The tangible expression of God’s grace in the world is directly in front of us and we are crazy to send it away. When we look around we have a choice to dig in and serve people (as messy as it may be) or we can send ’em packing and miss the miracles of God…
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 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.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
I’m not sure what the disciples were thinking when they suggested to Jesus that the masses should be sent to find food for themselves. Their idea both elevated the stomach to a place more important than the heart,while Jesus pointed out that the way to their hearts was through their stomachs.
I have a friend who knows the power of food. When any of us is getting gritchy, she always says, “you need to eat something.” And as most of us can attest, when we are sustained physically, we can offer or accept the most intellectually or spiritually.
Jesus said, “they do not need to go away.” He knew that he could meet their need right there and make a tremendous impact on their faith journey.
Which brings me back to us. Whether as a church or as individuals, we are surrounded by needs and opportunities to serve needs. And our challenge is two-fold. The first part is to accept responsibility for feeding sheep and tending lambs. Remember when Peter denied the Lord Jesus and Jesus came back to Peter to challenge him (John 21:15-19) – Peter, if you love me (and I know you do), feed my sheep and tend my lambs.
Our service to the people around us is an expression of our love for God and an expression of God’s love for the world. This is a truth we must embrace.
The second part of our challenge is to have faith that God is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) with the needs of the people around us. We won’t find that out if we send them away to rely on themselves or the services of other people or agencies or the like.
In other words, when we are confronted with a problem which is greater than we can possibly fix (like 5000+ hungry people), we need to step in and not step out. We may not know what God is going to do, yet we will not find out without faith and courage to join the cause.
I have a very personal and private example of this that I feel convicted to act upon in my neighbourhood. I don’t know the answer, yet I do know that God put me face to face with someone at one of the lowest points of his life for a reason. I will step in both assuming responsibility for my neighbour sheep, and having faith in El Elohe, who is the Mighty God – the one who can do things I cannot imagine.
What does this look like for you? What does it look like for your church?