from Mastering Life Before It’s Too Late:10 Biblical Strategies for a Lifetime of Purpose
God is a God of exponential multiplication. When He works through us, the results are astounding. To illustrate the power of God’s arithmetic, think of an enormous piece of very thin paper, the kind used by many Bible publishers. If you fold this paper one time, it’s two pages thick but still very thin. If you fold it again, it’s four pages thick. Fold it again and it’s eight pages thick. But mathematicians tell us that if we were to fold this hypothetical piece of paper twenty-five times, it will be about the height of the Empire State Building. If we fold it thirty times, it would reach over six miles into the sky, which is the cruising altitude of jetliners. Fold it forty-five times, and it will reach to the moon. If we fold it ninety-four times, it’ll reach across the entire known universe.
That is the power of exponential multiplication. This is God’s mathematics. When He works through us by His Spirit, He takes our words and works, folds them over, and blesses them. They may be as thin as Bible paper. They may be small in the sight of others. But their impact is like the ripple of a pond that expands through time in increasingly wide circles until it reaches the shores of eternity.
When we accomplish a task assigned us—when we perform a deed, speak a word, pray for a friend, train up a child, tutor a youngster, distribute a Bible, share a testimony, teach a lesson, or support a ministry—we never know the chain reaction God will begin. We can’t imagine the cumulative effect of our simple act, influence, or word. That’s why the Bible says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). The Bible frequently reminds us of the principle of sowing and reaping. By its very nature, a harvest is God’s method of multiplication. A single seed has the capacity of feeding millions through endless cycles of proliferation. An entire forest resides in an acorn’s cup.
In the same way, as we go through life sowing words, deeds, and influence—even if some are no bigger than mustard seeds—the number of people whom Christ can influence through us is incalculable. This is God’s arithmetic.
When God created the world, He invented mathematics, and God’s fingerprints are all over the world of numbers. Someone said there might be a lot of atheists among scientists, but comparatively few among mathematicians. This world is not random; it’s well ordered with unchanging tables of mathematical equations that are rational and constant and absolute. There’s especially something intriguing about exponential math. Here God deals in higher powers.
In kindergarten we learned the numbers one through ten, the simplest digits in arithmetic. Add them together and you get 55. But now try multiplying them: 1 × 2 × 3 × 4 × 5 × 6 × 7 × 8 × 9 × 10. The total comes to 3,628,800.
We might think we’re influencing people one by one and little by little, but God knows how to turn our addition into His multiplication, and His calculus is incalculable. Consider the great revival now sweeping China—millions upon millions of people are streaming into the kingdom. Much of what’s happening is the by-product of a few words by a fifteen-year-old girl, whose name we don’t know and who probably never knew what she had wrought.
I want to tell you the story of the influence she exerted on John Sung, who was born in 1901 into a Methodist preacher’s family in China. As a boy, John helped his father in the ministry and earned the nickname Little Pastor. But John’s main interests were intellectual, not spiritual. He was brilliant, always at the top of his class. As a young man he came to America in pursuit of degrees. He earned a PhD at Ohio State University, where you can still find his chemistry essays and research documents in the university library. He is reportedly the first national Chinese to earn a PhD in America.
Along the way, John got away from the Lord and lost his way in life. In the course of time, trying to regain his bearings, he enrolled in New York’s Union Theological Seminary, which espouses a very liberal theology. This was the modernist world of Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin and Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick. In this faithless environment, John Sung became so confused he no longer knew what he believed or why. He grew depressed and was unable to eat or sleep.
One day during the Christmas season, a friend invited him to an evangelistic meeting where Dr. I. M. Haldeman, a brilliant New York City pastor, was scheduled to speak. Arriving at the meeting, John was disappointed to learn the program had changed. Dr. Haldeman wasn’t there. Instead, a fifteen-year-old girl, dressed in white and clasping a small Bible, rose to say a few words. John lost interest in the meeting but, unable to exit gracefully, he stayed. The girl read a few verses about the power of the Cross and gave a few words of testimony. That’s all, but that was enough. Her few sentences fell into John’s heart like seeds ready to burst into life. Shortly thereafter, John embraced Christ as his Lord and Savior and began sharing the news with everyone.
The administration of Union Theological Seminary, thinking him mad, committed him to an insane asylum. He spent six months there, read the Bible cover to cover forty times, and considered the asylum a better seminary than Union.
He was finally released on the condition he would return to China, and he arrived in Shanghai in the fall of 1927. He started preaching the moment he arrived, and more than 100,000 people were saved during his ministry. He was called the “John Wesley of China.” He preached for fifteen years until he died at age forty-three from tuberculosis, but he paved the way for the explosive growth that China is experiencing today.
How many lives are still being changed because of the simple words of a young, white-clad girl through whom Jesus spoke?
From Mastering Life Before It’s Too Late: 10 Biblical Strategies for a Lifetime of Purpose by Robert J. Morgan © 2015. Used by permission of Howard Books. www.simonandschuster.com
Robert J. Morgan is the pastor of The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tenn., where he has served for 35 years. He has authored more than 20 books, including The Lord is My Shepherd, The Red Sea Rules, and Then Sings My Soul. He conducts Bible conferences, motivational meetings, and leadership seminars across the country. He and his wife, Katrina, live in Nashville. Visit him online at RobertJMorgan.com.