They can define you in dozens of different ways. They can sink you or save you; kill you or cure you. They can elevate or promote you. The can make you more important than you really are, and do so much more – in dozens … or hundreds of different ways. Heck, they literally bombard us daily before we even have a chance to put our feet on the floor.
What are they? NUMBERS.
Our days are numbered in 24-hour increments. The numbers remind us when we have to be somewhere and the numbers dictate how many minutes, hours, days, weeks or months we can remain there.
The numbers you receive on your blood work can decide your fate. Healed? Diseased? Remission? Normal? Your blood pressure and cholesterol? Both measured by numbers.
The amount of money you have in a bank account or the number of combined assets can mean the difference between living in a palace or living in your car. Your sales numbers can promote you to a higher position or demote you – or worse yet – get you fired.
Your SAT numbered scores can help you get into a great college with scholarships or remind you that you’re probably better suited to a career in the service industry.
Without a social security number and a birth date, you probably wouldn’t be able to accomplish much. Both of these numbers are literally your ticket to health care, home and car loans, bank accounts, careers, universities … etc.
During World War II, all it took was a number tattooed on your arm to condemn you to a death camp – where the very name depicts unimaginable horror.
Our I.Q. is measured by numbers. The internet and the dark web operate with numbers. Scientific discoveries, curing diseases, measuring gestational periods – so much of life boils down to numbers, numeric equations, algorithms, geometry, etc., etc., etc.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a number of times – I hate math and I’m not great with numbers – so in my life, I try to keep the numbers as simple as possible. I know that if I eat too many calories in a day, the number on the scale is likely to climb. Just last week at my monthly WW weigh-in, I recorded a 2.8 weight loss which was a strong enough number to change my entire outlook for the day. It was a happy, happy, joy, joy kind of day – all because of a number. It’s crazy how much the numbers on the scale can dictate my moods, in spite of my best efforts to keep that from happening.
My number obsession isn’t limited to merely my weight and the number of points or calories I consume daily. I tend to obsess over numbers as they relate to my daily workouts. I push myself to unrealistic goals in the time I spend working out, or the level of intensity that I apply on the treadmill – which are all measured in numbers.
Numbers are frequently the reason for mood swings and being downtrodden or wallowing in the doldrums. If one of my blogs receives minimal likes on social media, I feel down and disappointed. If only a few people are added each week to my meager following – double doldrums are the result. Clearly, social media numbers make me crazy too.
It was in the midst of the low number doldrums this past week, that I got quite the message from God regarding my out of balance numerical obsession.
It started last Wednesday, which was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. My husband and I are participating in a 40-day challenge of Bible study and Lent related videos. We started discussing our desire to “sacrifice” something personal during this season leading up to Easter.
In past years, I’ve given up things that were tough for me (all things sugar related, to be sure!). Clearly, a person can survive without sugary foods indefinitely – so how much of a sacrifice is this, really? This year, God laid it on my heart to sacrifice something that will really “cost me.” Something number related. Immediately, I was reminded of a story in the Bible regarding King David that deals specifically with numbers. The story can be found in both 1 Chronicles 21:1-26 and 2 Samuel 24:1-25.
In the story, Satan convinces David to take a census of his army and the Israelites. I was always confused as to why this was such a bad thing in God’s eyes. From my research, apparently David had no right to conduct such a census because the Israelites didn’t belong to him, but to God. In part, David got caught up in how big “his army” was. David wanted to focus on the numbers, which God disapproved of.
David knew immediately after the census was taken that he had sinned. The morning after the census, a message came to David telling him that God was going to punish him and the Israelites. God let David choose from three different punishments – all of which were very destructive and unpleasant. David makes his choice of which punishment he and his people will receive and wants to build an alter to make a sacrifice to God to repent and to hopefully stop the punishment.
21 “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked. David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.” 22 “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. 23 I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.” 24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen. 25 David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped. 2 Samuel 24:21-25 (NLT emphasis added)
I love that David was so repentant that his moral integrity wouldn’t allow him to offer anything to God that would be easy for him. David knew his repentance needed to match the severity of the punishment, in the fact that, it needed to be difficult and should cost him dearly if it was going to make a difference in receiving God’s forgiveness.
The older I get – the longer I walk with God, my attitude mirrors King David when it comes to sacrificing something for God. Even though I KNOW there is nothing I could possibly sacrifice that would ever equal what Jesus sacrificed for me, I want to make a sacrifice that will be difficult for me. A sacrifice that will cost me something must do just that – COST ME; be it comfort, money, time … something big.
I prayed and asked God what that “something” is? I read several devotions on Ash Wednesday and watched a couple of videos and surprisingly, the message became quite clear. All the signs pointed to one thing in particular. My obsession with numbers – specifically with regards to my writing. God reminded me that I am writing for his good pleasure and no one else. While it is nice to receive positive affirmation or monetary contributions, that is all secondary. If no one buys my books or reads any of my blogs, I need to be okay with that. I need to stop checking my stats every day to see how many people have visited my site. I need to stop obsessing over how many people like my status or are following me. The numbers don’t matter and should not influence my writing in any way.
My sacrifice is the time I put into everything I write, oftentimes for little or no money, and very little positive feedback. My sacrifice is staying off of social media (except for posting weekly blogs – because hey, somebody might read them and be helped in some way). My sacrifice is to spend quality time with God, thanking him for the innumerable blessings in my life. My sacrifice is to write for God as if he is the only one reading my work. The only number I want to concern myself with is my one and only … my number one … my Lord and Savior!
QUOTE OF THE DAY: