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