Little is Much

 

 

kneeling at cross

 

 

“And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered…Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass…And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mark 6:35-44).

Jesus had been teaching the people in a solitary part of the region for much of the afternoon. They had come because they were hungry, not for physical food, but for the truth (spiritual food). The people sought Jesus because they knew He taught the truth. Even though Jesus was physically tired at this point, (since He had originally come with His disciples to this desert location for rest), He was strengthened by the people’s desire to hear and learn God’s Word.

Jesus’ disciples, however, grew more concerned with getting physical food for the people than about them hearing the truth.

As the evening drew near, the disciples urged Him to send the people away to find something to eat. The idea never occurred to them that perhaps Jesus could provide for their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. Of course, Jesus was fully aware of their concerns. “When Jesus then lifted up [His] eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5, 6). Surprised (and perhaps shocked) at His response, the disciples immediately looked to their own selves to provide food for this great assembly. (Some scholars believe that there could have been over 15,000 individuals present). They replied, “…Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth [several thousand of dollars worth] of bread, and give them to eat?” (Mark 6:37). They really believed that Jesus might be out of His mind at this point, because He was expecting them to meet all of these people’s needs. They had probably expected Jesus to respond, “You’re right, we really ought to send them back to the nearest villages and let them get fed there.”

Jesus wasn’t fazed by all of this though. Instead, He let them see for themselves just how little they had for such a great need. If they hadn’t known what they had begun with, then the full depth of the miracle that Jesus was about to perform wouldn’t have been realized. After they took the smattering of provisions (enough for only a few to eat) over to Him and had the people sit in an orderly manner on the grass, He blessed and broke the bread, then the fish, and gave them to the disciples to be distributed among the people. Notice that He never gave any of these provisions directly to the people Himself—it was always through His disciples. In the end, there was so much distributed from the hands of Jesus that everyone was able to eat and be filled. No lack was mentioned and a dozen basketfuls were still leftover.

How many times do we believers in Jesus Christ go to Him first for our needs, both great and small? When Jesus is trusted solely, a small amount yields an overabundance.

Trying to meet a great need by ourselves is the same kind of problem as the disciples trying to feed the whole multitude with the tiny provisions that were available. Jesus never told them to go and buy all of the food, or to take the loaves and fishes and give everyone just a crumb or two of bread. (We won’t even try to determine how much of a portion of those two fish they would have to give!). That is why Jesus told them “you give them something to eat.” He knew that in their hearts that they would say “We can’t; He will have to do something!”

God wants us, as His children, dependent upon Him for our needs. When we look to our self, we take our eyes off of Him, and meeting our need becomes more and more insurmountable to us. The need doesn’t have to be just for food. It can also be in other areas, physical or spiritual. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

The problem comes when we limit God. The disciples tried to limit God, as in the example above of the five thousand being fed, by implying that the people needed to leave in order to be fed.

They felt that Jesus was so absorbed in teaching and healing the people that He had forgotten about the basic needs of the people and that He needed the disciples to remind Him of this. How often do we limit God, or put Him “in a box,” by saying that He can meet these particular needs, but He probably won’t be able to meet these other needs? How many times are we impatient with God meeting our needs and end up taking care of them ourselves? How many times do we hurt or insult God by not having complete faith in Him?

We must remember that God is always in control of the situation; we are the ones that lose control and become anxious. We are to place our needs and circumstances in the hands of Jesus and let go, not picking them up later when He doesn’t respond or do anything in our anticipated timeframe. If we take back the needs that we laid in His hands, we are effectively saying that we don’t fully trust Him in everything and that we will take care of it ourselves. Again we are back to limiting God. [Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Remember that the disciples never even asked Jesus to provide for the people’s needs. How much more will He respond when we really do ask and fully believe?

God Will Take of You

“… [Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

There are times when the Lord God chooses to put His people into intensely difficult situations which appear to lead to a position where there is no way of escape. If He were to ask you in advance what you think about them, you would never choose to be involved in such predicaments on your own. Are you in such a situation right now, where it seems like a dark cloud is coming over you, engulfing you against your will? Then keep this in mind—no matter how dark the cloud you are sensing might seem to be, it will not stay forever. After the dark storm clouds pass, morning always comes again. Your cloud will move on. And then God’s mercy will fall on you like rain.

 

Are you struggling to carry a tremendous weight that God doesn’t seem to notice? The weights we think are so unbearable are like minute grains of sand to Him. These matters seem so grave and upsetting to us, but to God they are right on target in His plan for you. In the end, you will find that His handling of your situation is just, and that it has brought you right where He wants you—to a position of seeking Him, confessing that you cannot rely only on yourself. In fact, the very scene you’re in right now provides a stage to showcase the mighty power and grace of God.

Don’t doubt that His grace is working in your time of suffering. Don’t stop believing that He loves you in times of tribulation as much as in times of happiness. God will deliver you, and He will leave you with a lesson you won’t dare to forget.

Every time you return to this scene in your memory later, your spirits will be uplifted when you remember what God has done for you. Then you will be able to thank God over and over for doing just what He did.

The heavenly Father is continually watching over His children. His heart feels your distress and despair and He takes pity on you. Doesn’t He see that even the tiniest bird has food to eat? Then won’t He see that you are taken care of too? He will come to you and bandage your wounds. He will heal your broken heart. Don’t just lie there in a pool of despair—keep on hoping, and never give up.

Where does this burden you carry belong? It belongs to the Lord! Give it to Him. His powerful hand will be there with the help you need when you need it. He will calm your sorrow if you transfer all your concerns into His hands. Allow yourself to lie still in His hands, letting His will be your own.

My suffering brother or sister, be patient. Realize that God has not overlooked or forgotten you; He really does care for you! Why don’t you let the One who is your Provider do your providing? Has He ever refused to carry your burdens? Has He ever collapsed because they are too heavy for Him? If this same God really cares so much for you, why do you worry so much about yourself? God will take care of you!

–Alana Pangburn

New Life Out of the Old

tree stump beside water

“If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:21-24).

I recently observed a tree that had long since died and fallen into the water nearby. This particular type of tree decayed very slowly and had obviously been on the shoreline for some time. But the interesting thing about it was, that another plant had grown up from within this dead tree’s root system. While this is not uncommon, it made me think how Jesus brings this about in our lives when we surrender, or yield, to Him. When we come to Jesus, this worn-out physical body of ours does not die. Our inner self (our morality, etc.) dies and is reborn out of the old as a new ‘inner self’. This time, we are not the same old person deep inside as before, but one with a new ‘spiritual heredity’ that seeks to please God and not the Devil. We now put off the old, and live in, and through, the new ‘self’.

With this new self, Jesus can now work though us, not only to change and improve our lives, but also as a tool to impact others around us. As the familiar chorus goes:

Jesus on the inside
Working on the outside
O, what a change in my life!

The key is to let Him do the work, and not us. The moment we try to make ourselves right, then we negate, or make ineffective, the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. When that plant I mentioned earlier grew out of the old, dead tree, did it grab a can of green spray paint and make itself green? Did it read any self-help books on how to effectively grow better or improve its self-esteem? Did it watch someone on the television and buy the DVD on how to be delivered from bacterial infestation acquired through the dead tree? No! It grew naturally from the biological processes God gave it in the beginning. It never tried to make itself better; in fact, it couldn’t do it by itself. That young plant was totally dependent on something else to protect and nurture its fragile self. This is just what God expects of us when we accept His Son, Jesus, into our hearts—total dependence. Now most of us, at this point, may want to respond, “This may work for you, or him, or her, but I CAN’T do it!” This is actually quite true. I will be the first to admit that I can’t do it either. But this is just the position God wants us to be in, not dependent on ourselves.

We must stop trying to clean up our lives and make ourselves right. It is a lot like a pig trying to clean himself up with the mud he was wallowing in—it just won’t work!

The focus of our faith is to be on Jesus, and Jesus alone, not on some multi-step plan or self-help program, not some human leader (parent, pastor, president, etc.). If we are focused in our faith on Jesus and the work He did on the Cross, then we can’t add or include something else too. Multiply five times five and you’ll end up with twenty-five; you can’t add six or multiply by three, and still end up with twenty-five!

Of course, this leads us to ask, ‘How do I do this without doing anything on my own?’ That’s a good question, and the answer is—relationship. When you accepted Jesus into your heart you began a personal relationship with Him, not physically, but spiritually. It is a lot like the bond you may have with a dear parent, spouse, or child, only much, much deeper. You aren’t actually tied or otherwise attached to them, but there is a closeness that can’t be easily explained in words. The relationship you have entered into with Jesus has to be developed and refined. While He may know much about you, you know so little about Him. The way to increase your knowledge of Him is to talk and listen to Him in prayer and to read His Word, the Bible.

When a couple gets married, they must each take time out to really get to know the other person better; and the same idea applies in your relationship with Him. Take time out and talk with Him. Spend as much time as you can, which means taking time away from less important things.

If you think you can’t give up anything, then you need to think about what (or who) is more important in your life.

As well, read and dwell or meditate (contemplate or reflect) on His Word and ask Him to illuminate it to you. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Read it over and over, and each time you read, ask Him to make it more real to your heart and mind. As time goes on, you’ll start seeing things you didn’t notice before, and you will begin to discover that you don’t want to stop reading. Most importantly, never give up praying and reading. If you don’t give up, He won’t give up! Before long, you’ll find that, just like the plant growing out of the old, dead tree, you are growing up in Him out of your old dead self!

–James Pangburn