Mailbag II

by Ed Urzi

Once again it’s time to journey into the deep, dark recesses of The Doctor’s mailbag to see what kinds of questions have been on your mind lately. This time around our topics are “luck” and the consequences of sin. And now, on to the questions…

Is there such a thing as "good luck" and "bad luck" for Christians?

This is a really good question because there are certainly lots of people who carry items that they believe will bring them good luck or protect them from harm. Others have “lucky numbers” that they believe will be favorable for them in games of chance. Then there are the people who try to avoid certain items such as broken mirrors, black cats or anything to do with the number “13” because they believe that contact with such things will bring them “bad” luck. But can such things really be true? Can our daily lives really be affected by carrying “good luck charms” and avoiding contact with things that are thought to bring us “bad luck”?

Well, the dictionary defines “luck” as “good fortune or prosperity, success; one’s personal fate or lot.” (1) With this definition in mind, The Doctor doesn’t believe that Christians can have “good” or “bad” luck. Why? Well, think for a moment about what the Scriptures say. For example, Psalm 31:15 says (in part) “My times are in your hands…” indicating that God has the ultimate control of our daily lives. And 2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us that “…God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (NIV).

In other words, God is really the one who orders the success or failure of a particular situation. A good example of this can be seen in the life of Joseph in the Old Testament (Genesis 37:12-36). This portion of Scripture describes how Joseph’s brothers threw him into a well and later sold him as a slave to a caravan of merchants. Now someone might be tempted to say that it was Joseph’s bad luck to be thrown into a well and later be sold as a slave but Joseph realized that God was actually the driving force behind the events in his life. In fact, when Joseph was later reunited with his brothers he told them, “As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil, for he brought me to this high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20).

Another problem with “luck” is that it really reveals a hidden lack of faith. To illustrate this, let’s say that “Jane Christian” carries around some item that she believes will bring her luck. In this situation, where is Jane placing her faith? Well, she’s certainly not placing her faith in God, right? In reality, she is actually placing her faith in some object that she believes will bring her good fortune, right? Now here’s the problem with that: If we believe that the events in our lives will change for the worse if we walk beneath a ladder or break a mirror or come into contact with the number 13 or do any of the other things that people say will bring “bad luck” then we are really saying that God is not in control of our lives- or at least He is not powerful enough to overcome those things that would bring us “bad luck.”

When people don’t have a relationship with God, they often feel the need to rely on superstitious things to protect them or give them success. This is not new of course. Back in the days of the Old Testament people often put their faith in objects made of wood, stone or metal. These were called “idols” and people often trusted in them to bring prosperity instead of the one true God who could actually make it happen. The Doctor believes that followers of Jesus shouldn’t make the same mistake today.

After we are saved, what are the consequences for sinning and not taking Christ seriously?

Ok, in looking at this question it’s important to first realize that there is a difference between “sinning” and “continued, stubborn disobedience.”

Let’s take the idea of “sinning” first. It’s safe to say that everyone sins practically every day, right? 1 John 1:8 reminds us that, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Because sin results in death (see Romans 3:23), God has helped us out by sending Jesus to die in our place. Through confession (or acknowledging to God that we’ve done something wrong) and repentance (or “turning back” from doing wrong with God’s help), we can obtain a fresh start with God when we mess up.

For instance, remember the story of David and Bathsheba in the Old Testament (2 Samuel 11 and 12)? Even though David sinned greatly with Bathsheba and suffered the consequences, he still found forgiveness with God -in fact, you can read David’s prayer of forgiveness in Psalm 51. The key thing is this: just as David found forgiveness with God, the same is true for us today!

However, we also should recognize that people often struggle with committing the same sin over and over. In these cases, it’s important to remember that God is exceedingly patient and merciful with people. The person who truly wants to be pleasing to God but stumbles repeatedly in the same area should remember that God is compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness (see Psalm 86:15). Proverbs 24:16 also tells us that “…a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity” (NIV). Struggling with a particular sin is not the same as being stubbornly disobedient and The Doctor believes that God will help those who truly want to do what is pleasing to Him.

But the Bible also tells us that there are definite consequences for those people who knowingly and willfully do wrong. For example, we have the Old Testament example of Hophni and Phineas, two guys who were priests. These guys were supposed to be the representatives of God to the people but they were doing some really bad things and God punished them by allowing them to die prematurely. You can check out the story for yourself in 1 Samuel 2:12-36. Then there is the New Testament example of Ananias and Sapphira. These people lied to God and it cost them their lives- you can read it in Acts 5:1-10. These people were willfully disobedient to God and they definitely suffered some severe consequences.

Even so, The Doctor believes that the most important thing to remember is that God is gracious and patient with those who put Him first and desire to do His will. If we are continually asking God to help us to be what He wants us to be, then we can expect to find His love, grace and mercy even when we mess up. Remember the words of Psalm 37: 23-24: “If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand” (NIV).

Do you have a question for The Doctor? Just send it to the email address above- you’ll get a personal reply and you just might see it answered here.