Listening to my wife practicing counting with our two-year-old grandson conjured up an interesting thought. As she cheered when he reached 20, a big deal for his age, it occurred to me that learning how to count is not necessarily the great thing we make it out to be. That it is, in fact, the beginning of many of our troubles.
My grandson, with his whole counting career ahead of him, will feel compelled to keep track of countless things (pun intended) during his life. From his age and how many fingers and toes he has, he will graduate to wins and losses on the baseball field, to his grade scores and G.P.A., to his daily caloric intake, to who owes him what and how much, to all the offenses he has suffered, etc., etc.
If he becomes a writer, he’ll be concerned with how many books he sells. If he becomes a pastor, he’ll monitor how many attend his church. God forbid he should become an accountant!
No matter what he goes on to do, he will worry about the numbers until the day he retires. But even then he won’t retire from counting. Instead, he’ll worry about the Stock Market and how much is in his retirement account. Until the day he breathes his last breath, he will be busy worrying and counting, counting and worrying.
Here’s the problem with all of the counting we do: Beyond occasionally counting our blessings, the exercise of keeping track of the numbers in our lives is seldom an act of faith. We are so concerned about the numbers because we depend on them for our sense of accomplishment and self-worth. We keep track so we can compare ourselves with others. We also count because we think we need good numbers to justify ourselves before God. We count out of fear, insecurity, or pride.
We are like David, whom God warned against taking a census of the nation of Israel because He knew the king’s motives were worldly. God didn’t want David to look to, or trust in, the numbers. He wanted him, and He wants us, to look to, and to trust in Him. The truth is, the things we can count, no matter how many of them we may accumulate, are not worthy of our trust. They do not do what we “count on them” to do. They cannot protect us from our fears or justify us in our insecurities. All they really do is channel our faith in the wrong direction.
By contrast, if you can count up to one, that’s all the counting you need to do to put your trust in the Only Person who is worthy of your complete confidence. God is the only one who ever has or ever will protect you. Faith in God is the only justification your soul will ever find. When you put your faith where it belongs, you will stop worrying about the numbers.
God’s grace invites you to stop counting. It calls you to be content with the person God made you to be, and with the call He has placed on your life. It means you don’t need to compare yourself to anyone else to be a success. It means you can stand before God without fear of your failings because you’ve placed your confidence where it belongs, in the “finished” work of Christ.
“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7)