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How Are You Trending?


A trend defines the latest fashion or popular activity.  It could be a suit, a shirt, a shoe style or an electronic gadget like the iPhone, iPad or Kindle.  Colors, designs, songs, sounds, rhythms, words, snacks, diets, sports, furniture, vacation destinations and hobbies all qualify as trends.  Whatever most people seem to be doing, wearing, buying or saying at a given moment in time is known as a trend.

Trending, however, denotes the movement of trends in a specific direction over time.  Political polls, for example, chart the rise or fall in the approval of an office seeker.  Pollsters establish profiles of candidates at the outset of a campaign, and then keep taking polls at regular intervals throughout the race.  Each poll is measured against the preceding one, thus showing if the candidate is gaining or losing ground with the electorate.  Depending on a number of factors, the process can become enormously complicated.  The range of topics covered, how the questions are worded, the status of the sample, the time of day the poll is conducted, etc., etc., all influence the outcome.  Despite these variations, one significant fact remains the same: one can always measure how the poll is trending—up, down or flat.  Politicians anxiously study trending in the polls to gauge the effectiveness of their message.  If they see an unfavorable change, they may make major changes in their campaign and may even fire their entire staff and replace them with people whom they hope will propel them to victory.

From a spiritual standpoint, the trending phenomenon is highly relevant.  Each person’s life may be most accurately assessed in terms of trending, not trends.  If you take inventory of yourself today, you get a snapshot of your status at the present moment, but that picture doesn’t tell the complete story.  Of course, our history is not necessarily the predictor of our future; nevertheless, the precise point of our spiritual location today can most likely be determined by our track record.  No one becomes a success or a failure overnight.  An examination of the way a person is trending yields viable clues as to what may be coming.  If you move incrementally in a positive direction, you will eventually reach your goal.  If you slowly migrate in a negative direction, failure is inevitable. 

Cognitively, this may seem obvious, but in the long stretches of the journey, our emotional read gives us a very different impression.  We may see so little difference between any two adjacent points on the scale that we deceive ourselves into thinking that all is well. We may even justify a step backwards as good or expected under the circumstances.  Our feelings about a change in standing often overrule the facts.  As the snow accumulates on the side of the mountain, it gives no indication that it portends disaster.  Suddenly, the beautiful blanket of whiteness turns into a deadly avalanche. On July 20, 2012, the nation was shocked with the news of yet another massacre in Colorado that left twelve people dead.  The masked gunman who perpetrated this heinous crime undoubtedly inched toward the deed in such small steps that few people could have predicted what was about to happen.  As the investigation gets underway, I’m sure we will learn about telltale signs in his behavior that were either ignored or minimized. 

Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, gives us a fascinating and insightful explanation of this basic theme.  He says that enormous events begin with contagious behavior.  The second distinguishing behavior is that small changes have big effects.  Finally, changes happen in a hurry.  In one, dramatic moment, a previously run of the mill event becomes an epidemic.  Other phenomena which bear resemblance to The Tipping Point are The Perfect Storm, Butterfly Effect, Worst Case Scenario, Spring Tide and Synergy.  All of these occasions can be analyzed in terms of trending.  Huge mistakes may occur when trending is dismissed as insignificant.

The Bible often describes the trending principle, although it uses different terms.  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Matthew 24:11-12 .  Also, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”  2 Timothy 3:12-13.  The word wax is prokopto in the Greek language, and it means to advance, proceed, grow or spread.  So, we may correctly say that the love of many will proceed from hot, to warm and to cold; and evil men will grow from bad to worse.  The vocabulary used speaks of this same process of trending.

Many characters in the Scriptures illustrate trending.  The story of Judas Iscariot began as a devoted disciple thought worthy enough to be the treasurer. At noted increments along the way, he is seen as skeptical and greedy.  It culminated in the betrayal of Christ, and led to suicide.  Demos, Paul’s helper, abandoned his leader so he could pursue happiness in the world.  Among all the others, perhaps the most notable Bible personality who trended in the wrong direction was Samson.  At least three times, his integrity was polled in the company of Delilah, and each time his position deteriorated.  Ultimately, he lost his power, his eyesight and his freedom.  He managed to avenge himself in the end, but one wonders what would have happened if he had paid closer attention to his trending and turned his life around.

Strong evidence of the trending pattern exists in my pastoral work, as well as in my fellowship with other ministers.  I have observed people trending in both directions.  Interestingly, upward bound persons seem to respond positively to suggestions and advice as they ascend their pathways to success.  Most of those who spiral downward, however, become resentful to warnings, precautions and rebukes.  Evidently, it is much harder to be corrected than encouraged.  A powerful scripture that applies here is found in 1 Peter 5:5-6.  “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”

From a practical standpoint, it is important to poll yourself at strategic steps along the way.  Develop a list of criteria that are relevant to your work, your life and your ministry.  Take careful notes each time so that you can see how you are trending.  How is your relationship with God faring?  Is your prayer life becoming more effective?  What are you reading and how much?  How are you managing your time with respect to your calling?  Have you made decisions that have worried your elders and mentors?  Are you humble enough to make course corrections along the way?  Answer these and many more questions of your own honestly and thoroughly.  It is not wasted time.  A remedied error may only take a day or a week.  Ignored or excused, that same error may cost you everything. 

Today’s glance at your life is not enough.  One day’s polling says nothing about a whole campaign.  Discover your trending over time.  It is the only way to the truth about you.



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