For His Kingdom and Our Good

09/07/17

For His Kingdom and Our Good

I had a plan for what I was going to write about when I sat down to do my last blog post. I had been thinking about the topic for a few days and was eager to get my thoughts on paper, even if it is digital paper. So I did what I normally do, and I began to type away. Once I was finished, I started the less-than-exciting task of proofreading. I became more and more shocked as I read over what I wrote. It wasn’t even close to what I had in mind! I got off track somewhere along the way and never got back on the intended path. Rather than scrap what I had written, I decided to go ahead and post it. I didn’t have much confidence in what I wrote, but I had spent the time and effort, so I didn’t want to waste it. Then something interesting happened. I had multiple people tell me over the week that my blog was just what they needed to hear. I stood amazed each time I listened to that. How could something that I didn’t have much hope for make any impact? Then I was reminded of what it was that I had written about, “If we only knew what God knew.” God knew exactly what I needed to write, even though it wasn’t what I wanted. God decided to use me although I had no idea what He was doing.

That idea is what I initially set out to write for my last blog post. We often only see what’s happening right in front of us. I passed through a town that was preparing for a parade as I drove up to my parent’s for a Labor Day cookout on Monday. There were fire trucks, floats, and all the regular parade participants lining up as people began to crowd around the road. The thing that most caught my eye was a horse and carriage. If you have ever seen a horse in a parade, you know that they are always wearing blinders. Obviously, they do this so the horse can only see what is straight ahead and to prevent it from getting distracted or spooked from anything that is going on around it. Seeing that horse made me think of the fact that we spend most of our lives living with blinders on, preventing us from seeing what God is doing around us and even what God is doing through us.

God has made a habit of using imperfect people. In fact, there was only one perfect person that did God’s work, and He just so happened to be God incarnate. All throughout history God has chosen to use flawed people to accomplish His will. Just look at who the disciples were to see that they weren’t anything special. They were a rag tag bunch of guys who were passed over by other rabbis because they weren’t smart enough. There were several fishermen from Galilee, which means that they were under educated, blue-collar workers. Matthew, a Jew, was a tax collector, a job that required him to betray his people by working for the oppressing Roman government. He made his money by exploiting the Jewish people. There was a zealot named Simon. The Zealots were a group of Jews who were leading a rebellion against the Roman government in Israel. This would also mean that Simon would have despised Matthew in any other context. We can round out this group with Judas Iscariot who was stealing money from the treasury the whole time he traveled with Jesus and would eventually turn the Messiah over to His death. This is the all-star group of guys that God used to build His church and usher in His kingdom on earth.

What made these guys so great (excluding Judas because that dude stinks)? They followed Jesus and did what He told them to do. Even still, they had their struggles. This is evident in what is perhaps Christ’s most famous miracle, The Feeding of the 5,000. You probably know the story but allow me to highlight some things in it. Firstly, 5,000 is an inaccurate measure of the size of the crowd. Matthew 14:21 finishes the story by saying, “And those who ate were about 5,000 men, besides women and children.” This means that they only counted the men. Jesus is at the height of His popularity at this point. If most of the men brought their wives and one kid with them, we’re suddenly looking at a crowd of around 15,000! I’ve seen estimates that take the number over 20,000. Take a moment and wrap your mind around the sheer size of the crowd.

The day was drawing to an end, and the disciples wanted to have some rest. When you know what has been going on, you won’t blame them. Not only have they been traveling around with Jesus as He taught and performed miracles but they also just received some troubling news. John the Baptist has been killed. All of the disciples would have known him personally and probably considered him a friend. Andrew and another disciple (probably John) were even disciples of John the Baptist before they met Jesus. Their hearts, mind, and body were all worn out due to what has been transpiring in their lives over the past few weeks. They just wanted to take a nap. I know I can relate to that feeling and I’m sure you can too. They had an issue though; there was that pesky crowd following them around.

The Disciples go to Jesus and suggest to send the crowds away to buy some food. Jesus, however, has a different suggestion, “They need no go away; you give them something to eat.” (Matt 14:16) Remember how big that crowd was? Yeah, this is a ridiculous request. The Disciples looked around, and all they had was two fish and five loaves of bread. That wasn’t even enough to feed them let alone a crowd that could fill a small college football stadium. Phillip even tells Jesus that they wouldn’t be able to feed them even if they spent all of the money they had on bread. You cannot blame the disciple for being skeptical of Jesus’ idea. They may not have been the smartest men, but they could do the math on this one. Nevertheless, Jesus tells them to break the crowd up into groups. He then broke the bread, gave thanks, filled the disciple’s baskets, and told them to go and distribute it amongst the crowd.

I’m going to go into the realm of speculation which I don’t normally do but let’s imagine what the disciples think as they walk into a giant group of hungry and tired people. Have you ever been around a group of hungry and tired people? It’s not fun, and the first thing that they lose is their patience.  I assume that they thought this was insane. Throughout the gospels, we have many instances where the Disciples didn’t understand who Jesus was and what He was doing and I imagine that this would be one of those situations. Regardless, they went out to the crowd to hand out the food. I wonder at what point did it all click for them. Was it the tenth person they served? The hundredth? The thousandth? Or was it when they collected 12 full baskets of leftovers after everyone ate their fill? At what point did they take the blinders off, quit focusing on the magnitude of the task, and begin to see the big picture of what God was doing.

Even when the Disciples didn’t understand, God used them in a big way. That’s the lesson that I want us to take away from a story that is full of them. We don’t always know or need to know God’s big picture for us to make an impact for His kingdom. We are just like those disciples a lot of times in our lives. We hear what God is calling us to do and we respond by saying “I don’t have enough.” We look at what we have to offer instead of trusting that God will give us what we need or multiply what we have. Don’t think that it is a coincidence that they happened to have the little bit of food that they did. John 6:9 tell us that there just happened to be a boy with the fish and bread. God gave them what little they had so that He could turn it into something spectacular. Would this story be nearly as impressive if they had 5,000 fish and 10,000 loaves of bread? The correct answer is no. God chose to use the little to something big.

God has gifted every Christian in one way or another, scripture is clear on that (1 Cor 12:1-11). You may think that you don’t have much to offer, but I can assure you that whatever you have to offer, God will use. We need to quit thinking of what we can do and think of the fact that there’s nothing God can’t do. He wants to use you to make a significant impact for His kingdom. We must take off the blinders and try to see the big picture of how God is using us. Jesus has called, commanded, and commissioned us to preach the Gospel. If He is sending us, then He is going to supply us. We may not have much to offer, but we have a God who makes much of what we have to offer.

The thing about the Disciples that I am most impressed with is the fact that they went. They walked out into the overwhelming crowd, baskets in hand, ready to do what Jesus told them to do. They had no idea how that was going to turn out, but they knew that Jesus wouldn’t leave them out to dry.

We follow the same savior!

There is no need to wonder if Jesus is going to send you out and let you down. He has promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us. He is going to be with us until the end of the age. All we need to do is go, and He’ll take care of the rest.

We serve a good and loving God. We also serve a God who is going to use His people to change the world. We are never promised safety in Scripture, but we are promised that whatever happened to us is for His kingdom and our good. We need to trust that God is going to use us, even when the task is well beyond anything that we can accomplish on our own. In fact, that’s when God is going to show off the most. He loves to make much of little. What is God calling you to do? What ministry is He calling you to? Who is He calling you to impact? Does the task seem too big? If it does, good. That is exactly where you need to go. I promise you, if you go, He will be with you every step of the way. We may only have a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread to offer, but He can use that to change the world. Take off the blinders, look around you, and know that God can, will, and is using you to grow His kingdom. How awesome is that!

Kyle Smith, Director of Youth Ministries


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