I love reading the story in Matthew 15 about Jesus’ feeding of the 4000. The basic premise is that thousands of people were following Jesus (4000 men, plus women and children), listening to Him speak and being healed from various ailments. After three days had pasted, Jesus became concerned because they had nothing to eat, and didn’t want to dismiss them without offering them a meal, for fear that they could possibly collapse en route. So He approached the disciples and asked them if they had any food to offer. They only collected seven loaves of bread and a few fish – certainly not enough to meet the need. However, they gave what they had to Jesus anyway. He gave thanks, broke it apart and the disciples began to feed the people. When all was said and done, and the people were satisfied, the disciples collected seven baskets of remnants.
The story is quite obviously a miraculous display of God’s power – that goes without saying. But the moral of the story has to extend beyond that, at least for me. In a nutshell, the turning point in the narrative was Jesus’ question to the disciples in verse 34, “how many loaves do you have?” Or, to put another way, “what do you have to offer?”
The needs around us are vast and oftentimes extremely complicated in scope and degree. We may sometimes be inclined to pass by a given situation because we deem it beyond the pale of our ability to effect positive change. So we move on. At other times, compassion fatigue may set in and we choose not to contribute due to weariness. We have come to the aid of so many causes that we have lost the capacity to help, at least temporarily. So we move on.
Finding a need is the easy part of the equation – that goes without saying. I would classify 7000-8000 hungry people on a mountainside with no Wendy’s close by to be a definite need! But rather then walk away because of the scope of the need, or allow compassion fatigue to get the better of us, maybe we should take a moment to hear Jesus speak in the midst of the situation.
I believe when we are faced with a challenge that seems insurmountable, Jesus confronts us where we are with what we have and asks, “what do you have?” It reminds me of a video I watched some time ago from Rick Warren during his talk at the TED conference in February 2006. In that lecture, Rick told the story of Moses and his discussion with God when he faced an incredibly difficult situation (Exodus 4). Moses carried a shepherds staff with him on most occasions because that was his vocation. And, as he stood at the precipice of what would no doubt become one of the greatest obstacles in his life, God asked him a similar question, “what’s that in your hand?”
It is completely biblical to take our concerns to God and ask for His help. Scripture invites us over and over again to “make our requests to God” (Phillipians 4:6). We can do this in confidence that God hears us and will respond with grace. However, I wonder if he sometimes turns the request around and seeks a response from us? When faced with what seems to be impossible circumstances, when we feel that things are out of control and there is absolutely nothing we can do to effect positive change, maybe Jesus comes to us in the midst of the chaos and says, “what do you have?” and “what’s that in your hand?”
I believe that we sometimes choose not to respond to difficulties and challenges in life because we feel helpless and unable to contribute. Maybe it’s true that what we have in our hands is insufficient in and of itself to completely remedy the situation. However, if we would only take the time to hear Jesus speak and give him what we have, our talents, gifts, abilities, life, our ‘little’ can make all the difference in the world.
Jesus invites us to surrender all that we are and have over to Him every day. We may have little to offer (or so we think), and maybe we simply can’t comprehend how it will help the situation any, but that’s not our primary concern. Our concern should be to respond by offering whatever we have to Him in faith and confidence. He can take the little we have and change everything, if we would only surrender. Never underestimate what you have in your hands. While the problem may seem to lack a solution, what is impossible with us is not impossible with God. To quote a classic Christian song, ‘little is much, when God is in it.”
So, what do you have? What talents, abilities and gifts have you been entrusted with? Whatever they are, give them over to Christ and watch him bless them and use them for His glory and our good. When we give Him our little, He gives us back even more, and we in turn give it away to others. “What’s that in your hand?”