Encouragement From The Word

Good Luck?

            We’re having some national meetings for the Bible Society this week, and on Wednesday, we broke into two groups for some strategizing.  Several of my colleagues are engaged in French Bible work in various parts of Canada.  As he was leaving the room, I said to one of them, “Bonne chance!” (which means, in English, “Good luck!”).

 

            My colleague replied, “As (theologian John) Calvin would say!”, and we both had a good laugh, after which I said, “Je vous souhaite de bon succès!” (which is translated, “I wish you good success”).

 

            There’s a good point to be had in that little conversation, and it has nothing to do with learning French.  Like the rest of the world, God’s people tend to toss around phrases like “Good luck”, often without thinking about what they mean.  Let’s face it:  there are plenty of people who are content to put their trust in “fate”, or “chance”, or “luck”, as the closest thing they wish to acknowledge as a Higher Power.  Christ-followers don’t need to lower themselves to that level.

 

            If we believe in God, and trust the Lord, then neither fate nor chance nor luck have any bearing in our life’s journey.  Besides, how can we possibly trust – place our faith, even our future – in an indescribable non-entity?  Some folks resign themselves to see their lives in the hands of some thing over which they have no control.

 

            To tell the truth, Christians give their lives over to One over which they have no control.  Who of us, after all, can pretend to control the God who made the universe? 

 

            What’s the difference?  Relationship.

 

            Followers of Jesus place their trust in the God who made the world and everything in it.  That sounds ominous enough, except that we who trust the Lord also have the promise of a relationship with him.  This was the plan of God:  that Jesus would live our life, and die our death on the cross to pave the way for us to renew the relationship with God that was broken through human sin.  And he was raised from the dead to bring us the promise of eternal life.  As the little framed print posted inside our front door reminds me each morning as I leave, “When he was on the cross, you were on his mind.”  That’s the miracle of relationship.

 

            When we read the Scripture, God speaks to us.  And when we pray, we talk to God.  That’s communication, dialogue – the basic formula for a relationship.  I know that when I entrust my life to the care of God, I am placing it in the care of One who has demonstrated his care for me in the most profound and powerful way.  Nobody can say that about fate, or chance, or luck.

 

            One time, in the story of God’s people, the Ark of the Covenant – the symbol of God’s presence at that time – was stolen by enemies, the Philistines.  All manner of calamity befell the Philistines whenever the Ark was in their presence, so they decided to send it back to the Israelites.  They didn’t want to believe that the Lord had the kind of power that would cause the trouble caused by the ark, so they tried to reason that it was some sort of fluke.

 

            Now build a new cart, and find two cows that have just given birth to calves. Make sure the cows have never been yoked to a cart. Hitch the cows to the cart, but shut their calves away from them in a pen.  Put the Ark of the Lord on the cart, and beside it place a chest containing the gold rats and gold tumors you are sending as a guilt offering. Then let the cows go wherever they want.  If they cross the border of our land and go to Beth-shemesh, we will know it was the Lord who brought this great disaster upon us. If they don’t, we will know it was not his hand that caused the plague. It came simply by chance” (1 Samuel 6.7-9, NLT).

 

            We know that the power of God was in the Ark.  We know that those cows – who should have turned back to their young – were being used by God.  And we know that none of it happened by chance.  When it comes to luck, there’s no such thing.  That’s why we trust God!

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3 thoughts on “Good Luck?”

  1. Hi Jeff,
    I just read your note on the term “good luck”. Our friend Herbie Khun said we are not lucky we are either “blessed” or “favoured”. Calvert and I would always say good luck but we now let people know they are blessed or favoured. Its feels wonderful to say to people!
    We encourage our daughters to say this now too.
    Deanna

  2. Deanna, thanks for your comment. It can seem like just a little thing, can’t it? Anybody can say ‘good luck’; followers of Jesus can say something deeper, more profound – actually offer a blessing!

    My first Greek professor was from the Netherlands (so I learned to speak New Testament Greek with a Dutch accent – go figure!). He always said, when handing out a test, “I wish you the best of success!” – which in the university setting was about all he could get away with. But what he was really saying, under the surface, was that luck has no power.

    After our recent conversation, you should know that the only kind of luck I do believe in is “pot luck”! 🙂

  3. My friend Sam wrote to me recently and commented (which I post here with his permission): “Not to deny the thrust of your latest Encouragement from the Word, but I wonder if perhaps an in depth look at the Greek behind the first two words of Luke 10:31 might garner a better understanding of the word translated “chance” and give stronger support to the thrust of your Encouragement from the Word.

    “I am not a Greek Scholar, but I can see that the Greek word is a curious one and seems to be a compound one made up from the word normally translated ‘lord.’ In any event it was our Lord that used the word we know in English as the word chance.”

    Sam raises a good point that warrants further exploration. The word that Sam cites in Luke 10.31 is “happened” in the NIV, “by chance” in the NLT. It refers to the priest who was travelling along and bypassed the man in the ditch (the story of the Good Samaritan). The term used in the original language of the New Testament, Greek, is transliterated “sugkurian” – which, as Sam points out, looks suspiciously close to the Greek word for “lord” or “master”, which is “kurios” – but in this case there is no connection. Unless I’m misreading my Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek NT dictionary, this word appears only here in the NT and refers to a coincidence or chance.

    I think, etymologically, it’s fair to say that it is our culture that has loaded up the word “chance” inappropriately; while we are not believers in happenstance, as such, it is things like lotteries and gambling that have accorded ‘chance’ a godlike status. (I imagine individuals shaking dice or pulling levers saying, “Come on, Lady Luck!”) I commend to everyone’s reading Wayne Oates’ short volume, published by Westminster-John Knox Press, “Luck: A Secular Faith”.

    Not being a Hebrew scholar, my ability to study the word from 1 Samuel 6.9 that was referred to in the original post, rendered ‘chance’ in English, is the same term that is used in seven other places in the Old Testament, including Ruth 2.3 where the NIV states that “as it turned out”, Ruth was tending a field next to Boaz. The meaning is essentially the same. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT completed ca. 250 BC, the word that’s used there is transliterated “symptoma” – from which we obviously get the English word “symptom”. In other words, one might paraphrase, if the cows don’t take the ark back to Israel, then the whole thing with those plagues was pretty much just a symptom, not the ‘real’ problem!

    Perhaps this muddifies the fuzzification somewhat more, but I’m grateful for the discussion. Either way, am I going to place my faith in luck? Not a chance. 🙂

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