My father is a statistician. He has taught statistics at the university level for upwards of 30 years, in addition to doing statistical analysis for the university at large. I know this not only because, well, he’s my dad, but also because I took three classes from him when I was a college student.
In this confessional moment, though, I must acknowledge that I don’t remember a ton from those days. But one thing that has stuck with me is that in statistical analysis, you want to be careful in paying too much attention to individual data points. Instead, you want to have enough of those individual data points in order to see not what they represent individually, but to see the overall trend line they are forming.
The most popular way of explaining this is probably in terms of the stock market. The market has had ups and downs; indeed, that happens every single day. But most investors know that the key to successful investing is consistency. That’s because despite the relative ups and downs during a given season, there is a long trend line of upward growth in the market. That’s the difference – a data point is just that. It’s a short-sighted, small range view. But the trend line – that’s where the truth really lies. It shows you, over a longer period of time, the overall arc of where the data is headed.
I bring this up today because I think the same statistical principle applies in other areas of life that applies in the stock market. The question, then, isn’t so much about the individual data point. It’s more about the trend line. And the Bible has something to say about that. Specifically, it says this:
Everything is moving toward one thing.
Here’s the way Paul points that out in Ephesians 1:7-10:
We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His gracethat He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration of the days of fulfillment—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.
Everything is moving toward one thing. God is bringing all things together that Jesus Christ might be prized and worshiped above all. Everything is moving toward one thing.
Wait a minute, you might say. I look around every single day and I see little evidence of that fact. Instead, I see sickness and pain. I see rebellion and mocking. In fact, the one thing I don’t see is the world being brought to the realization of the greatness of Jesus.
But remember the data points. Remember the trend line. Remember that God is not bound by the shackles of time. And remember that He is in it for the long term.
Remember that for centuries God had in His heart the coming of His Son. Remember that He slowly revealed pieces of His plan through the law and prophets. Remember that even when Jesus came, people drastically misunderstood.
He is a trend line God. And because He is, we can by His grace be a trend line people. When we are a trend line people, we recognize the difference between the overall arc of the universe and an isolated event in time. And by faith, we can recognize the gravity of a single situation and yet remain calm and faithful in the midst of it. We can rest assured that God is bending history for His own ends.
We can sleep tonight knowing that everything is moving toward one thing. And it will eventually get there.