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.”
Like the disciples, our faith often fails. We see the needs around us, the demands of the multitudes, the seeming limitations of our own resources, and we despair.
Christ leads us out beyond ourselves, gently, graciously, challenging our basic assumptions, showing us His power, teaching us to rely on Him and to follow.
Anyone who claims never to have had a failure of his faith, who judges harshly others who do doubt, is dishonest with himself (or herself). At anytime we may respond like these disciples did, “We are only poor fishermen, and half a year’s wages could not meet this need.” John records Christ specifically testing Philip, and to be the man of God Christ would transform him into he had to learn to see beyond merely the material logistics of a certain thing.
Christ requires of His disciples implicit faith, meaning unquestioning faith. When He calls us to do something – and we are wise if we make sure He has indeed called us and we are not responding merely to ego, ambition, or guilt – then we should expect God to provide the means to accomplish His will.
How do we know what His will is? We know it by the command of His Word and the leadership of His Spirit in our hearts and in our believing community. Circumstances may confirm His leading, and may make specific demands of us – think of a house on fire as a circumstance that demands we get out of it – but alone circumstances are dangerous to trust in, for quite often they will seem too limiting for us, just as they did to the disciples.
But when Christ leads and bids us follow, then we should confidently and humbly go about preparing for what He has for us to do. Often through the believing community we gain wisdom on how a thing may be done, though even there we should be wise enough not to listen to any and every voice, but seek wisdom from the wise and spiritual. The mark of the early leaders in the Jerusalem church was to be full of wisdom and the Spirit, and we need this dual filling to know how and where we are to proceed.
What would we have today if Christians through the centuries had quit whenever the road of obedience became difficult? What would be left of the Christian movement if in the face of overwhelming needs the leaders of the past had said, “Impossible!” We would have virtually nothing, all the hope and anticipation washed away through simple difficulties and hardships.
What will those in the future have because of our faith? What is the Lord calling us to do today that requires implicit, unquestioning faith? Today the Lord says to His followers, “You give these multitudes something to eat.” He teaches us to trust and to go forward in faith in Him. We do not need to send them away to others. We can trust that God will use us to reach those He has brought us to minister to.