How Important are You?

How important are you? As important as a major league baseball player? A movie star? A senator? The president? How about Mother Teresa, or Billy Graham? Are you as important as they are? Let’s go on a little star gazing trip to see just how important you are.

Have you ever gone out on a clear moonless night and seen that dense band of stars we call the Milky Way? Have you ever looked up at all those stars and wondered just how many there are? Did you ever wonder if any of the stars have planets orbiting them and if any of those planets have people living on them?

Most people can see about 2000 stars but on a really clear night, and if you are high up in the mountains, and if you have really good eyesight, scientists say that you can see somewhere around 10,000 stars. However, that is not how many there are out there. That is not even a drop in a bucket compared the number of stars that are scattered throughout the universe.

Most astronomers used to believe there were around 100,000,000,000 (100 billion) stars in the Milky Way, but due to recent advances in technology, there are those who now claim the number is actually closer to 400,000,000,000 (400 billion). One of our neighboring galaxies, the Andromeda Galaxy, is believed to have 1,000,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) stars in it, but even with that many stars it is not the largest galaxy out there. Galaxies range in size from the smallest with around 10,000,000 (10 million) stars to those with over 100,000,000,000,000 (100 trillion) stars. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, seems to be about average. (NOTE: The data used in this article was taken from the Wikipedia articles on galaxies, stars, and planets and from Google searches for the same words.)

So, how many stars are there? If there are about 400,000,000,000 stars in our galaxy and it is about the average size theoretically all we need to do is multiply the number of stars in the Milky Way by however many galaxies there are. So, how many galaxies are there? Well, the experts don’t seem to agree on that. Some claim 125,000,000,000 (125 billion) galaxies, while others state with just as much authority that the “real” number is 170,000,000,000 (170 billion) galaxies in the observable universe. Although I should point out that these are all estimates. However, recent discoveries are indicating that either number is way too small. Not too long ago a group of scientists pointed a new very large telescope with a camera on it at a place in the sky they had not been able to find anything previously, then they left the camera on for a week or so. What they found, when they examined the resulting image, was another 10,000 or so galaxies where they thought nothing existed! And they have done that many times now. And the latest development is they have equipment they can use to look through the Milky Way, something they have never been able to do before. What they are finding is that the galaxy density beyond it is much higher than they originally thought. Due to these, and other discoveries, some experts are now saying that there could easily be 500,000,000,000 (500 billion) galaxies in the universe!

No one knows for sure how many stars are really out there, but a conservative estimate, based on the older data, would be somewhere around 17,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (17 sextillion) stars. Or, if you use the newer numbers there could be 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (200 sextillion) stars! That is an awful lot of stars! However, the official 2010 star count estimate came to the conclusion that there are approximately 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (300 sextillion) stars in the observable universe. Did you notice that they are now adding the term “observable universe” after their numbers? That means they are admitting that the universe could easily be much larger. What they are saying is “This is what we can see, we have no idea what is beyond that.”

It does make you wonder though, if there are that many stars, how many of them have planets? And if they have planets, how many of those planets have life on them? Some believe there is at least one planet for every star, although a recent study came to the conclusion that there are most likely only around 100,000,000,000 (100 billion) planets in the Milky Way, or roughly 1 planet for every 4 stars and they believe that is typical for most galaxies. But they also came to the conclusion that there are only about 11,000,000,000 (11 billion) earth-like planets orbiting sun-like stars. That means that in the Milky Way alone, there are 11,000,000,000 planets that are enough like earth orbiting stars that are enough like our sun that they could have life on them just like our earth! And there could be as many as 500,000,000,000 (500 billion) galaxies out there with an average of the same number of planets with life on them in each one!

These are some really big numbers and we use them like we know what they mean, but do we really understand them? Just how big is 1 billion? How long is 1 billion minutes? How about 1 billion seconds? One year? Two years? Ten years? Well it is actually quite a bit longer than that! It turns out 1,000,000,000 seconds is actually 31 years, 251 days, 13 hours, 21 minutes, and 9.5 seconds long. So if we were to count off one second for each of the 11 billion earth-like planets in the Milky Way it would take 348 years, 210 days, 10 hours, 11 minutes, and 28.6 seconds!

With all the argument over how many stars are in the Milky Way, I decided to make things easy and use 300,000,000,000 (300 billion) stars. And if we only count the 11,000,000,000 (11 billion) earth like planets we can say that there are approximately 11 planets for every 300 stars. That means, with 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (300 sextillion) stars in the universe there could easily be 11,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (11 sextillion) planets like the earth! Now if only 1 in 1 billion of those planets had life on it that would still leave us with a possible 11,000,000,000,000,000 (11 trillion) planets with life on them in the universe!

To put that number in perspective, 1 trillion is 1,000 times as large as 1 billion. So if 1 billion seconds is over 31 – almost 32 years, that means 1 trillion seconds is well over 31,000 years long! (31,688 years, 269 days, 17 hours, 36 minutes and 44.2 seconds to be precise.) (NOTE: All these times were calculated using the length of the Gregorian Calendar Year which is the year we are most familiar with. Using the lengths of other years like the sidereal year – the length of one earth orbit of the sun, or a mean tropical year – the average of the lengths of the two equinox and two solstice years. And yes, all four of them are slightly different.)

John tells us that, “He [Jesus] was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:2-3 ESV) And the Apostle Paul tells us that, “For by him [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, . . . all things were created through and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16a & 17) So Jesus not only made everything, but He keeps everything going, not only everything here on earth, but everything in the heavens, or what we would call the universe. Jesus has not only this earth, but all those 11 trillion planets to keep going. (And all those 300 sextillion stars and the rest of the planets, and everything else!).

All those planets out there with life on them, and Jesus left all them and came here. One planet out of 11 trillion? Who cares that much? Would I? Would you? What was so special about this planet that Jesus left all those others and came here? Why go to all that trouble?

Jesus once told some Pharisees, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17b) And at another time he said “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) And in the Old Testament God commanded the prophet Ezekiel, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11) So it is clear that there was and is something wrong here, that this planet and the people on it have a problem. Jesus said we are lost and need to be saved, and we can’t do anything about it ourselves, we are so far gone we can only hope for someone to come and save us.

But still, that seems like a lot of trouble to go to for just one rebellious planet doesn’t it? I mean, He still had 11 trillion other planets to take care of and none of them were causing any problems why not just forget about this one and concentrate on them?

“Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.’” (Luke 15:3-7)

So Jesus was willing to leave all 11 trillion of those other planets and come here to rescue this one, but that is not the end of the story. The experts think there are about 7.5 billion people alive on this planet now. And, they tell us, one half of all the people who have ever lived on earth are alive today! That means that there either are or have been around 15 billion people on this planet. And according to the parable Jesus told about the lost sheep, He would not only have left all 11 trillion planets to come to this one planet, but He would have come here for just one person. He would have come here for just you!

Imagine that! Jesus loves us so much that in spite of the trillions of planets out there with all the billions of people on each one of them, He left all of that behind to come on a rescue mission to this one lost planet! And not only that, but if every person on this planet had never rebelled and you were the only one who was lost and needed to be rescued, He still would have come here to seek out you! He was willing to leave all those trillions of planets and come here to try and save this planet. An if needed He would have been willing to leave all 15 billion other people on this planet to save just you! And you thought you weren’t very important. Jesus thinks otherwise! And if Jesus thinks every individual is that important then maybe, just maybe, we should too!

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