David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” (2 Samuel 24)
There are some things that are very valuable to count. For instance, I was leading a group of students on a trip to Chicago a number of years ago, and one of the vans failed to count to make sure everyone was inside before we departed from a downtown restaurant. That would’ve been a good time to count because we ended up having to drive back to pick up our missing student! It’s always good to count your children to make sure they’re all present before you leave to go somewhere. It’s also valuable to count your change when you pay for something.
Counting takes on a negative light, however, when we use it to boost our level of confidence in life beyond a healthy place of faith.
In David’s case, he counted the number of fighting men so that he could have confidence in his ability to win battles. Why was this a bad thing to do? David’s strength was never what allowed him to win battles. If David’s strength was responsible for battles being won, then God wouldn’t receive any glory. David would trust in himself for his provision rather than trusting in God. Even as far back as when he was fighting lions and bears while protecting sheep, David’s strength had nothing to do with his victories (see 1 Samuel 17).
God’s desire for each one of us is that we trust Him completely with our lives. For the person of faith, there are no accidental circumstances, battles won, or even battles lost; God is the overseer of all of those things. Yes, there is a point of human action, but ultimately, we have to trust that God is the one in control. I once heard it said that we should pray as if it’s up to God and act as if it’s up to us. David neglected the former while placing his hope in the latter. Let us not be guilty of the same sin.
Father, it’s so tempting to place my faith in my abilities or in my assets. Rather than trusting in those things, though, You want me to trust in You. Give me a sound confidence both in Your ability and in Your willingness to come through in my behalf. Keep me from committing the same sin as David and believing that my strength comes in my numbers.