A Matter of Math
By Brenda Black
Painted faces and high pitched rants; frenetic cheers and threatening jeers all at once – No, it's not an Indian war dance. It's March Madness! Whether you are among the college enrolled, faithful alum or have no university affiliation at all, it makes no difference when it comes to NCAA basketball.
And speaking of differences, the road to the Championship is more about subtraction and division than about adding up national titles.
It starts with more than a thousand teams and quickly gets whittled to 64 through records and committee votes. That number is pared to 32 after only two days of tournament play. Divide again and your down to 16 who count it a sweet thing to miss the chopping block. In just the second week of competition, those 16 are slashed to four and the other 12 go home without a shot for the big banner. In the third and final week of basketball battles, only ONE of those Final Four will be crowned next month!
Off the court, the real world is filled with striving for superiority as well. We compete for jobs on every rung of the corporate ladder. Limited time offers, coupled with limited supplies, force shoppers to act more like half-crazed maniacs than wise household managers. All too often, we are grappling to be king of the hill or top dog and if we arrive at the pinnacle, we discover that being one can be pretty lonely.
I'm so glad that God's economy is more about addition and multiplication instead of subtraction and division. The more the merrier is the Lord's strategy. He sent his disciples out with the mathematical mandate to multiply.
“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness...These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions:...'Go...to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.'” (Matthew 10:1-8 selected, emphasis mine)
And then the Lord suggests a whacky formula: “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (vs. 39) Now that's upside down mathematics! With God, even losses render compound interest.
Still have a problem with God's digits? Then it's probably more a matter of the heart than a mathematical hindrance. Because the road to the Final Day is lined with potential winners. Our challenge is to multiply the kingdom through ministry and prayer.
“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against those of the Aramaic-speaking community because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, 'It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.'
“This proposal pleased the whole group...They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts. 6:1-7)
We all win if we follow the game plan. And one more thing when it comes to God's championship. Even those who were beaten down or completely out of the game still have an opportunity to win.
“Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:19-21)
Freely, you have received. Freely give. God wishes for none to perish and all to win!
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