If you'd like to see the fascinating story of the Million Dollar Bowl of Stew brought to life - then check out the YouTube link - http://youtu.be/QxyFVDOjMjg
The tension was palpable as Laura stepped up to the wheel. Three others stood behind clinging to their already earned prizes of $30,000. Yet here was Laura risking it all for the almost impossible prize of $10 million. No one ever won this and she would lose everything.
"Inconceivable," I thought to myself, "it's an inconceivable amount of money. Imagine what I could do with that. My financial issues solved for ever and my dream of doing outreach work in Africa a reality. But it's not me. I just can't do it."
"So you know how it works Laura," the game show host says in his lilting TV voice. "You have one chance to hit the gold spot with the dart." Laura looks down nervously at the small dart she is holding. The other three contestants stand looking on thinking about what they have decided - "Keep the certain cash and don't go for the impossible."
The giant wheel begins to spin as the music starts. Faster and faster it spins as the tempo of the music rises too.
"Are you ready Laura?" The game show host shouts beaming his whitened-teeth smile at her. "Are you ready to receive the impossible. Are you ready to get your dream?"
Laura smiles nervously and says, "Yes, I think so."
"On my count," the game show host continues, "throw the dream dart and claim your dream....three, two..." the music has reached it's crescendo and the wheel is a blur of lights as it spins..."one, THROW!"
Laura seems to close her eyes as she throws. It's almost as if time slows down as the studio audience holds its collective breath. The small dart flies towards the impossible target and all of a sudden a dazzle of sparks and lights erupt from all around the wheel. The impossible has happened. Laura has won!
I look on stunned from where I stand with the other two contestants. I can almost touch the wheel - that fortune - it was so close yet so impossibly far. That's my life. Seeing the impossible but never experiencing it. Seeing the dream but never reaching it. I suppose that's the way it's meant to be. I must accept what I have and not reach for the impossible. At least I have my $30,000.
I am sure we can all relate to this story in some way. We see others getting things that we don't have. Or we see a life that we would love, but it's just out of reach or just to scary to go for. And so we accept our lot and make the best of what we have been given.
In Bible times, when the people were dependent on farming for their survival, where you lived was important. So for example while the views might be nice on a mountain, living there was not always a good idea. Mountains are stony and nearly impossible to farm. However valleys are flat and fertile and often have rivers or other water available. So the dream place to live was a wonderful fertile valley. Crops would be fruitful, farming would be easy and life would be great.
"And they of Bethshemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley."(1 Samuel 6:13)
However it so happened that in the days of the Judges that these awesome fertile valleys had a problem...an iron problem.
"The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron." (Judges 1:19)
So there the people sat, living in God's strength up in the hills, looking longingly down at the valley - but unable to go there because of thee impossible to beat iron chariots.
HOLD ON! This does not make sense. It says "The Lord was with the men of Judah" and then it says they are unable to drive out the people "because they had chariots fitted with iron." Iron chariots are stronger than God Almighty! What?
How can this be? How can it be that God is with these people but He can't drive out a few iron chariots?
BUT read carefully. Yes "the Lord was with the men" but "THEY were unable" to drive out the people. It was not God whose power was insufficient.
"Was my arm too short to deliver you?
God, who at a word parts seas has no issue with iron chariots. However the people did.
"And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." (Matthew 13:58)
The problem was not with God, as it was not with Jesus when he sought to show God's power - it was with the people and their lack of faith!
Looking at me
So we sit here reading this, marveling at how a people who have God with them, who have experienced his power don't believe He can do more. We are astounded by their unbelief, their limiting of God. Yet this story is not about them - its about you and I.
"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us." (Romans 15:4)
Forget the Israelites - this is us. This is our shocking story!
From the beautiful fertile valley of life Jesus says to us living on the harsh mountainside conditions.
"I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)
He is saying - "Come down and live in the fertile valley of life."
And what is our response?
"It's not possible Lord. I know you are with me. I know you have worked amazing miracles in my life on this harsh mountain side, but Lord, the valley...the abundant life...the fertile life, that's not possible."
And so Jesus stands in the beautiful valley calling...
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you." (John 14:2) and "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:30)
Yet we cannot enter the valley because (we believe) God is unable to give this life to us. And so we are left looking down into the valley of promise with some questions to answer.
Do I still live in the difficult, trying conditions of a life of sin, temptation, and struggle?
Do I still look at the fertile valley of life and Jesus' offer and believe that is not for now, not possible?
Is it iron chariots that stop us from experiencing the abundant life? Too many trails, too many stresses, too many sins.
If so am I limiting the power of God?
Stop standing there looking on as others claim the impossible prize. Jesus offers us the life of promise. A life worth more than $10 million. Step forward and claim it. Unlike the Laura story, there is no risk here, there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain. All we need is to believe.
God is able. God is willing. There is nothing besides faith that stands between us and experiencing his life of abundance. There is nothing besides faith that stands between us and the valley of life. Let us not limit God.
"The pastures are clothed with flocks;