Jump Start # 2855
1 Corinthians 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”
“How large is your church?” That question is asked especially when one travels and visits other congregations. It’s just a number. It doesn’t tell the total picture. It doesn’t reveal spiritual strength. It doesn’t indicate whether a church is alive and healthy or just going through the motions. In fact, some have gone so far as to say that God doesn’t care about numbers. I thought about that. Does God care about numbers?
You and I do. We stand on the scales and those numbers are important to us. We look in our bank book or 401 statement and those numbers mean a lot to us. At tax time, numbers are important. If you are a sports fan, the number of wins and losses matter. The square footage of a house, the size of a TV screen, the yardage of a fly ball in baseball all matter. Numbers matter.
But is it true that God doesn’t care about numbers? Interestingly, one of the books of the Bible is called, “Numbers.” There were many times the people were numbered by tribes in ancient Israel. David got in trouble for counting the people. In Acts, it is God who tells us that 3,000 were baptized and then later 5,000. In Revelation, there are numbered bowls, elders, seals and even Heaven is measured. The number of days Jesus was in the tomb mattered. God tells us that the synagogue official’s dying girl was twelve years old. We are told the price Judas was paid to betray Jesus. Ten plagues. Ten commandments. Seven servants chosen in Acts to care for neglected widows. Forty days and forty nights. Six days of creation. All through the Scriptures we find numbers. It sure seems that God is interested in numbers.
Why do numbers matter?
First, when it comes to counting people, each person is a soul loved by God and ready to be redeemed by the Savior. People matter when it comes to God. The story of the lost sheep in Luke 15 reminds us that every single one matters to God. God wants all to be saved. Go into all the world and preach to every person is what the apostles were commissioned. That’s every continent. That’s every nation. That’s every state. That’s every city. That’s every street. That’s every house. That’s everyone in each house. God didn’t send the apostles to the state houses or the seats of government. He sent them to the people.
Second, numbers tell a story. Rising numbers reveal increases and growth. Declining numbers reveal departures and trouble. Looking at numbers can tell shepherds what adjustments need to be made in classrooms and where some attention needs to be focused. The lack of attendance is often the first sign others notice, but it can be the final step one takes in leaving the Lord. Long before this the prayers stopped. The Bible reading ended. The virtuous living ceased. And, then, the last bold step was to stop attending. Oh, it’s just a number some say, but that number is a soul.
Third, I have participated in the funerals of several people who were in their high 90’s. Many of these people were Christians for seven to eight decades! Think about the number of hymns that they sang. I wonder how many sermons they heard. How many Bible classes they were a part of. And, all those years later, they were faithful, strong and dedicated to the Lord. Their example was truly an example. Do you think numbers mattered? It’s one thing to be a Christian for a week. But for seventy or eighty years? Truly remarkable. That’s walking with the Lord when it was easy and when it was hard. That’s staying with the Lord when the wheels were coming off the nation. It’s during wars and pandemics and floods and unrest and attacks and economic downturns. It’s staying with the Lord after funerals. It’s staying with the Lord when friends move away. It’s staying with the Lord when preachers come and go. It’s staying with the Lord because He has always been true and always been there for you.
Finally, the scene from Heaven is a crowd that no one could count (Rev 7:9). There were many things counted in Revelation, from the 1,000 years to 144,000 to thirty minutes. But, here, around the throne of God was a number so large that it could not be counted.
That image is encouraging to us. It reveals that many made it. It shows that so many loved the Lord and sacrificed for Him. It shows that Heaven is not a small gathering with pitiful singing. Not at all. The number is so large that it can’t be counted. Faithful. Trusting. Loving. Forgiving. Walking with Jesus. That number will include people you know. It will include people you have heard about. It will include those you have read about in the Bible. All parts of the planet. Different periods of time. But all having one thing in common, the blood of Jesus saved them.
And, there is one other number that is important to God—and, that is YOU. Your life. Your soul. Your story. Your journey. All these numbers of the saved do not mean much if you are not numbered among them. If you are that one lost sheep, God wants to find you and bring you back where you belong. God is not satisfied with cutting the loses and focusing upon the majority. He is interested in YOU. He wants YOU to be saved. He wants YOU to be numbered among the righteous.
You are more than a number in society. Your street address. Your phone number. Your social security number. Your driver’s license number. Lots and lots of numbers. The greatest is if you are numbered among those whose names are recorded in the Lamb’s book of life.
God not interested in numbers? I tend to think that He is.