God’s Math

I majored in history and English on purpose. I wanted to take as few math courses as possible. I firmly believe that much of our success in life is intertwined between understanding our strengths and weakness. Math is my weakness. My high school math teachers taught me to follow the rules and formulas through each step of the equation to find the correct answer. The more I learn about God, the more I understand that he not bound by simple math.

Mark Batterson has written a wonderful book called “The Circle Maker”. It is transforming my prayer life and my view of God. In it, he points out that most of us require our expectations to “add up” to our capabilities before we will trust God with the outcome. If we can’t identify and quantify the variables in our life, we hesitate to commit to the God who controls them. We are afraid to pray the risky prayers; we are afraid to name our fears and dreams because that somehow makes them more real. If we just generically pray for God’s will, we have nothing on the line. We also have no means to measure the answer God gives. We don’t want to put boundaries on our prayers because we don’t expect God to work miracles.

When the people of the Bible trusted God to be God, they found that he didn’t just make what they had be enough; he multiplied it into far more than was conceivable. When the Hebrews in the desert needed food, God didn’t provide just enough to keep them from starving; they got so more than they could eat. When Jesus asked about food inventory during his day of preaching, Andrew brought him a boy with five loaves and two fish – not even a drop in the bucket for feeding 5,000, but Jesus thanked God for the miracle that was about to happen…and they had 12 baskets of leftovers. The Parable of the Sower shows that the seeds planted didn’t just “come up”; they produced between 30 and 100 times the crop of the seed that had been sown.

Arithmetic is about balance. Our lives and our culture are based on simple arithmetic. We cannot spend more than we have or we will go bankrupt. Many spend their lives “making ends meet”. We have to balance our checking accounts to make sure the money going in does not exceed the money going out. We have to qualify for a loan before a bank will take a chance on us. Accountants everywhere are employed because they make sure all the numbers “add up”. It is their job to make the totals work out to the exact amounts of profits and expenditures. There can be no “leftovers”, no acceptance of “it just doesn’t add up”. Our time and our tasks have to match or something will not get accomplished. It all has to balance to zero. We find comfort in seeing all the parts neatly fit together with no loose ends.

God is not, and has never been, about balance. He has never parceled out a minimal blessing and said, “There, now we’re even.” He doesn’t insist that his people “qualify” before he will bless them. He loves us before we love him. He keeps his covenant even when his people don’t. He sent his son, not just to just protect us from death, but to give us “abundant” life. He doesn’t offer us a “matching donation” for our faith. Most of the time, he only requires that we show up and trust him for the results that we often can’t even imagine when we begin to obey. God’s people show up for battles that God fights for them, and then God gives them the blessing of victory. He told Abraham to “Go to the place I will show you”, and then he made him the father of many nations. God didn’t just hear the cries of his people in captivity and lead them out of the border of their slavery; he led them home to their Promised Land. When Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God’s people well, God added wealth. He told the disciples to wait for him in Jerusalem, but he didn’t just meet them there; he filled them with his Holy Spirit.

God is not trying to just make things add up for you; he multiplies your faith and obedience times his power and love into final equations that we can’t explain. Offer him your gifts, your fears and your dreams, then watch him lovingly multiply them into more than you can ask or imagine. Show up, and expect the simple math of your hope to exponentially, abundantly bless you.

Eph 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.