Matthew 15:34 – “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.” NIV
People have been listening to Jesus teach for three days, and they are in the middle of nowhere. Jesus is ready to dismiss the crowd, but He is concerned for their physical welfare. He is afraid that many might collapse before they reach their homes. The disciples ask Jesus where He thinks that they will get enough food to feed this huge crowd. Jesus answers their question with this question.
All the disciples saw was the size of the problem and what they didn’t have. Jesus wanted them to focus on what they had and if they were willing to commit it to the mission of feeding the crowd. He was asking them to remember what He had done before when He fed over 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. He was asking them to trust Him. Their trust required their faith and participation in what was about to happen. Jesus took what they gave Him, blessed it, and broke it apart for the disciples to distribute. When the 4,000 men plus women and children had finished eating, they collected 7 baskets of leftovers for their journey!
I participate in a congregation that began several years ago sending home each weekend a bag of food for families in need in a particular elementary school. When we began, we sent home 12 bags of food each weekend. The demographics of the school changed, and soon it was 30 bags, then 50 bags. Many of us questioned how we could continue such a program. The leaders of this program were committed to continue the program as long as God continued to provide. He has, and the numbers increased to 80 and over 90 bags of food each weekend! There are many great stories of how this has happened. Other congregations have stepped in to help. Tons of food plus encouragement for teachers and staff have been shared in Jesus’ Name! It will be interesting to see what this school year brings.
How often do we focus on what we don’t have rather than what God has already supplied… in our personal and congregational lives? How often do we make excuses for obedience to God’s mission because of that negative focus? Oh, we’ve got many Biblical examples of this type of behavior …Moses, the 10 spies, Gideon, and many others. Moses and Gideon overcame that negative focus after a dialog with God, and joined Him in His mission. People were saved and blessed! The 10 spies couldn’t be convinced by Joshua, Caleb, or Moses. Their negative focus and response led a whole generation to miss the blessings God had in store for them.
In the New Testament Church, the Holy Spirit gifts and equips each believer to be a specific part of the Body of Christ. As individuals and congregations, we need to answer the questions: What do I (we) have? What am I doing to fulfill Jesus’ mission with what I (we) have?