Since the Garden, human beings have had two maladies that choke our connection with God and limit our effect on the world.
- We undervalue the reality of God that is all around us
- We underestimate the gifts of God that are right in front of us
The result of these operating assumptions is disastrous–
- We miss much of who God is–because His presence is hidden in the ruts of our routine.
- We miss much of what we can do–because our gifts are buried in the muddle of the mundane.
It seems the God we believe in and the dreams we pursue are both too small.
This isn’t a new problem. People historically and habitually underestimate God’s power and their potential:
– Moses: “I can’t speak…”
He owned a handicap he thought defined him
– Gideon: “I am the weakest man of the least family in the littlest tribe…”
He rose from a background he supposed
– Saul: “He’s hiding in the luggage…”
He possessed an insecurity he believed disqualified him
– Jeremiah: “I am just a kid…”
He possessed inexperience he assumed constrained him
– Peter: “Leave me alone…I am a sinful man”
He was loaded with baggage he was certain excluded him
But the biographies of Scripture prove God is no novice at surprising outcomes.
- Moses only needed a shepherd’s rod to deliver a nation
- Samson, a donkey’s bone to crush an oppression
- Shamgar, an ox goad to level a battalion
- Gideon, 300 soldiers to implode an army
- David, a slingshot to fell a giant
- The widow in Zarephath, a cup to survive a famine
God does his most valuable work in the earth using stuff nobody thinks is worth a dime!
It is so easy and so common to look at our lives, our pasts, our gifts, our brokenness and say I don’t have much to offer in a world where so much is wrong.
We want to erase the very parts of our pasts God wants to use write our futures.
But with God:
- History does not determine destiny
- Limitations do not define limits
In John 6, Jesus challenges the skewed preconceptions we too often have concerning the impact we can make with the little we have to offer.
This story is so important that it is one of only a few that are contained in all four gospels. And in fact, Jesus repeated this miracle–doing it twice–because the lesson was so crucial to His message.
Facing a huge crowd of tired, parched and hungry people, Jesus used the crisis as an opportunity to challenge His interns.
He wanted them to see things as He did. It was as hard for them as it is for us.
Philip’s response to Jesus’ challenge was emphatic. “We don’t have enough resources to even attempt it.” Andrew’s response was only a little better. He told Jesus: “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?” (John 6:9, CEV)
That’s when Jesus acted out a parable in front of them. Feeding 5,000 plus with just five barley loaves and two dried fish, he taught them essential lessons they would need when they went out to change the world.
- Our ability to fill empty hearts is directly proportional to our willingness to feel broken hearts. Jesus looked over the crowd and felt the hunger in both their stomachs and their hearts. He was moved by what He saw.
- Our ability to impact the world as it is does not depend on the sufficiency of our resources as they are. Philip could only see the scale of the need and the smallness of their resources. He was afraid to dream something more than what he already knew. Jesus wanted him to see more.
- Our ability to hope for our world is not based on the scope of the need but the size of our God. Andrew assessed what they had and made it clear that on their own, there just wasn’t a chance. Jesus turned the mundane meal into a Eucharistic moment so the need became proportional to their God.
- Our ability to see the unexplainable is directly related to our willingness to risk the unexpected. Jesus wanted his followers to see the extent of the need so they would then see the power of their God. He knew they would one day carry the Message to multitudes and He wanted them to trust that He was more than enough.
- Our ability to bless those around us hinges on our willingness to embrace the gifts they are to us. When they gathered the baskets full of leftovers, Jesus was etching on their hearts that God would never ask a sacrifice of them without leaving a blessing for them.
There is no doubt that breadth of the needs in our lives and world challenge the span of our abilities. It is natural to be paralyzed by our weakness and inadequacy.
The littleness of what I have to offer in the face of the largeness of the needs I have to confront makes me echo Andrew’s question: what good is that?
What is there in my…
…that can make any difference in a suicidal world hell-bent on destruction?
The secret lies in what Jesus said to Andrew as he stared at the little guy’s lunchbox:“Bring it to me.”
Whatever you have. Whatever you are. Whatever you’ve been through. Whatever you face.
Put that in the hands of the Master and watch Him do what He has been doing since Creation–make something out of nothing.