“And he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” v. 34
Today you will find yourself in a seemingly impossible situation. You will be out of resources, out of time, and ready to give up and go home. Perfect! That’s the kind of situation God can use to show you and the people in your life what he is able to do when we walk in faith and obedience. The disciples were in such a place. They had ministered to the point of exhaustion, to thousands of people. It was getting late, and the people were getting hungry. As a pastor I know what it’s like to deal with a group of people at the end of a long day, when everybody is hungry and the food hasn’t arrived. It’s not pretty. The disciples were getting anxious. It was in that time the Lord pulled off an amazing miracle. In the process he said three things that I think he would say to us when we, like the disciples, are in an impossible situation. It’s in those situations that we might just be on the edge of a miracle. But we have to do three things: Rest, Remember, and Release. These are the three R’s in the school of the kingdom.
1. Rest. “Come away…and rest awhile.” (v.31) The first thing Jesus told his disciples was to rest. They had just returned from their first preaching mission and were excitedly telling him all they had done. They had preached, healed, even cast out demons in his name. This had to be the most exciting time of their lives so far. It may seem curious that Jesus did not send them right out to do more. Instead he told them to come away and rest, “for many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Sometimes in the heat of our activity we find ourselves suddenly pulled aside. We assume we’ve done something wrong when in reality the Lord is simply calling us to rest awhile. The disciples had no idea what was coming next. They were on the edge of a great miracle. But the Lord wanted them to rest awhile first. He often gives us times of rest because he’s about to do something awesome in our lives. He wants us to serve him, not from a position of busyness, but from a position of rest. We have to learn to rest in Him. Trust that he can handle this situation.
2. Remember. “you give them something to eat.” (v.37) When they disciples saw the size of the crowds, and the lateness of the hour, they told Jesus to send the people home to eat. Here lies a huge problem. The disciples, still a bit full of themselves, perhaps, from their first mission, saw a problem and began to tell Jesus what He should do about it. They were using good old common sense. It’s getting late, we don’t have any food. No McDonalds or Hardee’s in sight, so it just makes sense to send the people home. Jesus had to remind the disciples of two important things. First, he had to remind them that he didn’t need their advice, just their obedience. Too often our prayers sound more like advice than obedience. We want to tell Jesus what he should do in our situation, when we should be asking, “Lord, what would you have me do?” Second, there’s a difference between common sense, and kingdom sense. What makes perfect sense to you and me is often complete foolishness where the kingdom of God is concerned. So Jesus looks their common sense advice square in the eye and says, “No, you give them something to eat.” We say “send” and He says “give.” We want the Lord to send the crowds away but he wants us to give them what they need. So let’s remember who is leading who. Don’t tell him how to handle the situation. Ask him what to do. Then obey. 3. Release. “How many loaves do you have?” (v.38) Finally, after the disciples had made an assessment of the situation and informed Jesus of what they didn’t have, “Shall we go an buy two hundred Denarii worth if bread and give them to eat.” They still haven’t quite figured out that Jesus is in charge and knows what he’s doing, so they try to give him an economics lesson. “Lord the demand far outweighs the supply, and our budget simply makes no provision for such a large food distribution, not to mention the cost and time involved in transporting food and supplies to this area. We simply don’t have the resources to even begin a food ministry at this time. Plus we haven’t done a demographic study to see….” Jesus interrupts their brilliance with a simple question, “What do you have?” Understand that whenever Jesus asks a question, he isn’t looking for information. Just like when God asks Moses, “What’s that in your hand?” God knew it was a staff, and Jesus knew what food was available, a few loaves and fish. He asked the question to draw the disciples attention away from what they didn’t have and to get them to give to God what they did have. You see, whenever we face a problem, our tendency is to do a negative inventory. We want to tell the Lord what we don’t have. But our limits and lacks are of no consequence to the master of the universe, who calls into being that which is not. What God is interested in is what we are willing to put in to his hands. Moses staff became a scepter of divine power in the hands of God. David’s sling became a giant killer in the hands of God. The widows jar of oil became a lifetime source of income in the hands of God. A little boys lunch became a feast for over 5000 people (with leftovers) in the hands of God. You may feel you have little or nothing in your hands but whatever we give God becomes divinely powerful when God gets hold of it. We have to put away our negative inventory and release what we have in our hands to God. If there is nothing in your hands, then give him your hands.
Today you will likely face at least one impossible situation. You will face something which is beyond your resources and your wisdom. It’s in those times that the master is often preparing us for a miracle. Our job is simple; Rest in him until he tells you to move. Remember who’s leading who and obey his voice. Release what you have into his hands. Then watch what he does in your life. You will never be the same.