Do the Math

33 - Empty Pockets (iStock_000005376392XSmall)Has the Lord called you to accomplish something beyond your ability? Doesn’t seem quite fair, does it? Imagine how the disciples felt as a multitude grumbled for food and Jesus said, without a hint of sarcasm or humor, “You feed them.”

Jesus had been trying to escape the demands of ministry—if only for a short time—so He might gather strength from His Father and prepare Himself for the busy Passover celebration. But the crowds followed, so Jesus gave of Himself again. After teaching and perhaps healing for much of the day, the disciples suggested He send the people away before they grew hungry. Instead, the Master tasked His small band of apprentices to feed the followers. Phillip’s eyes scanned the sea of faces and quickly tallied the estimated food bill for five thousand men and their families. His figure merely confirmed the obvious. Feeding that many mouths would require a sum far greater than all twelve men could earn in a year. And who would have that much food to sell out there in the wilderness, anyway? Clearly, the Lord could not have been serious. Why would He ask the disciples for so much, knowing they had so little?

Somewhere in the panic, a small boy pushed through the huddle of reasoning men and tugged at Andrew’s robe. What he had to say left the disciple in a predicament: ignore the childlike hope tugging at his conscience, or speak up and look foolish. He must have appreciated the absurdity. How naïve to think that so little could make any difference at all. But no one else had anything better to say. After a few moments of awkward, confused silence, Andrew spoke, his tone softened with the hint of apology:

There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” (John 6:9)

The leading disciples, Philip, James, John, and Andrew’s brother, Peter, stared for a moment in disbelief. John probably suppressed a smile and kindly turned aside, as if to look out over the sea of mouths waiting to be fed. Peter, undoubtedly flush with embarrassment, glared at his brother. The others quickly dismissed the comment and continued their search for more reasonable options. But not Jesus. “Have the people sit down,” He said. The twinkle in His eye quickened something deep inside Andrew as he handed over the little boy’s lunch basket.

As the almighty Creator of the universe broke the bread and the fish into many thousands of pieces, Andrew and the other eleven students learned an important lesson about the mathematics of ministry and the value of the gifts they possess. Any reasonable person must admit that our gifts, our abilities, our provisions are no match for the challenges of life and ministry. That is, until we place them in the hands of the Master.

Don’t think you have what it takes? Is the challenge before you ridiculously out of proportion with your provision? Don’t let that keep you from presenting what you have to the Lord. He delights to transform our insufficiency into His abundance, if only we’ll set aside our calculators. The Lord has, indeed, tasked us with the impossible. With so great a need staring us in the face, how can we feel anything but hopeless? Ah, but for the simple trust of a child who didn’t know his math.

John 6 is a lesson in kingdom math. It goes like this: We do the addition, He does the multiplication, and together we miraculously divide the impossible.

I wonder how many times the disciples reflected on that remarkable day in the Galilean wilderness when a little boy’s sack lunch fed a multitude.

Now . . . you do the math.

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