Clemson routed Alabama last night to win its second national title in three years. I’ve been watching college football for fifty years and have never seen a performance like the game their quarterback played.
Trevor Lawrence, a nineteen-year-old freshman, was named the Most Valuable Player. He is already being hailed as a once-in-a-generation talent. Now, after a performance for the ages, ESPN tells us this morning that “the legend of Trevor Lawrence has only just begun.”
The best part of the story isn’t the part that’s making headlines today.
When Lawrence was named Clemson’s starting quarterback last September, reporters asked how he stays so calm during games. “That’s just always my personality,” he explained. “Football’s important to me, but it’s not my life. It’s not the biggest thing in my life. I would say my faith is.”
He added: “I put my identity in what Christ says, who He thinks I am and who I know that He says I am.”
“Share a nanosecond of celebration”
There’s always more good news than makes the news.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof agrees. The title of his latest article makes his point: “Why 2018 Was the Best Year in Human History!”
Kristof claims that the world’s population is living longer and better than ever before. For instance, each day on average:
- 295,000 people gain access to electricity for the first time.
- 305,000 people are able to access clean drinking water for the first time.
- 620,000 people are able to get online for the first time.
- Only about 4 percent of children worldwide die by the age of five, down from 19 percent in 1960.
- Fewer than 10 percent of the world’s population live in extreme poverty, down from more than 50 percent in the 1950s.
He concludes: “Never before has such a large portion of humanity been literate, enjoyed a middle-class cushion, lived such long lives . . . or been confident that their children would survive. Let’s hit pause on our fears and frustrations and share a nanosecond of celebration at this backdrop of progress.”
A book Bill Gates is giving every college graduate in the US
Why, then, doesn’t good news make the news more often?
Bill Gates calls Hans Rosling’s bestseller, Factfulness, “one of the most important books I’ve ever read–an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.” Gates is so impressed with the book that he is giving an online copy to every college graduate in the United States.
After reading it, I see why.
Rosling was a medical doctor serving in some of the most difficult places on earth. He was also a professor of international health, a public educator, and an adviser to the World Health Organization and UNICEF. His TED talks have been viewed more than thirty-five million times.
After his death, his son and daughter-in-law published this book, a manuscript he was working on at the end of his life.
Rosling believed that we misinterpret the world because of eight fallacies:
- The gap instinct: we tend to focus on extremes rather than on the large majority in the middle.
- The negativity instinct: information about bad events is far more likely to reach us than good news.
- The straight-line instinct: we tend to assume that current trends will continue as they are.
- The fear instinct: our need for survival predisposes us to pay immediate attention to what frightens us. This fact is used by advertisers and the media to get our attention but also to create the impression that the world is worse than it is.
- The size instinct: we form impressions from single facts without seeking their context.
- The generalization instinct: we tend to group people, religions, and other demographics in ways that cause us to miss their internal differences and steps toward progress.
- The destiny instinct: we tend to believe that current conditions cannot change since it is hard to detect slow transformation toward positive outcomes.
- The single perspective instinct: we tend to simplify the world in ways that miss much that does not fit within our presuppositions.
Consider one example: the average number of babies per woman has dropped from nearly six in 1800 to 2.5 in 2017. Here’s the counterintuitive reason: those who leave extreme poverty no longer need large families for child labor and as insurance against child mortality. In addition, parents want better-educated and better-fed children, so they have fewer of them. And modern contraceptives are more available than ever before.
There is more good news than we see in the news. This fact is especially relevant for God’s people.
Who financed the Exodus?
We’re far enough into the new year for the new to begin wearing off. By this Friday, most people will have given up on their New Year’s resolutions. Many will begin settling for less than their best.
That’s because we measure our resources by what we have rather than what God has.
When the Jews fled Egyptian slavery, the Egyptians gave them silver and gold jewelry and clothing that helped finance the Exodus (Exodus 12:35-36). Jewish exiles returning from Babylonian captivity were able to rebuild their temple using funds from the Persian royal treasury (Ezra 6:4), along with royal revenue from the district in which Jerusalem was situated (v. 8).
After Daniel survived the lions’ den, the king who put him there had the prophet’s enemies executed before they could accuse Daniel further (Daniel 6:24). One of Jesus’ financial supporters was the wife of “Herod’s household manager” in Galilee (Luke 8:3).
A river or a reservoir?
Stephen Covey noted the contrast between an abundance mentality and a scarcity mentality. The latter views life as a zero-sum paradigm in which we must compete with each other for limited resources. The former flows from a deep inner sense of personal worth and security and results in the sharing of resources.
It is the difference between life as a river and life as a reservoir.
Which is true for you?
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Photo Courtesy: Getty Images/Harry How/Staff