It was a Thursday night in November several years ago. The “REDEYE SPECIAL” charter bus left Dallas bound for the Isle of Capri Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana. On board were would-be gamblers of every shape and size, looking forward to a night of blackjack, poker, roulette and slot machines; hoping by some chance or stroke of luck they’d hit it big and come home with a lot of money.
They would’ve never dreamed what would happen next.
When they got on the bus, they had no idea three of their fellow passengers had also gotten on with no intention of ever going to the casino. Instead they had a game of their own. Like the others, they’d gotten on the bus looking forward to a night of fun and fast cash. However, they’d determined the odds were better with their game than if someone else were dealing the cards.
Within an hour of the bus leaving Dallas, three men got up, with navy blue ski masks, sawed off shotguns and a handgun and began robbing the passengers. Two others were driving getaway cars behind the bus. The attempted robbery was foiled by a quick-thinking passenger who risked her own life dialing 911. Two sheriff’s sergeants approached the bus, lights flashing and sirens blazing, signaling the bus to stop. Ignoring the gunmen’s demands to keep going, the bus driver stopped the bus on I-20 about six miles north of Tyler. He opened the door to let the police officers on the bus and in a flash of rapid-fire events, the gunmen shot at the officers and back at the bus driver before fleeing on foot into the woods.
The good news is all the passengers survived this incredible ordeal, including the bus driver. All the money was recovered. The would-be thieves were arrested that night and sent to prison. They arrested both getaway car drivers as well and charged them as accomplices.
The bad news is none of those people got what they wanted that night. Or come to think of it, maybe that’s really GOOD NEWS.
They’re “spiritual gamblers” wanting something for nothing.
At first I thought it ironic, even somewhat humorous, that a busload of would-be gamblers were robbed. Think about it. Here was a busload of people on their way to a casino, basically wanting something for nothing. Or at best, wanting a big return for a very small investment and here they were being robbed by other, perhaps less-intelligent gamblers who also wanted something for nothing. Or at best, wanted a big return for a very small investment.
Be honest. Isn’t it a little bit hypocritical our justice system calls what happened on the bus illegal and wrong (and rightfully so), yet what happens in the casino is legal and right? Isn’t it basically the same thing? People wanting something for nothing. Or at best, wanting a big return for such a small investment?
What’s even more shocking, the same thing is happening in churches all over America and it doesn’t get any media attention. I’m not suggesting there are churches with blackjack tables, roulette wheels and slot machines. What I’m saying is there are people in churches of all sizes, in all kinds of cities and in every state of the union, basically doing the same thing. They’re “spiritual gamblers” wanting something for nothing. Or at best, wanting a big return for a very small investment.
They want to be spiritual giants, but only want to attend one service a week or maybe one a month. They wonder why they struggle to live the victorious Christian life, gambling on the fact they can spend one hour with God on Sunday and somehow, that negates living for the devil the other six days of the week.
They want all the rewards, blessings and benefits from being a follower of Christ, but want to determine the level of involvement or commitment themselves. Completely ignoring the undeniable, unavoidable and unalterable price that comes from following Christ. He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him DENY himself and TAKE UP his cross DAILY and FOLLOW ME. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24. Emphasis added).
Jesus never said following Him would be a simple stroll down EASY street or even MAIN street. He said it was a hard road and a narrow one that leads to life, and only a few will find it (Matthew 7:13-14).
Have you found it yet? If so, you already know the high price attached. It costs everything, takes time and dedication, discipline and devotion, perseverance and patience, faithfulness and holiness, single-mindedness, and a willingness to never give up or let up until we’re taken up.
Are you following the Lord faithfully, wholeheartedly and daily? If not, why not?
Don’t risk your eternal destiny by getting on the something for nothing bus …
… which promises a destination it can never deliver.
© 2016. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Today, more than 8,000 people call Crossroads their church home. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.