Sometimes our best intentions in prayer fall far short of God’s intentions for us. We pray, seeking God, for mere crumbs from his table when he is ready, willing, and able to give us the full banquet!
We find ourselves asking for good things, but things that pale in comparison to what God has in store for us. Would you pray for pennies knowing that God wanted to offer you gold?
As the disciples were getting to know Jesus, they saw firsthand that Jesus was able to do for them, and through them, immeasurably more than they could ask for, or even IMAGINE!
Matthew records a day that found Jesus teaching a great multitude. He spoke the Gospel to the gathered crowd and healed their sick. Ministry, teaching and comforting and miracles, is exhausting work. It was unplanned for work. Matthew tells us that on this particular day Jesus withdrew to a solitary place after hearing the news of John the Baptist’s death.
Ministry finds us wherever we are. The crowds found Jesus, and they came to him, spiritually hungry.
As the sun sank toward the horizon, the disciples made a good request of Jesus. The wisest course of action, at the end of this long and tiring day, would be to send the people away in order for them to provide themselves some food. I would have asked Jesus to do the same thing.
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.”
NIV Matthew 14:15
It only makes sense that this crowd would need to take care of themselves. Surely, after spending a day with Jesus, having their hearts and minds filled with the Good News, and their sick and infirm healed by the Master, they could all head home satisfied. This was a good plan.
But it wasn’t Jesus’ plan.
Jesus had something better in mind.
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
NIV Matthew 14:16
God doesn’t always make impossible requests of us. Jesus usually kept things pretty simple for his disciples. But not on this day. God always has the prerogative to ask the impossible of us. YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT.
Didn’t Jesus know how little the disciples had to offer? Couldn’t Jesus see how large the gathering was? Are God’s expectations of us unfair and unkind given the magnitude of his requests and the miniscule nature of our resources?
The disciples looked around. They scratched their heads in bewilderment. They looked in their pockets to see what they had. They came up with something.
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.”
NIV Matthew 14:17
(5 loaves + 2 fish) ÷ 5,000 men = BIG PROBLEM
That’s my interpretation of the math equation that was going through the disciples’ minds.
Jesus was working with a different equation.
“Bring them here to me,” he said.
NIV Matthew 14:18
While we are busy telling God what he should do, God is already planning to WOW us with what only HE can do.
Jesus issues a command: Bring Them To Me.
The disciples respond in obedience. They brought him the loaves and the fishes. I doubt they expected much, but they were obedient nonetheless.
It’s only after their obedience that Jesus did a great miracle before their eyes.
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.
NIV Matthew 14:19-21
When you become frustrated thinking about the task before you, turn your eyes to the God above you. Bring him your obedience and let him transform your weakness, poverty and emptiness, into an opportunity for him to show his Power, Glory and Greatness.