Benjamin Disraeli said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.” It seems that the media are constantly feeding us with statistics. One in four people are going to get this or one in five people have got that. They tell us that one in three marriages are going to end in divorce. They say that the average person consumes “x” litres of wine each year or the average person drinks so much tea a year. The media are using what is called the law of averages. The average is the arithmetical mean, established by adding a set of values and dividing the total by the number of items. It represents the middle or median point in a range of given values. In these days most database programs provide the means to establish the average of almost everything. Many people believe what the media says, and they believe the law of averages. But should you, as a Christian, believe it?
“You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” (I Corinthians 3:3 NIV). Other translations render the word “worldly” as “carnal” (KJV) or “sense governed”. The statement concerns Christians whose actions are governed by the information coming to them via the five senses. They are acting “like mere men”, or “mere humans” as I should render it these days. They are acting just like everyone else in the world, hence the translation “worldly”.
The law of averages has two inherent dangers
I am concerned about the law of averages because I feel it has two inherent dangers. One is that it encourages people to pessimism and soon becomes fatalism, where they think that certain events must happen. For example, if our marriage happens to be marriage number three then I have an unavoidable appointment at the divorce court. I had better prepare a pre-nuptial agreement! The law of averages may be a handy statistical device but it is only that. The average certainly cannot be guaranteed at the individual level.
The second inherent danger is that people could conclude that perhaps they are just average people. If the average person drinks x cups of tea or coffee a year, and I too drink about x cups, then I’m just an average person. The same comparisons are made about salaries, values of houses, makes of car and so forth. I believe the Bible is quite clear that those who belong to God’s forever family are anything but average. They are more than conquerors, they are blessed with Heaven’s best, they are victors!
I have a distinct dislike for the law of averages, because I believe it is contrary to what God says about us in His Word. We must come to the place where we ask, “Am I a statistic or am I a person?” “Am I an average person or am I a child of God?” The two terms are mutually exclusive.
Statistics do teach us certain things. For example, we know that one in five people in Australia believe in God and believe the Bible to be the Word of God, but they do not go to church. These statistics are helpful so long as we do not label people on that basis. And while one in three marriages might end in divorce nationally, why should one in three marriages in your fellowship end in divorce, just because of the law of averages? So let’s learn how to outdo the law of averages.
I have taken as illustrations three people in the Bible who thought they were average or less. We will look at these examples and see how God encouraged them to change their thinking and to outdo their belief in the law of averages.
God’s answers to Moses
The first person is Moses, as recorded in the book of Exodus. Let’s see what Moses has to say about himself and how God answered him. In Exodus chapter 3 Moses had left Pharaoh’s house and had become a shepherd in the wilderness. God came to Moses one day and told him he was needed to lead the nation of Israel out of their bondage. “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?'” (Exodus 3:11 NIV). Moses said, in effect, that he was just keeping sheep for his father-in-law Jethro. He felt that God did not want a shepherd for this job but somebody with a little panache, somebody with the latest fashion suit, somebody who was not wanted by the law of the land. Moses saw himself as below average. How did God answer him?
“And God said, ‘I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.'” (Exodus 3:12). “Certainly I will be with thee” (KJV) — what more could you want? Notice that God did not even comment on Moses’ objection. He simply stated the obvious, “I will be with you”. That is a great key to outdoing the law of averages: you cannot be just average if God is with you. You and God are a majority. You are no longer just an average person, you’re somebody special.
There was much discussion as Moses tried to prove to God that he really was just an average man and not up to the task. “Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (Exodus 4:1). Moses’ argument was that they would not believe a shepherd. He had not had contact with the Israelites for a number of years. How did God answer this objection? The first time God answered Moses was with the truth of His presence; this time he answers him with the truth of His power. “Then the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ ‘A staff,’ he replied. The Lord said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it” (Exodus 4:2-3). I think I would have done the same! That was something quite amazing, for Moses to have a wooden staff in his hand, and then to throw it on the ground and watch it become a snake. That clearly shows the power of God in operation. And then I love this next bit, for I’m certain the Lord has a sense of humor.
“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.'” (Exodus 4:4a). I think that some of the story is missing here, because Moses probably turned around and said, “You’ve got to be kidding, Lord!” It’s easy enough to have a staff in your hand and to throw it down, and it becomes a serpent. That I could handle, just as long as I was a fair distance away from the snake, but to bend down and pick it up — now that’s another story! But Moses did it. “So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. ‘This,’ said the Lord, ‘is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob — has appeared to you.'” (Exodus 4:4b-5).
So God gave Moses a sign that he could use when he went to the people of Israel and said that God had spoken to him. Whenever he wanted to prove that it was true, he would just throw the old staff down. I reckon he became good at this after a while, and he probably enjoyed watching the response on people’s faces when he threw the staff down and it became a snake and when he picked up the snake it became a staff again.
And just in case, God gave him another two signs. “Then the Lord said, ‘Put your hand inside your cloak.’ So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow. ‘Now put it back into your cloak,’ he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh. Then the Lord said, ‘If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.'” (Exodus 4:6-9).
These three manifestations of God’s power were not only signs to the nation of Israel but they were also God’s sign to Moses that he was not just an average person. Moses was given God’s power and he could use it whenever he willed to do so. There’s a natural part in every miracle and there is a divine part. The natural part was to throw the staff on the ground. Anybody can do that. The natural part was to put his hand inside his coat. Anybody can do that. The natural part was to get some water out of the river. Anybody can do that. When man does his part, then God, by that great principle of divine-human reciprocity, does His part and the miracle takes place.
God demonstrated to Moses that he was not just average, but Moses was still not fully convinced. So God in his great love and mercy listened to Moses one more time. If it had been me, I think I would have shut the door in his face by now. “Moses said to the Lord, ‘O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.'” (Exodus 4:10). “I’m slow of speech, just average. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking…”
“The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.'” (Exodus 4:11-12). What is God’s key here? God has pointed out the truth of His presence and the truth of His power. Now it is the truth of His proclamation. You are not average when you put the word of God on your lips, when you say what God has said about the situation. This is why I encourage people to use affirmations, because they are saying what God said. I want Christians to see that they are not just ordinary people — they are special people, sons and daughters of the living God.
God gave Moses three keys that helped him to outdo the law of averages. The first was God’s presence, the second was God’s power, and the third was God’s proclamation. Moses learned that he was not average, and he went on to lead the nation of Israel for forty years.
Believe you are above average
Let’s go on to another incident, this time from the New Testament, “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I will go and heal him.’ The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof…'” (Matthew 8:6-8a).
In the same incident recorded in Luke 7:6b-7a, the centurion says, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.” The centurion believed that he was below average, that he did not belong in that level of company. He recognised that there was something about Jesus that was at a level higher than he was at that time. I’ve met thousands of Christian believers and it concerns me greatly when I hear them say, “I’m not worthy of this or of that” and many even sing songs about it. If God made you worthy, you are worthy, right? If God made you above average, you are above average. If God made you His child, then you are above average.
However, while the centurion felt he was below average, he also had faith. “… ‘But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes; and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith'” (Matthew 8:8b-10). What an observation about a non-Jewish person! “Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour” (Matthew 8:13).
Here is another key to outdo the law of averages-it’s the key of believing. Believe that you are above average. Believe, as it says in Psalm 91:7 that though “a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, … it will not come near you”. Believe that you are above average. Remember, the law of averages is merely a statistical device; it is not the gospel. Believe the Word of God, believe what God says about you. If you can believe you can go beyond the law of averages, you can be in the high bracket instead of the middle or low bracket. When you believe, you receive — and that makes the difference.
It’s the contents that count
My final illustration is from the Apostle Paul. There are many more people in the Bible who felt they were less than average and God had to teach them otherwise. Paul said, “… and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (I Corinthians 15:8-10).
“I am the least of the apostles…” That’s below average, isn’t it? But then Paul said, and this is the key to how he outdid the law of averages, “… by the grace of God I am what I am.” That is a powerful statement. I might feel myself that I am average or less than average, but that’s not true because God made me what I am. He goes on to say, “I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me”. His part was to work harder than all the apostles put together, yet it was really Paul expressing the Christ within, “the grace of God that was with me”.
Paul taught the same thing in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul was very appreciative of the fact that he was merely a container of the Christ. And because he was a container, he was giving all the credit to the contents and not to the container. When you pick a jar off the supermarket shelf, you don’t usually buy it because of the jar — you buy it because of the contents. In both these passages Paul is saying that the container was not the important thing, it was the contents that counted. Because the contents were “the grace of God”, “Christ living in me”, then he was way above average.
I do not believe Paul spent much time going around saying he was below average. He was conscious of the fact that he had persecuted the Christians and that he had put many of them to death. But he also recognised that he was a man of God, he was a person who had God’s power and God’s grace and God’s Son (Galatians 1:16) in his life to do a particular task, and he got on with the doing of it. So learn from these statements that since Christ is your life, then you are not average. You can tap into God’s wisdom, God’s love, and God’s power, so what the law of averages says is true of your community does not necessarily have to be true of yourself. You are on a higher level than the law of averages.
In conclusion, remember that the law of averages is really just a statistical device, not something that is laid down to control your life. As a Christian you are living on a different plane, where God says he wants only the best for you. He has health, wealth and happiness available for you, if you will believe his Word and fulfil its conditions. I like the affirmation that says, “I am what God says I am and I can do what God says I can do.” Take that as your principle and throw out the law of averages. You will make a success of life and bring glory to God. You can outdo the law of averages.
Copyright © 1995 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the New International Version (NIV), Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/
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