How I Won the Lottery — and You Can Too!

No, I didn’t win the lottery you’re thinking of. But I have won something even better.

Let me explain…

Years ago I was driving down the road, reflecting on a TV interview of Bill Gates I’d heard a few days earlier. Gates clearly is a remarkable guy, and the interview discussed how he founded Microsoft and became the richest man in America in the process.

Gates earned his first billion dollars by age 31, and his wealth has now soared to $79 billion—that’s 79 with nine zeroes behind it!

While pondering all of this, I sensed the Lord giving me an entirely different perspective on Bill Gates’ amazing wealth.

“Bill Gates isn’t really the richest man in America, Jim,” God assured me that day.

“Oh really, Lord,” I replied. “Then who is?”

You are!” He said with a chuckle.

“Lord, I admit that I don’t keep track of my bank account as closely as I should. But the last time I checked, my balance was a little short of Bill Gates’ $79 billion!”

I was astounded by His reply: “Jim, the most ordinary believer who is connected by faith to the resources of heaven is far richer than Bill Gates.”

The Lord’s message to me that day was brought to a pointed conclusion when He asked, “Would you rather have Bill Gate’s $79 billion, or have all the resources of heaven at your disposal?”

Frankly, His question made me squirm, because it wasn’t as easy for me to answer as it should have been. I had to think about it! If I had $79 billion in the bank, at least it would show up on my financial records. On the other hand, my credit rating might not improve much if I told the bank I had “all the riches of heaven” at my disposal!

As I struggled to answer the Lord’s probing question, He brought to mind what He told His disciples about this very issue: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). In addition to moths, rust, and thieves, I’m sure today He would mention stock market crashes and recessions as some of the dangers to our earthly wealth.

From this I realized that I’m not only the richest man in America, I am also the most secure. Not only do I have all the riches of heaven at my disposal as I act in obedience to Christ (Ephesians 1:3), but those riches will never be affected by Wall Street or any other earthly factors.

When the truth of my incredible financial well-being began to sink in, I became grieved at how often the issue of money has deterred me from pursuing the things God wanted me to do. Instead of asking His will first, and then trusting Him to provide the finances, I too often do an assessment of whether or not I can afford  it. I have a bad habit of trusting in my own visible resources, which are relatively few, instead of relying upon His invisible resources, which are infinite.

So, you are and I are much richer than we could have imagined. I guess you could even say we won the lottery.

If you’re ever in the Charlotte area and want to meet the richest man in America, I invite you to give me a call. However, if it’s a loan you are after, I will probably turn you down. Instead, I will try to help you see that you really don’t need a loan. Why? Because if you’re in touch with your Heavenly Father, you are the richest person in America too.

 

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Jim Bakker’s Reflections on Lavish Lifestyles

“…as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet

possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

I doubt that any minister in church history has paid a higher price for his lavish lifestyle than Jim Bakker did. Not only did he end up spending nearly five years in federal prison, but he also faced widespread criticism and ridicule for his opulent lifestyle while building his PTL TV ministry at Heritage USA.

During a period of five years, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker received $3.7 million in salaries, bonuses and benefits. What few people realize, however, is that they also gave away  millions of dollars of their royalties to the ministry during that period. Although not entirely accurate, the widespread image still remains: The Bakkers were money-grubbing preachers who defrauded the people of God.

In prison Jim Bakker spent a lot of time studying the words of Jesus, and he came to some startling conclusions as to what Jesus had to say about money:

As the true impact of Jesus’ words regarding money impacted my heart and mind, I became physically nauseated. I was wrong. I was wrong! Wrong in my lifestyle, certainly, but even more fundamentally, wrong in my understanding of the Bible’s true message. Not only was I wrong, but I was teaching the very opposite of what Jesus had said (Jim Bakker in I Was Wrong, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).

Few issues are as thorny as the question of a minister’s lifestyle in relation to material things. One extreme is exemplified by the deacon’s prayer, “Lord, we ask you to keep the preacher humble, and we will keep him poor!”

This view expects those in ministry to practically take a vow of poverty in order to keep from seeming greedy or materialistic. Having a nice house, car or wardrobe is seen as a sign of worldliness—unbefitting a person in ministry. Peter’s declaration of “Silver and gold have I none”  (Acts 3:6 KJV) becomes a proof-text model for the financial condition of all those in ministry.

As imbalanced as this view is, there are many scriptures sometimes cited to support it. Those in ministry are repeatedly warned about the dangers of greed and of trusting in money. For example, Paul wrote that “the overseer must be above reproach…not a lover of money  (1 Timothy 3:1-3 NIV). And Peter said that leaders should be “not greedy for money, but eager to serve  (1 Peter 5:1-2 NIV).

Paul warned that people of “depraved mind”  would “suppose that godliness is a means of gain”  (1 Timothy 6:5 NAS). If you are a minister struggling just to make ends meet, this may be a scripture that is hard to imagine. How could someone seriously see the ministry as a way to get rich?!  you might wonder.

However, while most of those in ministry have very modest lifestyles—whether they want to or not—some indeed have been guilty of “merchandising” the gospel. The anointing of the Spirit has literally been sold to the highest bidder.

Jim Bakker echoes these biblical warnings:

I believe one of the reasons I had to go to prison is because I was teaching people to fall in love with this present world…the gospel began to take second place. I began to write books on how to get rich, even though Jesus did not have one good thing to say about money. Take another look at what Jesus says in the Gospels. Instead of teaching people to get rich, He warned people about the deceitfulness of riches (Jim Bakker in “Loving Jesus—and Your Enemies,” The Morning Star Journal,  Volume 7, Number 2).

This issue of Christians and money is one that will not go away—it will only intensify as we approach the end of this present age. If the church does not sound a clear message, people’s thinking will be shaped by the unbalanced dictates of the world.

But just as there is danger in Christians falling in love with money, the opposite side of the coin is also dangerous: Many Christians are tragically entrenched in a poverty mind-set. While they may feel “spiritual” about their lack of material goods, their poverty is actually restricting their ability to bless others and extend God’s kingdom.

Jim Bakker finally came to this conclusion about the prosperity message:

I am not against prosperity; I believe in it. I believe that if God wants to give your ministry a billion dollars or give you an entire city block in New York City, He can certainly do it. But we need to beware of falling in love with things rather than with Jesus (Jim Bakker in “Loving Jesus—and Your Enemies,” The Morning Star Journal, Volume 7, Number 2).

That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Will we fall in love with things  rather than with Jesus? However, rather than casting stones at someone else’s lifestyle, let’s examine our own  hearts–making sure our priorities are truly aligned with the purposes of God.

 

 

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