I once met a couple who won a lottery. They were ordinary people in a small town, and no-one would call them especially good-looking or interesting, they were just the neighbors. Before they won, they worked at jobs, and the cost of living was low in the small town. I think they had children and I’m sure their bills were all paid. After they won, they invested their winnings in expensive horses. They did not invest in each other, but they had to travel to the bank together to take out money, so they still had a relationship. I don’t know how anyone can make money on horses, and by now the money is probably gone. My best advice is, ‘Go back to work, that’s where you were successful.’
A woman in Canada won the lottery, one thousand dollars a week, for life. And guess how she is spending her money? She is not into investments, expensive jewellery, or sports cars. I made that up, but she is not doing what we expect.
She decided that the best option was to give the money away. That is her success.
I go to to a church that looks successful. I know they have a big mortgage, but they are paying all those bills and their big building is full.
On Sunday, the place is like an ant hill with a small army of workers, from the preacher and the music leaders, to the children’s workers, and the ushers and parking lot attendants. They have high-end video and audio, with a team of technicians, and a fake smoke maker. I could do without that mist in the building, it feels like the place is on fire, but someone likes it, and makes it work.
In that church, success looks like hard work and meticulous management. How is that spiritual?
In my life, I remember times when I asked God to help me when I was struggling. I remember being disappointed when the answer to my prayers was a job that I didn’t like. I received more struggle, with a bossy supervisor, and a small paycheck; you probably have your own stories. It’s almost like God wants us to struggle.
A few days ago, it finally hit me. God wants us to struggle. Success is something we build, not something we win; and that is a spiritual lesson.
And then I thought, ‘but the children of Israel escaped from slavery in Egypt, and travelled to their promised land, the land of milk and honey.’
The Bible is clear, God said “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) To me, that sounds like winning the lottery.
Those few days ago, I finally saw this truth: How do we get milk? No, not from the dairy cooler, but from a cow or a goat, or some other large animal. First, care for the animal from birth, and milk it when you can, and then pick up a shovel and clean up the barn. How is that hard work and struggle a good thing?
Honey is more on the management side. Bees work hard to make their honey, and they fight to keep it. So, God gave His people a painful struggle with a large cloud of angry stinging insects. Manage that carefully, for sure.
In Egypt, things were not so bad. Yes, for a few years one Pharaoh was cruel, but the weather was always sunny in the desert, and the food was great. The people complained bitterly about their escape to the promised land:
“Meanwhile, the rabble among them had a strong craving for other food, and again the Israelites wept and said, “Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish we ate freely in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now our appetite is gone; there is nothing to see but this manna!”” (Numbers 11: 4, 5, and 6)
They realized that they had given up their lottery winnings for a life of hard work and careful management. They asked God for a miracle and He gave them a shovel. That is truth I need to know.
We have a future when we struggle and build. The lie in this world is that success comes when we win easily. Real success is something we build, and God is good, He will supply the tools. In the end, we get to see that happy family, that prosperous church, or maybe that successful business. If we can look at our calloused hands and say ‘I built that.’ we can also say ‘God is so good!’
“What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil; this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 9 to 13)