Signs Of The Times: 5 - When I Win The Lottery

There you are, standing in the queue after filling up with petrol, and you’re wondering why it’s taking so long. Ah! Someone has been doing their shopping in the little store there. You wouldn’t - it’s far too expensive. Come to that, the person filling up his plastic bags doesn’t look as though he could afford to waste money, either. At last! He’s finished! Oh no, he hasn’t! “Could I have two Sweepstake Scratch Cards, and a Lucky Lotto?” “That’ll be thirty pounds, please!” Your eyes widen.

On the way out, you pass this person, scratching away at the cards with a coin. No luck. The cards are either torn and thrown away, or left to lie where they are, a forlorn testament to the vanity of human wishes. Perhaps it’s just as well. If he’d won a substantial sum, he’d only have wasted it, wouldn’t he? On the other hand, if I won the Lottery...

You’ve played that game, haven’t you? (Shut up, you fundies at the back there! I won’t tell you again!) “If I won the Lottery, what would I do with the money?”

I wonder whether you’ve ever thought, as I have, “I know what I’d do: I’d start a new church! Build new, or refurbish an existing chapel, hire some really Reformed men and get everything going along biblical lines, make sure nobody comes in who isn’t sound and sensible. I’d have to be careful, though. I wouldn’t want anyone who disagrees with me, oops, I mean, with what the bible says, coming along and ruining it all, would I?”

What could possibly go wrong?

Still working our way through Mr Ritchie’s foreword (see previous entries), we find more helpful hints for “all who go forth with the Gospel, whatever the sphere may be”. Time and again he urges us to get a grip on the gospel in all its fullness, and to be men and women of the Word.

The whole Word of God is your textbook: the Gospel as set forth in type, history, parable, doctrine, text, and grouping, is all within your reach, and should be searched, studied, meditated on daily, not to be preached to others, but to feed, renew, edify, instruct, and refresh your own soul, and furnish you with all that you may require in the hour you are called upon to bear witness to or proclaim the Gospel … Only as you make the Word of God your daily companion, and gather the manna fresh from its pages for your own soul’s edification and strength, will you be able to bring out from your treasure “things new and old” (Matt. 15:32) for the blessing of others.

That’s just a little bit more than five minutes with “Daily Bread” followed by “Please Lord, help me get through everything I’ve got to do today”, isn’t it? Incidentally, hands up all those who spotted that the bible reference is wrong. That’s what it says here, but the words are elsewhere in the KJV. And what are these “things new and old”, in their context? No extra charge for this quick bible quiz.

After this our author has a short section entitled “Have confidence in the Gospel”. It begins well, as follows.

It is the power of God unto salvation, the Divinely chosen instrument He is using for the conversion of sinners. It needs no embellishment, it requires no garnishing: it is “the Gospel of God,” and it never fails in its object. The Holy Spirit has come to make it effectual.

But then, when I got to the end of this section, I stopped, and read the last sentence again. Here it is: what do you make of it?

All human arrangements must yield to Him, and in order to be free to go as and where He may lead (Acts 8:29), the servant of the Lord must be free from human fetters, under no church or committee control, free from the dominion of self-will and men-pleasing, in order to humbly, yet promptly, obey the Lord’s calls and the Spirit’s guidance.

All that on the basis of Acts 8.29? That’s stretching it a bit, isn’t it?

I’ve only been able to find a few, brief accounts of the life of John Ritchie, so far. Here is a short extract from one of them.

“From his writing it can be seen that John Ritchie was a man of strong convictions who did not hold back from stating them and putting them into practice. He might, like so many pioneers in the gospel, have been single minded and not as easy to work with as some would have liked, but no-one doubted his sincerity and the passion with which he held to his beliefs. The truths of the Scriptures were dear to him and compromise was a pathway which he never considered.” (My italics.) Well, nobody’s perfect. Still, see Psalm 133.

It’s no use speculating what Mr Ritchie would have done with his lottery winnings, had there been such a thing in his day. He would never even have dreamed of buying a ticket, would he?