“It will cost $495 to fix your radiator.”
“All right, students, 5 more minutes to finish the test.”
“You have 3 months left to live. You have stage 4 liver cancer.”
“I’m single—that means one plate, one pillow, one toothbrush.”
“My checking account is overdrawn by $251.78.”
“There are only two shirts left at that price. Hurry!”
“You need to come up with 7 more clients to make your quota.”
“I love that our family identity is contained in a number. We are five. But what happens when the number changes and there’s only three or two of us?”
“You can only spend $25 for the rest of the month.”
What’s the common denominator in each of the statements above? Yep, you guessed it. A number. Those specific, insistent numbers! They have the power to incite fear or anxiety, envy, bitterness, shame, even condemnation in us. No one is immune to the power of a number.
Now, not every number tempts us to respond in fear or irritation or envy, yet without a doubt, statements with numbers in them seem to proclaim disaster or loss for us. Coming face to face with what seems like a very black and white, concrete, specific reality, leaves us feeling very fearful and anxious.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.” Isn’t that true? As believers, we live in this realm on earth where the bald truth of a number can feel more real than the promises of God and the life of faith we are supposed to live. So, how do we counteract the fearful power of those numbers that sap our strength and place weights upon our faith?
The unshackling begins by remembering that God has a number of His own. He desires us to remember His special number, while we deal with the “numbers” in our lives. God’s number speaks more to His overarching plan for mankind than any other. It reveals His intentionality. It reveals how definite He is. It teaches us that He is specific and purposeful in His plans. And His number gives us the hope and help we need when we’re bombarded by all those other numbers.
God’s healing and hope-filled number began to be put on display in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned. In Genesis 3:15 God talked about the One who would be born of the woman’s seed and who would someday crush the serpent’s head.
Micah 5:2 also hinted at the help that number would give: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”
Isaiah 53:5 also explains how that One will help us. “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”
God’s plan is described in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” God’s number is summed up in the One who provides hope, victory, and power over sin.
One Savior. One Son. One Redeemer. One Prince of Peace. One God. One Holy One who took on flesh. One. The majesty of that number is put on display at Christmas because that ONE came with a purpose.
In Matthew 1:21, the angel told Joseph, “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” The One’s purpose? Savior.
Luke reveals the majesty of that number “one” when he tells us what the angel told Mary in chapter 1:30-33: “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” The One’s purpose? The mighty King who reigns victoriously forever.
John 1:14 reveals the power of that One. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” He reveals the Father to us, so that we can get to know God.
1 Timothy 2:5-6 reminds us, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” He is the go-between who then sacrificed Himself so we could be saved and rescued from our sin.
Acts 4:12 proclaims, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” He is the only way, the only access to God.
And in Acts 5:31 we come back to God’s number displayed for all to see at Christmas time, “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Only the exalted One can bring the change of heart and forgiveness we so desperately need.
The One, no One else, no other name, only, all point to the majesty of One—God’s One, the One, Jesus, who at the right time, the appointed time, took on flesh and became a man. And because God took on flesh, coming to earth as a baby, growing, living, and ultimately dying on the cross for our sins, we have hope and the help we need to do battle against the numbers that scare us.
Look at what God has provided for us in dealing with the numbers in our lives. Hebrews 4:14-16: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Because Jesus is the answer to our numbers problem, because He knows all about living here and being besieged with numbers, then we are urged to draw near to gain the help we need.
In Hebrews 6, the author of Hebrews says God made a promise in which He would provide a way of salvation that would last, nothing could ruin it, and nothing could take it away. That magnificent, never-failing promise means we have hope! Read what he says in Hebrews 6:17-20: “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
God promised to provide a way for men to have peace with God. The author of Hebrews paints a picture of God’s promises going into the Holy Place, the place where only the priests could enter once a year. And yet, because Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise, Jesus holds back the curtain into the Holy of Holies and bids us enter into the Father’s presence, without fear, with full confidence that we will receive the help we need.
God has populated our lives with numbers for a purpose. The numbers need to be dealt with; we’re not to live in denial about them. Yet, we also need to remember God oversees every number. Every number in our lives is subject to His will. He is the Master of every number we face in our lives. Our God, who is One, is greater than the numbers we face. There is no situation, no number, He does not know about.
James 1:2-4 shows us how God uses those numbers for our good. James writes, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Just like every trial, the numbers’ intended purpose is to ultimately strengthen and mature our faith, so that we grow in sanctification.
Our hoping, our trusting isn’t done perfectly, even with James 1:2-4 ringing in our ears. Sometimes, our failures are part of the numbers that so weigh us down. “Lord, I failed again! That’s the 7th time today!” But even here, God’s perfect number of “One” is enough to comfort our souls. At least Martin Luther found it so, when he said, “So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also.’”
The numbers clamor for attention. They feel immovable. They feel real. Yet they are servants of the Lord, meant to draw us to Himself, intended to sanctify us and to put His power and wisdom and love and mercy on display. Even if our initial response to some of those numbers isn’t all it needs to be, that doesn’t mean it has to our continual response. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” The numbers may bark and bite, tempting us to respond fearfully, but God, our faithful God, provides the hope and help we need to trust Him.
The Might and Majesty of the One aids us in our trials. Do we, will we, believe it? Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith, it is impossible to please God, and he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” God loves it when His children seek Him out, not because they have their acts together, but because they recognize that they don’t and desperately need His help.
The Majesty of the One is more than enough for any trial or circumstance we face. The Word gives us strength and comfort when we remember like David that the Lord is our strength; He is our rock, fortress, and deliverer, with whom we can take refuge (Psalm 18:1-2). The Lord alone is enough.
So, when someone says, “It will cost $495 to fix your radiator.” You can remember what Moses recounted to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 33:26-27, “There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your help, And through the skies in His majesty. The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” The Lord alone is enough.
When you hear, “You have 3 months left to live. You have stage 4 liver cancer.” You can gain comfort knowing that God is your refuge and strength. He is a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). He alone can comfort and strengthen you.
When you hear, “You need to come up with 7 more clients to make your quota.” And you feel the pressure of the numbers, you can remember the One who has been tempted and understands how fearful those numbers can make us. He understands, which is why we can draw near and receive the mercy and grace we need to get help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Martin Luther had it right when he penned these words:
When the numbers clamor for your attention and it feels like the numbers are winning, you can focus on God's provision of the One. Christmas time puts that One on display reminding us that the numbers lead us, drive us, to find our refuge in the Lord. Bless God that He reigns as King over all the numbers in our lives. The numbers are His servants. He is the answer for anything that troubles us. Run to Him.
If God is your One, the "numbers" no longer have power.