But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” (Mark 6:37)

In a remote place the Lord performed a miracle: the feeding of the 5,000. We are simply in awe of Christ as we see the story unfold. He did not invite the people to follow them into the wilderness, so far from villages and towns, but they did it none-the-less. A crisis was looming because there had been no provisions made for food.

The disciples noticed this and recommended sending them away to the nearby villages – and we can acknowledge that they did have the people on their hearts, yet it seemed to be more out of concern of being inconvenienced.  But this was not the way the Lord thought it should be handled.

This interchange highlights for us the difference between the attitude of Christ and his disciples. Faith sees a way when unbelief does not. Faith stands firmly in the reality of God and steers clear from panic. Unbelief, in concern from a worldly perspective, seeks to avoid the crisis. If we are grounded in the reality of God we see everything from that perspective. If we are grounded in the reality of the world, then we see life from that vantage point.

We often think that practical people are wise people. Often what appears to be wisdom is really the “wisdom” of unbelief, that does not take into account the mind and will of God. The church is filled with people who have this type of “wisdom” but in reality simply the thought that God will not help us, that we must plan with out him. It is also the idea that people will never give to a good cause, and, also, the thought that we simply do not want to be bothered by any of this.

The dangerous compassion of Christ: We must accept that the compassion of Christ will lead us to do many things that do not make sense from a mere worldly perspective. Christ cares for people and we must also care for them. He has the power to touch hearts to give to ministry needs. He has provisions that we know nothing about.

In a small group Bible study on “Experiencing God” I was leading several years ago, one sweet lady in our church revealed this worldly perspective. She had been raised with the attitude that the Lord does not have very much money so we should be very careful with our spending. While all of us (hopefully) would agree that we should be careful with money, not wasteful, her overall attitude avoided risk entirely and limited ministry. I finally responded that the purpose of the church was not to save money, because if that was our purpose then we could fire the pastor, close down the ministry and save it all!

No, our purpose was to serve the Lord, to follow Christ as he leads us. And he will lead us into challenging situations, into a world full of needs where we feel overwhelmed with the sense of inadequacy and must learn to increasingly depend on him.

We should not be too quick to condemn the disciples, and I really do understand where this lady in my church so many years ago was coming from. We are all tempted to be this way, to see the limitations of financial means, where we need to let the Lord touch our hearts to see the needs of the people. The love of the Lord for this world always inconveniences a Christian in some way. This is what God does for us and in us and to us.

Love always does this. Love for his wife inconveniences a husband. Love for their children inconveniences parents. But love is expressed through these “inconveniences” and our hearts are filled through helping those we love – so much so that we do not think of these matters as being inconvenienced, but rather we are blessed to have someone to love. It is more blessed to give than to receive taught the Lord, and it is more blessed to love than to be loved.

Living in the spirit of expectation: But the Lord does not cast us off as though we were to only live with a burden of love and concern. The Lord also teaches us here that wherever we are as his followers we should expect God to use us. Our power is not our own – it is God’s. As Paul wrote,

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

The statement, “You give them something to eat,” seems shockingly direct. The Lord stretches his disciples’ faith, bringing them to think of themselves as more than observers in all of this. God calls us not to be holy on-lookers when people are suffering, but to enter into the equation and help.

It would be strange if the Lord taught us to pray and did not teach us to expect answers to our prayers. We are prone to imagine so many provisos attached to our prayers that when they are not answered we say things like, “Well, the Lord had another plan,” or, “The timing was not right,” or a thousand other excuses – all of which are possibilities. But still the matter might have been declined by God because our hearts were not really into it, and our faith was weak and gave up too quickly. Too often the excuse for unanswered prayer is already formed on our lips before we even complete the request.

Teaching a pro-active faith: Christ instructs us here that we should not hold back, but step forward to see what he can do. As his children, there is always something that he leads us to do. We should just simply follow him and trust for his provision. A pro-active faith allows the Lord lead us by his Spirit. We should be good stewards of funds, not wasteful. But we should even more so be stewards of his gospel (see 1 Corinthians 4) and seek to get his Word to the world.

We serve a mighty all powerful God. We live in a selfish, fallen world, but our faith is in God. Our orientation should be first fixed on the needs of the world that the Lord puts on our hearts, secondly, on his provisions that he will lead us to to meet those needs. A pro-active faith does not begin with saying what cannot be done, rather it must begin with what the will of God is, and then to bring the needs before the Father in prayer.

A personal confession: Honestly, I need this lesson as much as anyone. I am prone to be a realist, and I have listened to my share of people who were both negative “nay-sayers” and of those who were irresponsible dreamers. Both are annoying to me. But this does not change the reality of serving God here. We must listen to his heart more than to our fears, trust in his power more than in our own resources, and bravely and faithfully follow him to minister in this world of need.

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