Professor Peter Stoner applied the laws of probability to just eight of the Old Testament prophecies regarding Jesus Christ. He says: ‘The chance that any man might have …fulfilled all eight prophecies is one in ten to the seventeenth place. That means one chance in one hundred quadrillion.’ To illustrate this, Stoner said that one hundred quadrillion silver dollars would cover the state of Texas two feet deep. Now, imagine marking one of them with a cross, then sending a man wearing a blindfold in to walk in and pick up one of those silver dollars. The chances of him picking up the one with the cross would be one in one hundred quadrillion. Stoner concludes: ‘Just the same chance that those eight prophecies would all come true in any one man.’
Makes you think, doesn’t it!
Many of us would agree with psychologist Patricia Dalton, who says that rampant consumerism, once confined to the holidays, has become a year-round affliction. She observes unhappy people trying to fill the emptiness of their lives by irresponsible spending and then consulting psychologists like her to figure out what has gone wrong. She says: ‘We seem to have forgotten the warning that everything you buy owns you.’ To pay for all their junk, people now work so hard that they’re ruining their marriages, their families, and their health. No wonder many of us feel so spiritually empty. It’s time to remember those timeless words of Jesus: ‘Your life does not consist in the abundance of things you possess.’
The root of our discontent is our spiritual emptiness. But peace with God brings peace with ourselves.
Four centuries ago Martin Rinkert became the minister of his hometown parish in Eilenburg, Germany. A year later the Thirty Years War broke out and Eilenburg was caught in the middle. In the midst of it a massive plague swept across Europe and in Eilenburg over eight thousand people died. Martin was the man who had to bury most of them, including his own wife. He died one year after the war ended. His ministry spanned thirty-two years, all but the first and the last overwhelmed by war and plague. But he’s best remembered as the man who wrote that great hymn: ‘Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices; who wondrous things hath done, in whom his world rejoices.
It takes a great spirit to come through hardship and still express gratitude. But that’s what faith does for us.
John D. Rockerfeller at the age of fifty became the world’s first billionaire. But three years later he had a nervous breakdown. His body was racked with pain, he lost all the hair on his head, he couldn’t sleep, wouldn’t smile and nothing in life meant anything to him. His doctors predicted he’d die within a year. Then one morning he awoke with a vague remembrance of a dream that had something to do with not being able to take any of his successes with him into the next world. So, he called his lawyers and said he wanted to channel his assets to hospitals, research, and mission work. The result was the Rockefeller foundation which made possible the discovery of penicillin, and cures for malaria, TB and diphtheria. He learned just in time that wealth is only true wealth if it enriches your soul.
Futurists are people who supposedly predict future trends, though we’ve usually forgotten what they said when the future arrives. However, some famous predictions have been recorded, like Thomas Watson, of IBM, who said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” And Popular Mechanics magazine once wrote: “Where a calculator today weighs thirty tons, computers in the future may weigh only one and a half tons.” But the best-known booboo of all came from the Decca Recording Company which said of four lads from Liverpool, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” The band was the Beatles and Decca missed out on a fortune. But here is one prediction I do believe. Jesus made it: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’
The US Government has a fund called the Conscience Fund, made up of anonymous contributions sent in by people whose consciences are troubled by things they should have paid for but didn’t. They also keep the letters, like the one that said: ‘I’m sending ten dollars for blankets I stole while in World War II. My mind could not rest. Sorry I’m late. I want to be ready to meet with God.’ A similar thing happened in Australia following the Billy Graham Crusades. Government departments received a flood of anonymous payments for everything from undeclared tax to unpaid train fares.
It reminds us that Jesus said if you want to be at peace with God, put things right with your fellow human beings first. Repentance and restitution are the only things that bring peace to a troubled conscience.
People once thought that to get out of bed on the left side was to open oneself to evil spirits. That’s why we talk about somebody in a foul temper having got out of bed on the wrong side. And medieval theologians argued that since a ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle, and a triangle is a symbol of the Holy Trinity, anyone who carelessly walks through this mystical space is risking divine wrath. That’s why they used to make condemned prisoners walk under the ladder that led up to the gallows.
However, God’s displeasure does not come from random acts outside of us, but from calculated attitudes within us. “What does the Lord require of you,” the Bible says, “But to act justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.” Luck may be about what life throws your way, but virtue is what you do about it.