This Sunday morning my message is on the subject “If only I had”.Â As I prepared for the message I thought of all of those who think that life would be so good if they could just win the lottery.Â But the answer is never money nor any other object.Â It is only the Lord Jesus Christ.Â I want to challenge you to read this article.Â It deals with the struggles of a good man when he got rich too quick.Â Here are the first few paragraphs:
It was coming up on Christmas, and Brenda-the-biscuit-lady was inexplicably happy as she walked to work in the predawn darkness. Brenda didn’t just make biscuits over at the C&L Super Serve for $6 an hour. She served up good cheer.
“How you doin’, honey?” she’d greet customers, with such enthusiasm that they had no choice but to smile back.
“Dad-gonnit, you are growing up on me!” she’d call to schoolchildren, just to see them grin. “What grade you in now?”
At 39, Brenda Higginbotham didn’t have much to show for a lifetime of good cheer. No car. No home. No picture-book Christmas on the horizon. In spite of that, in spite of everything, she had a sense of her place in the world as unsullied as a holiday snowfall before folks trample it ugly, like folks do. That abiding sense was Brenda’s gift.
“What do you need, dear?” she’d ask a weary workman eyeing her hot-food carryout case. For a moment, Brenda could make the man with chapped hands and muddy boots feel like somebody was looking after him.
“You want a roll with that, baby?” she’d say, smiling even bigger.
Of all her customers, the person Brenda loved to josh with most was the cowboy-man who pulled into the C&L Super Serve in Hurricane, W.Va., by 6:30 a.m. weekdays to gas up and buy breakfast. Brenda would spy him out at the pumps and start his order: two of her famous biscuits stuffed with bacon.
Brenda and the cowboy-man joshed so much that fellow clerks teased they must have some kind of “rendezvous deal” going on. Brenda would laugh and say, “It ain’t like that!” She didn’t even know that the cowboy-man’s name was Jack. Jack Whittaker. She just knew he dressed in black like Johnny Cash and carried himself big — big as the cowboy hat he always wore. She liked how polite and cheerful he acted, as if trouble were a stranger.
In the days before Christmas in 2002, Jack bought a Powerball lottery ticket along with his biscuits. Some fools couldn’t get enough of those tickets. Not the cowboy-man. He’d buy one only when the jackpot got big, like anything less than a couple hundred million wasn’t worth his trouble.
On Christmas Day, the lottery ticket-buying frenzy peaked at 3:26 p.m. In convenience stores and gas stations across West Virginia, 15 people every second commemorated Jesus’s birthday by plunking down $1 for a chance at a different kind of salvation: that Powerball jackpot.
It was about 11 o’clock Christmas night 2002 when Channel 3 out of Charleston announced what it said were the winning Powerball numbers. Jack was slumbering when his wife of nearly 40 years, Jewell, jostled him awake to say that his lottery ticket matched four out of five. Jack was clueless about what kind of payoff a four-number match brought, but he figured it had to be good for at least $100,000. He went back to sleep while visions of a six-figure windfall danced in his head.
The next morning, as always, he rose at 4:30 to get to work. Jack, 55, had been working construction since he was a poor 14-year-old in the hills. He’d built himself a nice life in this patch of West Virginia hard by the Kentucky and Ohio borders. He had a wife and a granddaughter who basked in his attentions, a brick house in a nice subdivision in neighboring Scott Depot, and a water and sewer pipe-laying business that employed more than 100 people. At 5:15 a.m., Jack snapped on the television and heard, to his surprise, that the winning ticket had been sold at the C&L Super Serve. What are the odds, Jack later said he was thinking, that one little convenience store would sell two lucky tickets? Just then the winning numbers flashed. The numbers broadcast the night before had been wrong. He had a match on all five numbers, not four. [Six, not five].
Jack Whittaker had just won $314 million, the largest undivided lottery jackpot in history.
A few hours later, he ambled into the C&L Super Serve and calmly handed Brenda a bill, saying he’d been meaning to give it to her before Christmas. Brenda figured it was a $1 tip for helping him diet, taking care to pinch a little dough out of his bacon biscuits so the cowboy-man’s big burly wouldn’t go soft.
“He handed me a $100 bill!” Brenda recalls. “I looked at it, and I’m, like, ‘Oh, no, no, no. I’m not taking this from you.’ And he’s, like, ‘Oh, yes, you are.'”
Then it hit her.
“Did you win?” Brenda whispered.
Jack nodded and grinned.