relaxation and had topped it off with dinner at the best Chinese restaurant on the island. We were now heading back to the hotel - satisfied and content - but, he said, there was one stop he wanted to make.
As we pulled up to the gas station, I could see them. Cars haphazardly parked in both lanes. People lined up to the back of the convenience store. The place was abuzz.
But there was to be no pumping of gas at this station. For right now, there was a greater demand, a more urgent 'need', an opportunity that could not be passed - a chance to change your life, to be free of all your problems, to finally live as you pleased - a chance... to buy the winning powerball ticket and make history.
Who wouldn't jump at the chance? Or rather, who would?
As we pulled away from the packed station, I wondered about it all and I pondered.
The word trickled through my mind.
This is my 'one-word' God had laid on my heart for 2016. And it had come as a surprise. There were other words. Words I felt I could learn from - grow with. But they were not to be my word, for no peace had come until... Thirsty. The word thundered through my thoughts like a roaring waterfall. Thirsty.
People are thirsty. We are all thirsty.
Thirsty for what?
For freedom. Freedom from the growing piles of bills... freedom from being trapped in jobs we do not like... freedom from living by others' rules... freedom to live as we choose... to live where we want... eat what we want... freedom to do as we please... freedom from all life's problems.
Yes, freedom... we are thirsty for freedom. And... for control. Freedom and control... they go hand in hand. We can't lose or gain one without losing or gaining the other. To some extent.
I remember it well. The time I lost all control.
Everything was going well. I had excelled in and finished well my college education; I was making strides in my new post at work. We had been married for several years and were expecting our first child. Life was rosy, until...
In my 14th week of pregnancy I started experiencing contractions. What followed was six months of bed rest/reduced activity and a battle to hold on to my need for control. I felt completely helpless. This was a new experience for me. There was nothing I could do. I had no control. It was perhaps one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life.
But God in His mercy blessed us tremendously and used this difficult time as a period of incredible growth in my faith. As I drank thirstily from His word, I came to accept that I never ever did have control. It was all just a farce. I came to accept God's ultimate control in my life and in His world. It truly was a turning point for me.
And winning that jackpot just might be the ticket. It might give us the freedom and control we so desperately thirst for. And with all that freedom and control might come the real goal - happiness. That ever elusive state - Happiness - the state where we can lie down and sleep and have no fear of tomorrow... where we can feel wholly accepted and loved for who we... where we can live life to the full.
Is it really possible? Could a winning $3.00 ticket hold the key to happiness? Think about it. Can more money than I've ever dreamed of guarantee my happiness?
No, my friends. It simply can not. Even if you won the jackpot, paid all your bills and bought all that your heart desires... you will still be thirsty. A deep 'tongue-sticking-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth' kind of thirst. A thirst that will never go away until...
God in His mercy fills you up with His Living Water. Then miraculously you thirst no more. You are satisfied. Content. Filled with peace.
And the best part is... it is absolutely free. You don't have to purchase a ticket and hope that you win. You simply get to say 'Yes'. Yes to the life-giving invitation... Yes, to the thirst-quenching good news that Jesus took my place and suffered the wrath of God... the wrath that I deserved. Yes, to the freedom that I am granted because of His victory over sin and the grave. Yes, to living my 'believe'.
No...your bills might not go away...life doesn't necessarily become easy... but there is this peace... a peace that can not be found in a billion dollars... a peace that surpasses all understanding... an assurance that your 'real' problem... the problem of your separation from God has been resolved.
"and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7
And then there is this outpouring of the Spirit's power in your life... blossoming within you as various fruit of the Spirit... among them the ability to practice self-control. And self-control my friends is the best kind of control. The power to control your reactions to what comes into your life cannot be understated. Everything else, my friends, is under God's control... but thankfully we can trust Him... and with that trust... that faith... that believing in the One who is Enough...we can be happy.
This is real love--not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:10
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10b
How's that for a jackpot?
What about you? Everyday you have a choice.
What are you saying 'Yes' to?
'Yes' to the eternally refreshing invitation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Or, 'Yes' to the mouth-drying, temporal promises of this world?
I invite you to listen to the invitation sung beautifully in
Casting Crown's Come to the Well. May you be blessed.