Players, not Spectators

Matthew 14:15-16 “As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’”

Jesus wants those who follow him to be more than spectators in the work of his kingdom, cheering from the sidelines. He calls us to play on the team, too. He wants to give us more than a lesson. He wants to give us an opportunity to serve.

When the disciples saw the need of these people for food, they didn’t immediately recognize this as one of those opportunities. The situation looked too big for them. There were over 5000 people here, as we later learn, so they took the situation to Jesus. However, Jesus handed it right back to them. He wanted to give them more than a lesson. He wanted to see what they would do.

“‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered. ‘Bring them to me,’ he said.” This opportunity to serve also involved a test of the disciples’ faith. Like careful stewards and conscientious planners, they got out their hand calculators and took inventory of their resources for the project. The accounting didn’t take long: just five little loaves of bread and two fish— enough to feed perhaps 10 to 20 people. The project didn’t look very realistic.

It wasn’t wrong for them to take stock of their earthly resources like this. You or I would do the same thing. But when our Lord gives us a task to do, we shouldn’t be surprised, or dismayed, if it appears that our human resources are vastly inadequate. The Lord has a way of working like that in his kingdom. Gideon’s army wasn’t ready to take on 100,000 Midianite soldiers until the Lord had whittled it down to just 300 men. Armor-less David kills mighty Goliath with a sling shot and a smooth rock. A poor widow is commanded to feed the prophet Elijah as well as her own family from just one little jug of oil and one little jar of flour. Yet that supply lasts for months and months. Israel brings down the walls of Jericho without siege machinery. One man, Jonah, brings more than 120,000 pagan Ninevites to their knees in repentance with his preaching. Our earthly resources often don’t appear up to the tasks God gives us.

But we have more than our visible, earthly supply. The one who gives us our tasks, the one who invites us to bring him our resources, if only a few loaves and fishes, is the Almighty God whose power knows no limits. His resources never end. Of course we can’t do it on our own, but Jesus doesn’t ask us to. He makes us a member of the team, not just a spectator. When we get into the game, know that Jesus is going to be holding and guiding our hands–like the father standing behind his son, reaching over his shoulders, and helping him swing the bat.

Jesus takes our resources, touches them with his power, and makes them work in ways we could never have imagined or asked. With Jesus, the disciples got more than a lesson. They got the chance to live their lives by faith. They got a chance to be living instruments of God’s power. Those are things that we can get from him, too.

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