A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH, Sunday, January 15, 2023.
For the “Live in Church” audio of this message, click here.
Do you believe there is such a thing as luck? (Don’t answer too quickly. Let’s think about this for a moment.)
Do you believe that there is good luck? How about bad luck?
Since words do mean things, it’s good to define them to alleviate any misunderstanding.
Merriam-Webster has definitions for luck, as a noun:
A force that brings good fortune or adversity, as in “luck was a big factor in the outcome.”
The events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual, as in “the loser muttered something about bad luck.” 1
So what do we know about luck thus far? What we do know, even before concluding if it is a real thing or not, we know that we have no control over outcomes—whether they are good or bad. No control whatsoever. We commonly refer to it as good luck and bad luck. In our flesh, we want to believe that we can move the needle of luck in our favor by doing a little extra work or putting in the effort. More often than not, it’s all about the money.
In the realm of game shows, there is a person that became famous for his accomplishment on a daytime television game show. Michael Larson was, by all accounts, an underachiever. He went to college and never finished, and he didn’t seem to have much of a drive to do anything outside of taking care of himself. He did get certification to repair air conditioners, and during summers he drove an ice cream truck. But he did dream of getting rich, and getting rich in a hurry. He saw that there were a number of people on game shows who won cash and prizes, and he decided to make it a personal hobby to study game shows in order to see how he could make some money. He got a number of televisions and VCRs and set them up in his living room so that, when he was at home, he could record and watch all of the daytime game shows to see if there was a way that he could gain an edge if he ever went on a game show. After a few weeks of looking, he settled on one game show that was relatively new (it began in September 1983), but it also paid out a lot of money very quickly. He studied (ironically) the game show called “Press Your Luck.”
The concept of the game was simple. There was a big board with lights and panels that revealed various items of cash and prizes, but there was also the Whammy, which closely resembled a cartoonish version of the devil. If you landed on a Whammy, it would take away any prizes you had won at that point. What Larson discovered, after days of watching his tapings of the show, was that the big board was operated by a randomizer, and the lights on the board followed, at that time, a simplistic pattern. He also discovered that the specific panel that randomized the large dollar amounts never contained a Whammy. Larson managed to memorize the board’s light pattern, for it was always the same exact order. He knew that, with this edge, he could literally press his luck and come out on top, but not just win the game, but win big money.
In May, 1984, Larson spent most of his life savings to fly to Los Angeles for an audition to get on Press Your Luck. Larson’s persona was a little creepy to the screeners, and they were inclined not to allow him to get on the show, but interestingly, the show’s executive producer, Bill Carruthers, viewed Larson as a sympathetic person who needed a chance to win some money. Larson was added as a contestant, and he proceeded to win $110,237 (today’s equivalent of about $287,000). At the time, it was the largest one-game total ever won on a game show. He pocketed $104,000 in cash.
A person might call Mr. Larson very lucky. Not long after his return home, he got a job as an assistant manager at Walmart, and he was something of a local celebrity. His taste of good fortune only seemed to fuel his greed. Within two years of winning the money, Larsen wound up losing all of it on a number of failed schemes, a failed marketing company that he ran from his home and bad investments. He was also robbed of half of his money, about $50,000 in singles, when his home was burglarized. He fled from Ohio to Florida to stay ahead of the IRS and law enforcement due to his role in an internet fraud scheme. Larson died of throat cancer in 1999 at the age of 49. 2
Was Michael Larson lucky? After hearing his story, you might say, “yes, but only for a moment.” His legacy is that he managed to beat the system, but his winnings, in perspective, were gone as quickly as they came.
Our lesson here is that there are also eternal consequences that come into play.
Mark 8:34-37 NLT
34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he (Jesus) said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul?
Luck is very much a real thing from a worldly perspective. If you haven’t already figured it out, luck doesn’t lead to anything that lasts. I challenge you to consider that God does not have anything to do with luck. When it comes to our personal experiences, I want you to always consider the brief phrase, “God allows.”
God allows things to happen to us for a number of reasons, but the most important one is that He wants us to draw closer to Him in both good times and bad. It is not about good luck or bad luck because He does not subscribe to those things. His ways are certainly mysterious, but He allows these things to happen to us to reveal to us His very nature. What is His nature?
1. God is love. He loves us, and His nature is reflected in His will, and it is always best for us.
2. God is omniscient, which means He is all-knowing. His guidance and direction is always right for us.
3. God is omnipotent, which means He is all-powerful. He can accomplish anything, and He can enable you to accomplish His will through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Each of these traits of His nature operate outside of luck. God demonstrates His nature in that He is in complete control and authority over your life. He allows things to happen, but He enables us to be able to deal with these things, both good and bad, as they happen. He enables us to reflect His power and presence in our life before others. He gives us the desire to look to Him, declare that you want to be obedient to Him and to follow His will for your life.
Some of us don’t seem to understand that God does not have a favorite football team or a rooting interest. While you and I may have a favorite team, God does not. In fact, He does not play favorites. He does, however, acknowledge those who follow Him, trust Him and believe in Him.
Acts 10:34-36 NLT
34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. 36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
Romans 2:9-11 NLT
9 There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.
Let’s go a little deeper into God’s nature by looking at verses within Psalm 139. We’ll see how luck is not a factor when it comes to our own existence.
God’s love for us begins with His presence and continues within the building of a relationship with Him. We were not products of luck when He created us. We are a product of His will and His purpose for us.
Psalm 139:13-16 NLT
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
This doesn’t sound like luck to me. You’re here because God loves you and wants you to be here.
God knows all about you.
Psalm 139:1-6 NLT
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
God goes before you in every aspect of your life—to the finest of details. He enables you to follow a course and a path that you have already determined. In spite of what happens as we go through our life experiences, we are already blessed because of the relationship that we have with Jesus. When we utter the words, “my life is in Your hands,” we are declaring truth.
God’s nature also helps us to be sensitive to His will for our life. Rather than relying upon lucky breaks or trying to game the system in our favor, our prayer life should be the first go-to item as we move forward. The Holy Spirit will help you to identify and discard those things that are fleshly and draw upon His will and purpose as you rely upon Him. He just wants you to ask Him:
Psalm 139:23-24 NLT
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
There’s no need to rely upon luck when you have Jesus as your life companion. He loves you, He knows all about you, and if you believe in Him, He has complete control over your destiny leading to eternal life. He shows His love for us because He provided a Savior for us.
John 3:16 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
All of our outcomes may not be what we want, but knowing that He loves us makes all the difference. His love for us compels us to love others, as well. It is His will for our lives that we love others. He desires for us to have a relationship with Him—that is His will for us, and as we serve Him, we are living out His will before others.
1 John 4:19 ESV
We love because he first loved us.
John 13:34-35 ESV
34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Remember that God allows things in your life, and while some of those things are unexplainable, all of them are purposeful. Your life has purpose, and it is up to you to seek God to gain wisdom and knowledge of Him as you learn more about who you are in Him.
God allows. But most importantly, God is love, He is all-knowing, and He is all-powerful. You can’t go wrong when you believe and trust in Jesus. He loves you and wants you to share your life with Him.
Joshua 1:5 ESV
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
Copyright © 2023 Melvin Gaines
1 Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Luck. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/luck
2 Wikipedia contributors. (2022, September 3). Michael Larson. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:42, January 9, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Michael_Larson&oldid=1108214804