Most of us struggle to conceive how large the number, one billion, is. We are given numbers on a variety of subjects every day, but often find it hard to really grasp what is being portrayed in the number. For example, someone tells you that the nearest star is 4.3 light years away. The human eye has 130 million rods and cones that transmit over a billion electrical impulses to the brain every second. These numbers are just beyond our everyday perceptions.
Dr. Mark Young, President of Denver Seminary, tried to help us picture the number, one billion. One billion one-dollar bills laid end-to-end would extend 96,000 miles, four times around the equator. One billion ounces represents 31,250 tons, the displacement of several naval destroyers. One billion minutes ago the apostle John was still alive. They’re interesting visual analogies, but it’s still hard to comprehend the number. So what do we do with the world population numbers? There are more than 8 billion people living on earth. Those are real people, just like you and me. A baby girl, Vinice Mabansag, born in the Philippines’ capital Manila became the 8th billionth person in the world when the global population hit the landmark in November 2022. So our task is to tell Vinice and 8 billion other people about Christ. Worldwide, more people are trusting Christ as their personal Savior than at any other historical time. This is exciting news, yet how do we keep these inconceivable numbers relevant?
We should remember that taking the gospel to all the world is each individual’s responsibility according to Acts 1:8. We break down the number, one billion, by accepting our responsibility to talk with one neighbor, visit ten people in a region within my short-term range, donate funds to a ministry that will influence one hundred people with the gospel, and pray for one thousand people in an unreached area of the world. One, ten, hundred, thousand. I can get my arms around those numbers.
The apostles responded to God’s command to reach all people by accepting their responsibility to communicate the gospel from one person to another. The individuals change according to the opportunities that God opens—a tribesman in New Guinea, a businessman in St Louis, a student in Columbia (both Missouri and the nation), a retired insurance saleswoman in St Peters. Each individual is a tiny part of the number, one billion, yet each person is a number that I can reach. It’s always the number, one, that God uses when we remember that His mission is absolutely relevant to our daily life. We can each do our part—one person helping another—in the mission of Christ with the grace and power of Christ motivating us.