It’s Just Math

Written by Kevin P. Gilmore

In the January issue of P&B eNews, I wrote about the need to ensure we create margin in our lives. In our May edition, as I reflected on the COVID-19 pandemic, I stated:

  • I believe we can take advantage of this unusual time to improve our own lives and the lives of others. Here are some thoughts: 1) we can evaluate the need for margin in our lives and use our “down time” to enhance our own emotional, physical, and financial well-being.

I wrote those words in early April and felt convicted that I should be taking my own advice. My emotional and financial health were in order, but my physical health needed attention, because I am one who has struggled with weight most of my adult life.

I have started and stopped different diet and exercise plans which never lasted because they were either too complicated or I was not truly committed. To move forward, I formulated a simple plan to take better control of my health with the assistance of a weight loss app on my phone. Through the app I learned, or re-learned, what it is all about—it’s just math.

Math is reliable even though it can sometimes be complicated.

If I weigh X and want to weigh Y by a certain date, I have to lose an average of Z pounds per week. That is a simple calculation. The app then informed me I would need to limit my caloric intake to a stated level per day in order to reach my goal. It tracks daily intake (which is much easier than it sounds), gives me credit for calories consumed through exercise, continuously shows my status compared to daily goal, and it takes only a few minutes per day to track all of this and other key data points.

I have a long way to go, but I began with the understanding that it took me years to get into this condition, and it will take many months to reach my goal. As of this writing, I am a little more than seven weeks in and making steady progress, because I am being honest with myself, and I am willing to follow and trust the caloric math about what I eat and how much I exercise. I am not doing anything sophisticated on the exercise front. No gym membership or online video program. I have shaken the dust off the elliptical machine in the basement of my home and use it regularly to succeed at keeping my “net caloric intake” below my daily goal.

As we think about our finances, particularly in planning for retirement, the same type of math applies, and it does not have to be complicated. If you want to have X amount of monthly income (apart from Social Security and/or a defined benefit payment) when you reach your intended retirement age, then you have to accumulate Y amount of assets on a regular basis, earning/growing at an average rate of Z. The math works, but you have to take the initiative to make it happen and regularly monitor your progress.

I prefer things to be either right or wrong, good or bad, in or out, heads or tails—I tend to dislike the gray areas. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I enjoy working with numbers. Math is reliable even though it can sometimes be complicated. Thank the Lord for the technology we have today!

While the math is not nearly as simple when it comes to our spiritual lives, the basic concept still applies. If we desire to know and follow the will of God, we need to be regularly and consistently investing our time in prayer, Bible study, worship, and spreading the Good News in our community. We need to be willing to attempt things for God that we cannot do in our own strength. I heard the following question in a sermon recently, and it challenged me, “How will we ever experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives if all we ever do is exercise our faith under our own strength?” Ouch!

Any improvement effort starts with the first step: making and implementing a plan. Remember the saying, “A job started is half-done.” It does not need to be complicated. When it comes to financial health, I appreciate the Dave Ramsey approach utilizing what he refers to as “Baby Steps.” What areas of your life need some attention today?

Kevin P. Gilmore serves as director of Pensions and Benefits USA for the Church of the Nazarene.