Gameshows and Faith: Deal or No Deal

A few years back, when Deal or No Deal came out, my wife and I would watch it to see how far the contestants would go in their quest for a million dollars.  While they would choose one case out of 20 (or was it 30) to keep by their side, they would narrow the choices down by picking several cases at a time, all the while hoping that they would not choose cases with higher dollar amounts.  The banker would then try to make them a deal so that they would quit the game and leave with his chosen dollar amount.  Often, the banker’s deal wasn’t very favorable.   As long as there was a chance to get even more money, they often moved forward in their risky guesses. 

I’ve spoken with a lot of people during this economic recession who have lost their jobs and are struggling financially.  They have been feeling like failures, rejected from employers and feeling as if they had even been rejected by God…They do not think that they have been given a good deal from God (i.e. Banker).  Suffering seems like a lousy deal.  I know that there have been times in my life where I have felt the same way.  We can all have a tendency to look at our circumstances that God chose for us (or allowed) and say, “No deal, God.  I want a new deal…so I’m going to keep going in my direction, do what I want to do, make some more guesses, and see what happens…because that Million dollar prize of happiness is not far off.”  In our frustration, we may close the door to His deal, often becoming angry at God for the circumstances He has allowed us to be in.  What are these circumstances?  Chronic sickness.  Financial debt.  Loneliness.  A spouse leaving.  Being overweight.  Saying “No Deal” to God is like saying I will not be happy or content with your choices for my life.   Trust for God is certainly in question.

The banker in the gameshow does what is best for the banker, but he gives the contestant a choice to trust him or “luck.”  God, on the other hand, does what is best for you.  In His love He gives you a choice (you can’t have love without choice) to trust Him or yourself.  Even though the situation or circumstance seems difficult and God does not seem to be coming through, you still have a decision to make.  Will you trust Him?  Will you trust in His character and His promise to make all things good (Rom 8:28)?  If so, take the deal!!  If you will choose not to trust Him (in His character and promises), then you will be saying “no deal” to the One who loves you enough to send His Son to take away your sins on the cross and you will be taking your chances on your own….but “no deal” does not result in reward, but in further worry, restlessness, loneliness, despair, and discontentment (among many other things).  You are taking matters into your own hands…and that itself has many risks.

Paul states in Philipians 4 that he has learned the secret in being content in all circumstances (even the ones that involved suffering!), “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  We may not choose our circumstances, but God allows them to transform us to the image of Christ (Rom 8:28-29).  Do you trust him?  Take the deal my friends.  Whatever He offers you…whatever He puts on your plate to go through…He will accomplish His purposes in you, and your life will be more fulfilled.  God is trustworthy.  Deal (peace, contentment, more like Christ “Not as I will, but as you will“) or no deal (anger, fear, worry, etc.)?  Your choice.

Life Lessons From A Seagull: Part 3

You can’t go to the Jersey Shore without walking on the boardwalk and partaking in the many healthy delicacies it offers.  And while walking the boardwalk, you just can’t go without having the frozen custard, the famous pizza, or the french fries before you leave.  To do so just wouldn’t be right. It would feel like something was missing from your visit there…that in order to have had your fill or for your visit to be complete, you must have the necessary ingredients: custard, pizza & fries.  At least that’s what I think.   Perhaps you have a different set of ingredients for your boardwalk fill.

I think the Jersey Shore Gulls think same thing…They just can’t go to the boardwalk without having their fill….of french fries.  With the same boldness they exhibit while taking sandwiches (see Part 1), their minds are set on the Fries of Life.  If you ask me, I think the seagulls were addicted to fries.  I really do.  As I visited the shore throughout my childhood, I remember the seagulls swooping down to grab hold of these fries from unsuspecting tourists.   Some tourists, so amused by the seagulls’ behavior, would encourage the gulls by throwing them a fry or holding a fry out for them to take.  I remember thinking: “What are they thinking?! Don’t they know that when you feed one, others will come?! Helloooooo?!”

When we think of addictions, we often think of others being addicted to crack, cocaine, alcohol, chocolate, pills, or whatever.  But if we think about it more, all of us struggle with some kind of addiction.  It might be an addiction to any substance, but at the very least, because of our sin nature, we struggle with the addiction of me (placing ourselves (what we want, etc.) above God).  We may often think, “If only I can get that one thing, that fry, then I will have what I need and be happy.”  As Christians, we know that this is an endless pursuit, but we may still live for it.  We often seek after people’s praise, work for material things, eat certain tasty foods, or whatever to get that high or sense of gratification, only to long for it again real soon.  Like feeding the seagull, feeding it only results in more hungry seagulls.  Getting our desires filled by things in this world will also result in more of a hunger for worldly things, and yet we would never be satisfied.

I’m reminded of the Woman at the Well (John 4), where Jesus shares with her that he is the living water and that if she takes the water he offers, she will never be thirsty again.  He then goes on to tell her her history of relationships with men.  What is the connection between his living water and her history with men?  I think Jesus was telling her that she was “looking for love in all the wrong places.”  I believe Jesus was telling her that he was the one who will complete her, who will fill her with the love that she needs.  These men in her life were french fries…they would fill her for a little while, but their love was not meant to fill her or to bring her life.  Nothing will fill us like the living water…like a genuine, honest, and heartfelt relationship with Jesus Christ. 

The Jersey Shore Gulls will never know about this, so they will go on taking sandwiches and feeding their addiction to fries, but they will never be truly filled.  Hopefully we won’t be so gullible and do the same. 

* Seagull artwork by Arlene Miller (Fred’s Aunt)