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Living by Polls and Numbers

In the middle of an election year, with gas prices rising, the market falling, and the human costs of war constantly on our mind, I’ve been thinking of how inclined I am to live by the numbers.

In so many ways numbers, statistics, and polls can be deceiving. On one hand, we need to measure our gains and losses. Even the Bible itself tells us that it is wise to keep track of our days and resources (Psalm 90:12; Prov. 27:23). The problem comes, however, when after counting our numbers, we are tempted to count on them.

David, the giant-killer, is an example of how easy it is to forget the math of God. For awhile he looked like the least likely to forget that God has different standards of measure than we do (2 Samuel 22, 23). When David stood before Goliath with 5 stones and a slingshot, he saw so clearly what it means to live– not by human indicators of strength– but by the strong hand and arm of God.

Late in life, however, the man after God’s own heart forgot what he once knew. He began to think of national security in quantifiable terms. To reassure himself, the aging head of state insisted on an census to measure his nation’s human resources. Against strong advice and counsel that questioned his motives, David insisted on a headcount of the men who could be drafted for war (2Samuel 24:1-4). Only when the census was done did he realize how wrong his motives had been. With a heartfelt prayer of deep regret, he asked the Lord to forgive him  (2Samuel 24:10).

What David forgot is what I often forget. There is both an upside and a downside to numbers. Numbers are wonderful when we see them as gifts in the hand of God. David’s adviser realized this. He told David that he wished the Lord would give David a hundred times more people than he already had (24:3; see also Deuteronomy 1:9-12).

Numbers are a terrible trap, however, whenever they represent people or things on which we trust. In his later years, David forgot–for awhile– the confidence that made him great (2 Samuel 22:1-4, 35-41). Numbers, as important as they are, cannot be counted on.

And so I am asking you to think with me today about what we are doing with the numbers of our lives. Are we forgetting that one of the greatest accomplishments of our life could still be God plus one– one person, one day, or one test of our heart– when met with one grace-filled act of faith, or hope, or love?

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7 Responses to “Living by Polls and Numbers”

  1. he4gaveme says:

    We use numbers in our culture to measure popularity and success. I find it interesting that in churches, when a pastor preaches on what the congregation wants to hear his popularity rises, the attendance grows, and people like him. As long as certain topics are avoided and the pastor does not step on anyone’s toes everything is great. As soon as lines are drawn between right and wrong or certain sins are called out from the pulpit, the attendance drops, people get angry and the attacks against the pastor’s character begin.

    Christ himself was a very popular person, as long as people thought that he was there to “change” the way things were and that he was the liberator of the common man. Christ often spoke very harshly to the people about there sins, but in the form of parables, so they really didn’t get it. If he had been more direct in his communications to the people of Israel would he still have drawn the crowds? If they had understood his call for “change” to be a change in their personal lives instead of in the current government, would they have hailed him as King? When he was finally “exposed” as claiming to be God, he was killed.

    I often find myself to be more concerned with my earthy popularity than with my heavenly popularity. That is why I do not go around my neighborhood knocking on doors to share the good news. I wouldn’t be very popular and my friends might think less of me.

  2. daisymarygoldr says:

    Numbers are important to God and He is very good at it. He takes into account the number of stars, the sand/dust, the sparrows, the hairs on every human head, our wanderings/steps and even our tears (Psalm 56:8). It is interesting to note that in Numbers 1:1-3, God had actually required for census to be taken. The danger in numbers is when it causes us to take pride in ourselves/our achievements and that invariably leads us to sin. However, as His children we just can’t help but fumble with the numbers as we take into account the countless blessings/mercies and immeasurable love and grace of our eternal God!

  3. Mike says:

    I am way too inclined to depend on numbers in my bank account and TSA and retirement accounts. I was thinking just the other day, what would happen if the current food and oil pressures become crises for us here in America. And why shouldn’t they? Look around the world and see those numbers–people starving, countries in turmoil, etc. Then all our numbers will be useless. Can we still serve God without the security of our numbers? I often doubt myself, and find myself praying for strenth to endure not matter what happens around me.

  4. Laurie St.Lyon says:

    Last night my wife and I had some friends of long standing come to our house to help us prey into our future and some fairly immediate situations. It was interesting to see what the Lord was saying to us in very much the same terms as this piece. We tend to make our plans “on the facts” and “by the numbers” yet our Father God is bigger than that and he knows what lays beyond the numbers we see.
    By analogy the numbers are a molehill that we stand on in the hope of getting a better view. But our Father he sees from the Mountain top.
    We need to learn to trust his view of things!We live by faith (not our) sight!

  5. brownsfan1642 says:

    It has been said that statistics lie and liars use statistics, a handy reminder in an election year. While that may seem a tad harsh, the fact is that numbers are not as concrete as we would like—being open to interpretation and reinterpretation at the discretion and for the purposes of the user. That elasticity lessens the value of numbers to inform us, and can in fact be used to deceive us. We are better off, I think, focusing on the innumerable mercies of God, and the limitless grace that He provides.

  6. B Murphy says:

    How we count our wealth is the question. In answer to prayer for the Lords will in my life the still voice in my heart resonates be a wife, be a daughter, be a sister, be a friend. A magnificent change has taken place in our lives in the past few months since I have been STILL. Being still has cost money, but we have lack nothing. And my mind has been renewed. My passion for life has returned and I feel like the Powerball winner.

    Yahoo has a story this morning that money can buy happiness to the extent that it brings you financial freedom. The same study revealed that money cannot buy you love.

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