By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
When I was growing up, the oldest of eight, our family didn’t attend church. When we moved to a new rental house, three men came to help unload furniture including an upright piano. They invited us to a church that was meeting upstairs in a lodge hall, then for years afterward came to pick us kids up on Sunday mornings.
When it came time to build their first church building, those same men, working-class guys with families to support, mortgaged their own homes to help finance it.
There are two questions each of us could ask when faced with what look like impossible tasks: First, how do we see our needs? And then, how do we measure our resources?
When Jesus looked up and saw a multitude coming (John chapter 6), he asked Philip where they could buy food for everyone. The Bible tells us the question was a test, and Philip responded with a realistic answer. “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (John 6:7).
There may have been more than 20,000 people there on the hillside, including women and children, and one meal would cost far more than they could afford. Philip saw the crowd, but he had overlooked Jesus sitting beside him.
When we’re faced with what seems an overwhelming situation and look to Christ, that’s when we recognize miracles. Jesus’ life on earth began as a miracle – the virgin birth is an impossibility – so the miracles he performed, healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the multitudes, should not come as a surprise.
Andrew, another disciple who was present, found a little boy whose mother had planned ahead and packed him a lunch. Andrew started out on the right foot, recognizing a resource, but the end of his sentence seems to indicate discouragement.
“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9).
The portions were probably small – biscuits or barley cakes with something the size of sardines – and Andrew felt stymied by the shortage.
Even on this day of thanks, with food in abundance in most places, there are folks who fail to see God’s provision. They live small cautious lives, focusing, as Philip did, on the size of the crowd, or as Andrew did, on the size of the lunch.
With Jesus giving thanks and dividing the food, there was not only enough for everyone, there was an excess of twelve baskets, one for each disciple perhaps to remind them. The fact that the feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle recorded by all four Gospel writers (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, and John 6) indicates it did have a lasting impact.
Every ministry starts with a vision, but miracles happen when we realize we don’t have enough. When we find we’re short on finances, talents, education, whatever – or when our problems overwhelm us with their magnitude – we should thank God, because then is when we begin to learn trust.
Jesus uses the little we have to show he is more than enough.