Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:18-22)
Gambling is a growing reality in our culture. People often allocate significant money to play blackjack, the lottery, or bet on football games. The Super Bowl alone this year saw a guestimated 200 million people bet more than $10 billion. That is a lot of mullah/dough/jack/cheese/green backs. Betting is a big part of our culture and always has been. Every one of the original 13 colonies had lotteries to cover the cost of war, start institutions of higher learning, and/or just for plain old American greed purposes through horse racing, cock fighting or playing cards in back alleys and taverns. If you have never laid a bet on something, rest assured that someone in your family tree has. Betting is an American tradition.
This blog is not about betting for gain though. It is about betting against yourself hoping that your bet “pays off.” That is to say, hoping that you personally fail so that you succeed as a gambler and win at betting against yourself.
(Stay with me for a minute. I’ll get us somewhere.)
Our flesh is weak. Sin is strong. We are lured by the thought of moments of ecstasy (or at least jubilation) through sex, money, experience, and power grabs. Quite often we can’t help ourselves. We are out of control. We know that those things should not be our objects of desire and satisfaction, but they are anyway. We need a new plan to stay out of trouble with our flesh. We have bet on ourselves to be able to handle everything in life, but we have lost every time. We need a new bet.
Highly detestable social sins aside, we are equally weak. We are full of pride, full of envy, prone to gluttony. We don’t easily face our inbred racism, and we likely are ignorant and/or indifferent of our classist ways. We love Jesus, but we hate the church. We believe in the truth of God, but we are suspicious of the scriptures. We want to be good, but perfection seems like an unreasonable goal. We are selfish, selfish, SELFISH! We need a new plan to overcome who we are. We have bet on ourselves to win at the Christian life, but we make very little progress on our own. We need a new bet.
Abraham is the father of our faith tradition (not Adam, not Noah, not Methuselah, etc.) because he bet against himself. He knew who he was. He knew his limitations. He knew his tendencies. He knew that on his best day he was not up to the task of helping himself, creating a name for his legacy, and especially not able to save himself from a life of meaningless toil. The hope he had in himself was not enough to prevent the weight of the world from crashing in on him. He needed a new bet.
He bet on God because he believed deeply in God; deeply enough for him to pack up and head out to “a place God would show him.” He bet against himself and against life as he knew it so that God’s way/will could prevail in his life. He bet against his ability to bring forth a child and trusted in God’s promise, making it possible for his seed to be the seedling sect for all faith in YHWH. His “hope against hope” was the staking of his everything on God while abandoning anything he had in himself. He bet against his need to know where he was going and figured God knew the route best. His hope could no longer be on him or on Sarah. He would have to hope against himself and hope in something else. His new bet was on God. And he bet well.
Ultimately, betting on God is not about right or wrong. It is not about winning or losing. It is not about heaven or hell. It is not about Israel or America. It is not about getting or giving. It is about faith. It is about hope. It is about love. And most importantly, betting on God is about Jesus, because when we bet on God to pick us up and carry us out, we get His answer in the life and ministry of Jesus – His son, our Lord. It is Jesus who pays off any debt we owe, and it is Jesus who tears apart the bounty death puts on us. Betting on Jesus to win the game of life is the only winning ticket we all can purchase. Check that: HE made the purchase. We just cash in the claim ticket.
“Jesus is so unbearably forgiving, so infinitely patient and so unendingly loving that He provides us with the resources we need to live lives of gracious response.” (Brennan Manning from The Ragamuffin Gospel)
Most of the time, we need a new bet in life just to make it through the day. My advice to you is to bet against yourself. I am betting against me. Let’s bet on God. He will bring the biggest paydays we have ever known. Father Abraham will be our witness.
For Lent 2 / March 1, 2015