Summary: God's plans are always big, but His means for getting His big plans achieved are always small.

The world is full of interesting stories about numbers. For example, why does the President

get a 21 gun salute. It all began in 1776 when Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the

Declaration of Independence, noticed that if you add up the numbers in 1776 they come to 21. He

said to himself, why not a 21 gun salute to our President? He submitted his idea to congress and

they liked it. It has been in use ever since.

David Barrett set out back in the 60's to find the answer to a question. How many different

Christian denominations are in the world? He estimated that the number would be around 5000.

By the time he traveled to almost every country on earth he came up with a number exceeding

20,800. In 1982 his massive book, World Christian Encyclopedia was published, and for 95

dollars you can find numbers for every kind of Christian in every land on the planet. His numbers

show that a decade ago there were 780 million dedicated Christians in the world, or about 18% of

the world's population.

We have come along way from the day when Jesus said to His followers here in Luke 12:32,

"Do not be afraid little flock." The flock has grown to the point where Jesus the great Shepherd

needs hundreds of thousands of under shepherds to keep the flock from straying. When Jesus

spoke these words His flock was indeed little. If the second coming would have taken place shortly

after the resurrection, and if Jesus would have taken His bride to heaven with Him in the

ascension, it would have been just a little flock. But Jesus died for the sin of the whole world, and

His plan involves big numbers. Peter says that the second coming is delayed because Jesus wants

everyone to come to repentance. He is not anxious to come and end the chance of millions more

coming into the kingdom. His goal will not be achieved until there are people out of every tribe,

tongue and nation who are a part of His flock.

So what we have in the Bible in both the Old Testament and the New Testament is a great

number paradox. The paradox is this: God loves and chooses the small rather than the big, and

yet His goal is to reach large numbers. So which is the best-the big or the small? The answer is

both. Of course it is impossible for two opposites to be true, but God specializes in the impossible,

and the biblical facts make it clear that God's plans are always big, but His means for getting His

big plans achieved are always small. The David and Goliath battle is in God's mind all the time.

He loves to achieve big victories through small resources.

A major theme of the Old Testament is God getting His will done through the small group.

Every time God's people got to be a large flock they forsook Him and went after other gods. He

had to judge His people and reduce the flock to a faithful remnant, and then start over with that

small group. The flood story is repeated over and over with variations. The masses are eliminated

and God starts over with the few. The tree is pruned way back, and with a few small branches

God begins again. It never bothered God to work with the small group. It was His delight in fact,

for the small group was always more faithful in responding to His will.

I can remember being captain of the team and getting to choose the people who would play. I

always went for the biggest guys first and the little guys last. This is called the desire to win, and

it is a part of my cultural conditioning. But God is apparently un-American, for He is not so

conditioned. In fact, He leans the other way and deliberately chooses the little, the weak, and the

ones least likely to win. God says in Deut. 7:7, "The Lord did not set His affections on you and

choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all

peoples." Now be honest, what would you think of a captain of a team who got first choice and he

by passes Mr. America and chooses Casper Milktoast?

Someone trying to psychoanalyze God might conclude that he has a shrimp fixation and a

fear of success, for he seems to specialize in sure losers. After all the folly of the Old Testament

you would think He would have gotten over that fixation on the inferior, but not so. We come to

the New Testament and its rerun time again. Paul writes in I Cor. 1:26-28, "Brothers, think of

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