Updated: Sep 25, 2021
Philippians 3:7-8, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ,”
Many of us are familiar with the term ‘tyranny of the urgent’. We use it whenever things of necessity choke out our time for things of preference, but hey, you can’t sit and do what you love when there’s work, favors, and chores to finish day in and day out. There are more tyrannies beside that of course. There’s the garden variety political tyranny. There’s its smaller cousin domestic tyranny. There’s the universal tyranny of sin, but I’d like to add another tyranny to our growing list of daily ‘tyrannies’: the numbers game. Because, whether we realize it or not, everyone has played it, and everyone loses to it.
Let me mention a familiar word: disappointment. It doesn’t matter if you’re extroverted, introverted, artistic, or mathematical. Everyone’s been frustrated and dissatisfied before. I’ve certainly had my fair share of devastating disappointments from the workplace to romance. Even today, I’ll admit I’m sometimes underwhelmed by the minimal viewership I’m currently drawing to FlyingFaith. Of course, I knew that’d be the case for a long while. FlyingFaith is a young blog. Audiences are earned through years of diligent work, but I’m sure you all can understand how defeated one can feel when their labors bear little fruit. You can do everything you possibly can right yet still have little to show for it. It’s a sad fact of life, and it’s times like those where we all tend to pick up and play the numbers game the most.
So how’s the ‘numbers game’ played? Well, what do we do with numbers? We count them, so the game is very much what its title implies. Interestingly though, it doesn’t matter exactly what you’re counting. Counting money is a typical thing, but money isn’t the only thing we count. YouTubers count followers. Book authors count copies sold. Lonely hearts count number of friendships. Even churches count the heads in their pews, but when there’s little return or turnout, what we have (or don’t have) mocks our expectations. Then that pathetic sense of failure and rejection sets in. Afterwards, you might start deducing the reason for your failure. You pinpoint something or someone to blame. It might be a person, a circumstance, or yourself, but no matter what or who it is, you’ve now ended your numbers game labeling something as inadequate, obstructive or both. (Whether or not that something is factually the issue is another matter.)
Not everyone plays the numbers game in its classic form, though. There’s a flip-reverse version too, but it starts from a point of success rather than failure. Imagine something akin to landing a business deal or scoring a trophy. You’re now primed for the alternative numbers game. Achievement isn’t sin. Sizable profits isn’t either, and it’s the responsible thing to record your earnings. However, the numbers game begins when fear of losing your gains or the ‘just one more’ trend kicks in. It’s tricky to tell when necessity becomes greed. I say that even to warn myself, but if my chronic thought is ‘not enough’, I take it as a sign to be concerned. That’s not just in regards to material wealth either. Take family time for instance. Despite it’s vital importance, it can become my new idol if I’m never satisfied with the family time I’m given. Goes to show that anyone can horde anything - even if that thing is good.
It’s hard. Everyone craves success, but while money and prestige is handy in the present, without Godly vision attached, there’s little eternal future in it. That goes for churches too. Now, I’m not a legalist. God did not hogtie Christians to only ‘christian’ endeavors. Anything a Believer does to honor Him and bless others is sacred no matter what it is. (1 Corinthians 10:31) However, we must put as much thought into the ‘why’ as the ‘what’. Why design buildings? Is it for money or to give businesses and people nice venues and homes? Why write books? Is it for fame or to inspire? Why do boring paperwork? Is it because were told or to honor your boss and earn for your family? You see, carving an altar isn’t anymore sacred to God than carving a footstool. It’s the heart behind that altar or footstool that really matters to Him.
Allow me to share something personal. We’ve been immensely blessed to have the families we have in our dance studio, but to tell you the truth, my family’s income there haven’t evened out with expenses yet. Not once. We weren’t surprised by that, honestly. Dance studios aren’t the most lucrative businesses, but I’ll admit. We’re often tempted to play the ‘student-signup’ edition of the numbers game. However, God continues to remind us that He led and prepared my family not for riches but to fill a cultural and spiritual hole in our community. You see, up till then, no conservative parent in our area could sign up their child for dance lessons without sensual moves, music, or costumes getting in the mix. They literally had nowhere to go, so my family followed God’s prompting and made it our mission to be that place.
About a month ago, we hosted our annual performance. Our students were all ecstatic to get onstage except for one little girl with a bad case of stage fright. No one could convince her to perform, but you know what happened? We watched all her classmates, without any prompting, go out of their way to speak kindly to her, tell her how much they’d miss her, and that it’ll be okay. Even my tap students (a totally different class), showed genuine concern and prayed for her. I tell you. Out of all they did that day, at no point was I more proud of our young ladies or felt more successful. Amassing huge dance classes is a good goal, but training up a few dancers to bear a Biblical mindset is a better one. For a Christ-like heart goes a lot farther in life than a perfected pirouette; much like a tiny well-trained and discipled congregation is more useful to God than a congregation obsessed with filling its pews via popular trends, social stunts, and refurbishments.
Numbers can disappoint. You can scrape to ‘fix’ it with new schedules, tactics, or a splash of paint, but you’ll never be able to discern lasting prosperity until you stop counting what you value and start counting what God values. The world counts money. The world counts awards. The world counts attendees. God on the other hand? He counts sincere hearts. What are you counting?
1 Corinthians 3:10-15, “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
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