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?

Whose Shadow Are You Under?

 

leaf in shadowA shadow can mean different things to different people. They are beneficial to some, and ominous and oppressive to others. For example: A shadow of sickness moved across a country. A child lives under the shadow of his or her siblings, never able to achieve his own position of authority. A renowned scholar has become just a shadow of his former literate self. The eager young boy was the shadow of his big brother. The large building’s shadow provided welcome relief from the scorching sun.

In the Old Testament, Egypt was often used by God as a symbol of the world and its lavish yet oppressive systems—a world controlled by the Devil. If you followed the world’s ways, you could become quite successful (by its standards), but if you didn’t keep up, or didn’t want to follow any or all of this system, you were left behind and significantly oppressed. The Israelites (descendants of Jacob, who was renamed “Israel” by God) were just such people caught up in this system. They were brought into Egypt because of a severe famine, sustained by the storehouses of Egypt, and subsequently grew into a great body of people. But now they were stuck, because the leadership of Egypt changed. The new leadership was no longer favorable to them.

“And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour [harshness]: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour [harshness]” (Exodus 1:13, 14).

This is what happens when the world takes over our lives—we end up in bondage. We may try to get out ourselves, but, like a bungee cord or rubber band released at its fully stretched position, we snap right back.

God, in His infinite love, provided a way out of this system. For the Israelites, He provided a man named Moses. Through Moses, Israel was led out of this bondage of Egypt. The monarch of Egypt tried to detain the Israelites and almost succeeded, but God ultimately made it possible for their release and exodus out of the land of Egypt. The real problem, though, was that the shadow of Egypt continued to hang over most of the Israelites. Why? They would not let go of Egypt and put their trust in God. They regularly complained to Moses as he led them through the wilderness. They wanted the pleasures of Egypt (the world) and they wanted the freedom from bondage (to the world). The ultimate result of this continual complaining and unbelief was God denying entrance to the Promised Land for all of the unbelieving Israelites, the very land God had set aside as their ultimate inheritance. Had they let go of Egypt, their journey through the wilderness would have been significantly shorter, and they would all have been much more likely to have entered the Promised Land themselves.

For every man, woman and child (past, present and yet to be born), God provided His Son Jesus Christ, of whom Moses was a type or symbol as their deliverer. But Moses was only a human, sinful being, like we are. While he led the people of God out of the captivity of Egypt, and was very, very close in relationship to God, he could not remove the captivity of Egypt (the world) out of them.

That is why Jesus came to this earth over two thousand years ago—to fulfill all of the requirements God laid out in the Old Testament for our sins (or all aspects of the world’s system, in this case) to be removed.

Jesus can free anyone from the captivity of the world, if we allow Him to do so. He did what Moses, or anyone else, could never do. Sinful man could not eliminate his own, or anyone else’s sins. Only a sinless man, Jesus Christ, could do this.

If we continue to live under the shadow of the world, we have never truly escaped from the world. We must live instead in the shadow of Jesus the Almighty. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2 emphasis mine). We must place all of our trust in Him and His complete, finished work, accomplished through His death as a sacrifice on the cross.

Under whose shadow do you abide—the shadow of Jesus, or shadow of the world? If you have put your trust in Christ, are you resting in His shadow, letting Him do the work in your life? Or is He in your shadow as you try to do His work yourself?

–James Pangburn

A Tool Yielded

collection of antiques

“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” 2 Tim. 2:19-21

When was the last time you used a tool? If you are like many individuals, you would probably say it was when you repaired _______ [fill in the blank] with a screwdriver, hammer, wrench, saw, etc. a few days, or weeks, or even months ago. Yet many do not realize that they actually use tools all the time. As I type this illustration, I am using a tool commonly known as a computer; even the keyboard I am typing on is a tool. When you looked at your social media site today or called someone, you probably used another common tool—a cell-phone (or mobile phone).

When you write something, whether it is with a pen, pencil, marker, crayon, or the stylus on a smart phone, you are using a tool. If you are cutting carrots, mixing together a cake batter, sawing a tree, laying asphalt for a road, or sewing on a button, you are again using a tool (or multiple ones).

old pipe wrench

When you give your heart to Jesus and establish a personal relationship with Him, you are allowing God to use you as His tool. This means that you need to yield to Him for the best results. Since man-made tools are inanimate objects, when you use a tool for the purpose it was designed for, it naturally yields itself to that purpose. A screwdriver doesn’t suddenly bend its shaft into a U-shape as you press it against a screw head, and then restore itself back to its original position afterward. A pen won’t draw the ink back into itself in the middle of writing a note. A computer or smart phone won’t jump out of your hand or off of your lap or desk and change the oil in someone’s vehicle. Neither will a golf club jump out of your hands in the middle of a swing and start chasing the birds around the golf course.

When we resist doing what God intends to do with us, it is like a blender full of liquid refusing to spin when the power is applied. All that will happen is that the motor will burn out, or a fuse or circuit breaker will stop the power from operating it. It seemed to think it had a right to decide for itself and refused to spin its blades. All that is affected is us (or the blender).

God is not affected and neither is the operator of the blender. Unless we give up and yield to God, He will just use someone else to accomplish the work and will put us though this process again and again at a later time until we do ultimately yield to Him.

quill pen

Many times we think we can ‘help’ God more if we do His work without Him or without His approval. Ever seen a doorknob fall out of a door, roll over, and start pumping out someone’s swimming pool? How about a fire extinguisher that jumps off of a wall and starts sewing your clothes? These examples may sound humorously absurd, but that, in essence, is what we do with God. He may use us as a tool in one area, and then we decide that we know what will help Him even more, and go work on something entirely different and unrelated in another area.

When we do something for God, or reach out to someone for Him without seeking His will first, we are no longer yielding to Him, but are putting our own interests before His instead.

We are no longer putting our total trust in what He is doing in or through us, His tool. We should be living our lives with so much concentration on Christ that we are not even aware that we are being used as God’s tool.

Yield yourself as a tool to God your Heavenly Father, and He will use you in the way that He knows is best for the benefit of His kingdom. Don’t resist or flee from Him (read the book of Jonah in the Bible) and miss out on the blessing He has for you.

–James Pangburn

Your Point of Contact

boats in storm

 

“…in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:25-31).

That particular evening Jesus faced the weariness of physically ministering to the throngs of people all day, and of feeding all of them too. Not only had He been pressed by them all day long, but also up into the evening. While the disciples headed back to the other side of the Sea of Galilee without Jesus, during that crossing they felt the same tiring effects from the exhausting day that Jesus felt. Even though they were physically exhausted, they continued to row further and further away from the point of contact of Jesus’ peace.

You may need that point of contact right now yourself, particularly if you have had an extremely hard day at work. Maybe you lost your job, or are very stressed out and feel that it is imperative to just get alone for a while. Maybe you are at the point of having no hope, and are destroying yourself with alcohol or drugs. Or maybe you just received notice of the death of someone dear to you. You need a true point of contact with God right now, but you may lack the one basic thing that can establish this contact. You need to pray with faith in the divine, invisible presence of God, which comes from having a personal relationship with His Son, Jesus.

While the disciples were crossing the sea, Jesus went to pray on the mountain. That was His own most important point of divine contact.

And if Jesus, being the Son of God, felt the necessity of being strengthened through prayer to the heavenly Father in these circumstances, how much more do we, who are weak, often failing, followers of Jesus, need to spend time alone in prayer to be strengthened by God too?

Yet we make excuses, like: It’s getting late, or, I really need my nap right now to get my strength back. When night fell, He was still there on the mountain alone, interceding for His disciples. There Jesus found His place of great strength. And you will find that prayer is a place of great strength for you as well.

You can experience the same touch from God’s divine presence as you face your own daily weaknesses, when your body is tossed around by the waves of the turmoil of life, in the midst of the darkness of its winds which are contrary to you. Howling winds of the storms coming against you will whip around you, the same as it was with Jesus’ disciples when they faced the dismal prospect of trying to row against the strong wind and waves that night.

As the disciples continued rowing, suddenly Peter and the others saw Jesus in the darkened distance walking toward them on the sea. He came closer and closer to them near the bow of the boat. They were very troubled at this sight and they said, “It’s a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” Jesus responded with perfect divine peace, “Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid.” Peter immediately answered, “Lord, if it is you, bid me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus told him to come, and Peter responded to that point of contact of faith and prayer. He stepped out of the boat and kept his eyes focused on his Lord Jesus in strong, obedient faith in His word, as he began to walk toward Him on the water.

As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he could continue to walk on the water. And in the midst of your daily troubles of life, Jesus is also calling to you, “Come to Me, my child.”

It’s amazing how our difficulties of life are similar to Peter’s. He walked on the water until he looked down and took his eyes off Jesus. We tend to do the same thing in our own lives when we also take our eyes off Jesus, the point of divine contact in our lives, and look down instead on the storms and troubles of life. Their boisterous winds blow around us, and we become afraid as we start to sink in the darkened, troubled waters. Then we cry out, “Oh, Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretches forth His hand and grasps us, pulling us to safety, while saying “O you of little faith, why did you doubt Me, my child?”

Maybe you are facing waves slapping around you right now, waves of fear, worry, doubt, or uncertainty. You look all around in the natural sphere without hope. Peter faced the same problem as wave after wave slapped against his face.

Looking around hopelessly, he cried out, “What am I doing out here?” And he started to sink. Then he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Can’t you just hear Jesus saying, “Oh, you of little faith. You started well, what happened to you?” Jesus was right there in the midst of the unsettled circumstances of life’s troubles, and God will reach out as the divine point of contact for you, too, so that you can release your faith in God through your prayers to God.

–Gary R. Pangburn