What Can We Bring to the Table?
a sermon based on John 6:4-14
by Don Bower
I have heard that preaching during a stewardship drive is one of the most challenging tasks that a Minister can have. Not being a Minister, I would say that preaching at any time is a challenge. Having sat in the pew during all the other stewardship drives, I realize that there must be a delicate balance between an earnest appeal for the funds necessary to run the Church in a manner consistent with the mission God has called us to fulfill, and not coming on so strong as to seem ungrateful for all the congregation has done in the past.
Speaking as one that usually sits in the pews, I think the important thing is to reflect on what we are called to do by God. Jesus usually spoke in stories to illustrate his point. The gospels are full of stories about the way Jesus met the challenges He encountered while working to bring his Kingdom to Earth. Instead of asking
"What would Jesus do?", we can see exactly what Jesus did.
The story of the Fish and Loaves is actually very illuminating on the power of God to multiply what is at hand, and amplify it to meet a current, pressing need. The groceries available that day were insignificant. The need for food was overwhelming.
Instead of the Lord using his awesome power alone to solve the problem, He called upon the people around Him to be a big part of the solution.
Instead of focusing on the Fish and Loaves, let's look at the people involved in this well known bible story. Let's look in particular at perhaps the most under-rated character in the whole story. The little boy. The Lord had his Disciples at his disposal and a crowd of about five thousand men that came to hear Him and be near to him. Instead of any of these, the key player was a boy. The scriptures don't tell us how old he was, or how big he was, but the KJV refers to him as a "Lad". Probably his early teens at the most. But, he had a lot going for him.
He was nearby. In a crowd of five thousand, he had probably been pushed around a lot that day. It would have been easy for him to get worked to the back of the crowd by all the big guys that were there that day, but when the time came, he was close to Jesus and his disciples. Perhaps he was in awe of just being near the Savior. Instead of being intimidated by the miracle worker, he was drawn to him. Instead of hanging out in the back of the crowd, he was bold enough to approach the Man everyone had come to see. Do we want to be used by God? We need to stay close enough to Jesus to hear his call when he summons us.
The young man was interested in what was going on. He was tuned in to what was going on that day. Out of 5000 people, there were probably more young people his age around there. There might have even been some young ladies there. He did not seem to be distracted by the crowds. He wasn't hanging around with some of his buddies. This young man's heart and mind were tuned in to what was going on with Jesus and the disciples. He wasn't playing or wasting time, he was interested in what the Lord was doing. Not only was he present in body, he was present in mind and spirit. His heart was right there on the hill with Jesus. We need to keep our hearts near Jesus also.
Jesus said in Mat 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
The young man yielded all he had that day. I'm sure he was probably just as hungry as everyone else. His Mom probably packed his lunch for him that morning, expecting him to have it while he was out listening to the young Rabbi from Nazareth. From what I've read of the history of that time and place, Barley was the economy grade food of the day. Not the stuff that would be considered top-shelf. A humble food, not very expensive. The terms loaves might also be misleading, suggesting something like our loaves of bread. I think it was much more likely to have been like Pita breads or pancakes. Not really a whole lot of food for a growing young boy. But, he was willing to give up all he had, unselfishly. An admirable trait for anyone, but especially admirable for one so young. He didn't just share, he gave up what he had. Andrew didn't report to Jesus that the kid would give him
three loaves and one fish, keeping the rest for himself, the young man offered all he had brought.
Equally significant is the way the young man offered what he had. When Andrew reported to Jesus what was available, he commented "...but what are they among so many?" The young man didn't take into account what he had versus the need, perhaps some of the other disciples scoffed at the meager basket of food, but the young man offered what he had, confident that Jesus would accept it and put it to good use. It seems he knew God doesn't look at how much or how little, but what is in our hearts when we offer.
He offered it to the right person. I'm sure anyone there would have taken his lunch and have been happy to have eaten it for him. Everyone was probably getting hungry. He could have given a piece of food to six other people, and then seven would have had a little to eat. Probably just enough to make them really hungry, but something to eat anyway. He chose to give it to the One that could do the most with it. He gave it all to Jesus.
Not only did all eat, the Scriptures say they were FILLED. I'm sure that every one ate all they wanted. I know that when I go to a place with free food, I seldom leave hungry. Six turkey suppers from one kid's lunch. Not only was everyone filled, they had left overs. Twelve baskets. If the little lunch had fed the multitude, what would the twelve baskets have done.
Another interesting player in this drama is Philip. The Lord really put Philip on the spot. Looking out over the crowd, Jesus asked Philip where they were going to buy bread so that everyone could eat. A snap quiz in Faith 101. Jesus already knew what he was going to do, but he wanted to see if Philip had any idea what could be done. Instead of saying, "Jesus, you can turn water into wine,..... you can heal the sick,.... you can make the lame to walk, .......you can do anything...." Philip stumbles. I can see Philip looking out over the sea of faces. As he fumbles with his wallet, Philip says that even if he had two hundred denarii, six months worth of wages, they would only be able to get everyone a little nibble. There just was no way they were going to be able handle the situation. The little boy knew.
It's interesting to me that the number of leftover baskets was the same number as the number of disciples. The Lord made the loaves and fishes multiply to feed the multitude. I wonder if the disciples were told by Jesus to distribute the food to the crowd first, before they had their portion. Make sure everyone gets their fill BEFORE you have your lunch. I can imagine some of the twelve grumbling. Man, when we get everyone fed, there isn't going to be any for us. We're always last in line. We're the apostles, we should have eaten first. When it was all said and done, there was enough left over that they EACH could have had a basket all his own. There is always enough of God's grace to go around for everyone.
When the meal was over, the crowd realized what a miracle had happened, and believed that Jesus was the one prophesied in Scripture.
What a difference a young boy made in his world. He didn't have much, but what he had he was willing to surrender to the Lord and allow Jesus to use it to minister to the multitudes. What can we give to Jesus?
Do we have Time to give to the Lord. We can spare a few hours a week to give to him. We can devote a little time so that we may be his hands, or his mouth, or his heart on Earth? We can help him to be a presence at someone's side when they need comfort or an encouraging word? We can offer the Lord some time each week to study his Word so that we might be more effective witnesses for Him to the world? Can we offer the Lord some of our time to simply be in his presence in prayer?
Do we have treasure to offer to the Lord? We all have financial pressures and commitments. We should give careful consideration to the extent of our commitment to the work of the Lord? Is our giving to the Lord a real priority, or is it an entry in the miscellaneous column.
Do we have talents we can offer to the Lord? God has blessed us with certain abilities that we should not leave on the shelf? If we sing, do we only sing in the shower? Some of us can teach, but only use that ability on the job or at home with our own kids? Has God given us the ability to organize, communicate, care, comfort, and we limit giving those gifts to a small circle of friends?
As the little boy with the Loaves and Fishes gave all to the Lord, and the Lord used them magnificently, what can we give to the Lord of ourselves that He can use magnificently ? Let's make ourselves available to the Lord..........Who knows what God might choose to do with us.