People generally like “formulas” in life that work out nice and neatly. We like to know if we do one or more things we can expect a desired result. We like the equation A + B = C. I coached high school volleyball for several years and it never ceased to amaze me what people, and even myself, thought should happen. Parents believed if their daughters were on the team and came to practice, they should play in the games. Some of them did not understand participation in competitive sports did not equate to equal playing time. Therefore, A + B ≠ C.
My first position in coaching was as varsity coach in a rural community. Many student/athletes were only allowed to play one sport because of farming responsibilities. Though physically strong they were not necessarily well-rounded athletes. As a result, our team did not have a great win-loss record, though we had begun to improve and had one of the most successful seasons in school history. However, parents were not happy watching their daughters lose night after night, therefore petitioned to have me fired as coach after four seasons. The parents believed if their daughters came to practice and worked hard, and if I was a good coach, we would have a winning season. But A + B ≠ C.
As a coach, I had expectations. I rationalized if I gave 100% to each girl and if I sacrificed my family and other interests for the sake of coaching, I would experience success and favor on and off the court. I believed because I invested in each girl, even counseling them (many had family, boyfriend, school issues), the parents would notice how much I cared for their daughters not just as student/ athletes but as people. When the petition came through asking for my resignation or be fired, I was broken and devastated having no idea people were opposed to my coaching. I had a rude awakening and discovered A + B ≠ C.
There is a saying in athletics: “Practice makes perfect!” Then someone added “Perfect practice makes perfect!” Neither cliché is true. I had athletes with little natural talent who practiced harder than anyone else, putting in extra hours (what we called gym-rats) and made corrections I advised as a coach. Practice did not make perfect for them because they did not have the athletic ability to excel at that level of competition. They experienced improvement but were not top-notch athletes. These were generally the ladies I felt the most camaraderie with because we had the same ideals. However, when it came time to compete I put the most talented athletes on the floor because that was my job, to produce a winning team, not just a hard working team. Oftentimes that left hard working girls on the bench. We all experienced the reality of A + B ≠ C.
Perhaps you can think of similar situations in your life where you thought if you did the “right” things you would get the “right” result only to discover A + B ≠ C. These outcomes often leave us confused, unsure of the next move, wondering if it is even worth doing the right thing. Sometimes, without conscious awareness we still maintain the idealistic view A+B=C, even though it rarely happens in life situations.
When people come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior this idealistic view becomes intensified when we learn about faith and our God of impossibilities. We quote Scripture verses like these: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23) “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.” (Matt.18:19) “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”(Matt.17:20) What happens when we believe and still face seeming impossibilities? What happens when we agree with each other for healing or deliverance and it does not appear to happen? What are we to do when we believe we have faith and command ungodly things to move out of our lives, yet they remain? This is when we need to understand in God’s economy, A + B ≠ C.
Our God is not a formula God. His ability is not limited to an equation nor does He limit His children to a simple formula. His Word is true and infallible in every circumstance. Our inability to reconcile our circumstances with His Word can lead us to doubt and unbelief in Him and in “how” we apply our faith in Him. In 2 Corinthians 1:20 we read “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” Sometimes we forget His Word is true, His promises are sure because we operate with the same concept with God that we do in life. We think if we simply apply our knowledge of God, walk in faith, speak Scripture and let it come forth from our innermost being, be in a living and dynamic relationship with God, then our circumstances will line up immediately with His revealed will. When that does not happen we start altering our understanding of Scripture, adjusting our perception of God and His Word, and minimizing the great mysteries of God’s Word, reducing them to concepts which fit our reality.
God is concerned that we be in relationship with Him. Therefore He purposed to have His dealings with us be unique, love-based, and built on listening to His voice. Of course we have some basic “principles” of faith we can learn and apply. But without a love relationship with God, they remain “principles” instead of interaction with a God who lives in us. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) We need to approach God with boldness and confidence in Him and His Word that His faithfulness is unchanging. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) What He says, He will do!
There is a difference between approaching God and approaching our circumstances with a mathematical formula. If we live our lives knowingly or unknowingly approaching the circumstances on the principle that A+B=C, our focus can be on the “A” and the “B”. In other words, our focus is on methods, duties, principles, rules, or even laws. We then try to figure out what we are to do in order to get God to give us the anticipated outcome as a result of following the principles we learn in the Word of God. Our attention can also be drawn to the “C” causing us to miss what God is working in our lives because we want to be at the end of our equation. We may even change the equation throughout our process in order to “figure” out why we are not getting the expected results, or we may simplify the equation and settle for less than the fullness God has in store for us as His children.
But if we approach God with the understanding that A + B ≠ C, our eyes are not on the A,B, or C but on our God who does not operate in formulas. He is an intimate, active, personal, communicative God who will answer our questions when we ask, open the door when we knock, and He will be found by us when we seek Him. We are then willing to accept God’s Word by faith and search out His mysteries, including our unanswered questions and unequal outcomes without minimizing or reducing those things we do not understand. We receive the Word of God as truth, believing it even when our circumstances do not line up at the moment with what we know in our hearts to be truth. We can walk in the realm of faith believing all things are possible with Christ, knowing in faith we will move mountains, being in agreement with our brothers and sisters and having things done by our Father in heaven. All of this not because we followed a formula, but because we followed our hearts, fully devoted to our God of love!