This is a fun trick to illustrate how we may think that we have chosen God, but in fact, he chose us, before the creation of the world. It’s great as an attention-grabber for a sermon, youth groups, All-Age Worship, Messy church or school assembly.
Prepare this trick by writing a large 9 on a piece of A4 card and put it in an envelope. Write CHOSEN on the outside. As you start the script below, place the envelope in a visible place, perhaps give it to someone to hold.
You can use a whiteboard to write the numbers on if you like, or you can have folks do their own version in little groups – it works well in family groups around tables – they’ll be amazed that they all end up with 9!
Tailor the length of the initial number to your audience – I have used a four-digit number, but you could use any length. I’ve given an example down the side so that you can see how it works Obviously, substitute my example with whatever number your people choose.
I have got a brilliant magic trick to show you, and for my trick I need a random number.
Now, I’m not just going to ask you for a number, because pretty much everyone picks 7 or 3 and it’s not very random. Instead you’re going to help me with a random number generator. I need you to add up some small numbers. Can you help me with that? Great. [Get volunteer to write numbers on white board, or give out paper.]
It’s nothing too difficult, we just need to add up the digits in a number. Let’s have a quick practice.
If we choose 41, we add 4 plus 1 and get … 5, that’s right.
41 4 + 1 = 5
And if we choose 123 we add 1 plus 2 plus 3 and get … 6. Great!
123 1 + 2 + 3 = 6
You see how it works? Great. That was just for practice. Here’s the random number generator.
To start with, we need a big number. It can have three digits or four, or more if you like … 8256?
[any number will do, groups can choose their own numbers]
Thanks, now to get our random number we’ll add up the digits like we did before.
8 plus 2 plus 5 plus 6 … that’s 21.
And add up the digits again. 2 plus 1 makes … 3.
8 + 2 + 5 + 4 = 21
2 + 1 = 3
Great! Now just to make sure that it’s really random, let’s take that off the original number, and do the adding thing once more. That’ll make sure we really have chosen a completely random number.
So let’s take 3 off our original number, 8253, and here we go, choosing a totally random number.
8256 – 3 = 8253
Add up the digits and we get … 18
8 + 2 + 5 + 3 = 18
Add up the digits and we get … 9!
1 + 8 = 9
[repeat the adding until you get 9 as your answer. You will always get 9.]
So your chosen random number was 9? Yes.
Was the starting number completely your choice? Yes.
Was I making you choose any numbers, or was I messing with the maths at all? No
So the final number was completely your choice, yes? Yes.
Sometime we can think that we choose God like we chose those numbers, or like we might choose a pizza at a supermarket. “Shall I have pepperoni today? Shall I have sardine and cucumber? Maybe. Maybe not.”
But it’s not like that with God. God is not a pizza that we can choose or not choose. And it’s not actually us who do the choosing. In the Bible it says “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16), and “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.”(Eph 1:4)
Wow! That’s amazing! Now, being holy and without fault doesn’t mean that we have to try to be all goody-goody and perfect so that God will choose us – he already chose us, and HE does the fixing up that we all need, through Jesus.
So I don’t need to choose God – God has already chosen me. Why? Because I’m ‘holy and without fault’? No. None of us are. God chose you, chose me, before the world was ever made, simply because he loves you. And why does he love you? Because he’s nice like that.
So that number you chose. You still think you chose it? [open envelope]
Nope, it was chosen before you even started. You were chosen, you were loved, before the world was ever made.
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.