Before you read any further, I have a confession to make. I loathe maths. I can see its usefulness. I have a son studying maths at university and an engineer husband who uses maths daily. But I myself absolutely hate maths. Nothing is guaranteed to bring me out in a cold sweat faster than having to do maths. Even simple maths (working out the cost of the number of photo frames we will need for the photo gallery we are creating for the building) is enough to induce terror in me. If I say that the job of Treasurer in any organisation is akin to thinking of burning in hell, you probably get the (only very slightly hyperbolic) idea that I don’t like maths.
God, however, does. I am convinced of that. Maths seems to be written into the universe itself. The links between maths, philosophy and theology seem to be integral to life. As I journey with God, however, I find that He seems to operate mathematically in ways that confuse me even more than the stuff I had to study at school does!
For example, in Leviticus 26, we read, “Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.” We read in Judges how God reduced Gideon’s army of twenty-two thousand to three hundred and said, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.” (Judges 7:7) We see how Jesus fed the multitudes from just five loaves and two fish (Mark 6). This kind of ‘God-maths’ goes beyond our understanding!
In 1 Kings 17, we read how God provided Elijah with food during a time of famine. He was sent to a widow in Zarephath and asked her for bread. Her answer was, “As surely as the LORD your God lives…I don’t have any bread — only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” (1 Kings 17:12) Elijah prophesied, ” ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.'” (1 Kings 17:14). And God’s word was proved true, with the handful of flour and the little oil feeding Elijah and the widow for much longer than was humanly thought possible.
Similarly, we have seen God’s mathematics at work over the new building. Even purchasing it in the first place was a miracle. The church committed in January 2009 to put all its financial resources into the bid for the building – a huge act of faith which both terrified and excited us. The rest of the money was provided through a grant – and the story of how we got that grant is a miracle in itself!
Yet by the time the building was ours, the church had more in its accounts than when it started. In less than a year, God multiplied the money. And as we have moved in and done extensive work on the building, our initial thought was that much of the repairs needed would have to wait until the sale of the Beever Street property. But as we are about to start holding meetings in the new building, we look at the new windows, new carpet, new floor, new fire door, paint, varnish, scaffolding, signs and say, “How did this happen? How could we afford to do all we’ve just done?”
We have received anonymous donations. We have reaped the benefits of Gift Aid. We have seen church members give sacrificially. But in the end, God has done something with the maths that we certainly couldn’t do.
There is still such a lot to be done. We still need to sell Beever Street and sort out many other financial things. But we have seen something of God’s provision and God’s faithfulness in visible and tangible ways. I can touch the windows. I can see the carpet. I am awed.
God is good!