by Peter Ditzel
I’m going to begin with John chapter 6, beginning in verse 1:
After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
And here I can’t help but think of two Scriptures. In Psalm 23, verses 1 and 2, it says, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” And Ezekiel 34:14 says, “I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.” I don’t think it is a coincidence that Jesus fed the multitude as they sat on the grass on a mountain. Of course, all of this is typical of our feeding upon Jesus Christ.
Let’s continue in John 6 and verse 11.
And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
What struck me about this passage recently is the lad, the little boy and his very little offering of five loaves and two small fish. Sometimes we think we have nothing to offer. We think our gifts, our talents, our possessions, our resources are so small that they can’t do anybody any good. So we don’t even try. We may feel moved to say something encouraging to someone or do some little good deed or volunteer for something, and then we think, No, what good can I do, and we talk ourselves out of it.
Sometimes we may think our gifts are so small that they are not really gifts at all. What we forget when we think like this is that God can make small gifts do great things. With five barley loaves—tiny loaves no bigger than the size of dinner roles—and two small fish that commentators say were probably about the size of sardines, Jesus fed five thousand men and who knows how many women and children. What if that boy had thought, This is not enough for everyone. I’ll keep them hidden for myself. But, in his childlike faith, he didn’t. The Bible doesn’t say this, so it is purely my speculation, but it seems to me that for Andrew to know that this boy had these loaves and fishes, the boy probably volunteered them. He heard that they needed food and he said, I have some. He wasn’t hindered by the grown up thought that it was too little to do any good. But we are to become as little children, aren’t we?
Here are three examples of what God can do with small things. All of these are paraphrased from Competent to Minister, The Biblical Care of Souls by Martin and Deidre Bobgan: A young married couple was having serious trouble in their marriage. They talked to the pastor, who sent them to see an older married couple who were a good example in the church. The older couple invited them to dinner. While they were sitting around the dinner table, the older woman got up, got a pitcher of water, and refilled her husband’s glass of water. It was a very simple act that she hardly even thought about. The younger woman immediately interrupted the conversation and asked, “Why did you do that?” The older woman didn’t understand. The younger woman explained that she wanted to know why the other woman had filled her husband’s glass with water. The older woman explained that she noticed that her husband’s glass was low and she thought he would probably want more. The younger woman said it didn’t make sense to her. If he wanted water, he could get it himself. It soon became obvious that the younger couple had no idea that husbands and wives should serve and care for one another. But this was only recognized by the simple good deed of pouring that glass of water. The older woman’s simple act of kindness in refilling her husband’s glass of water became the spark that God used to save the other couple’s marriage.
In another incident, a couple with two children would stop each week on their way to church to pick up an elderly woman. On the way to church, the elderly woman would tell stories of when she was a missionary’s wife in China. She told of the hardships and the joys, the successes and the failures. She told of how her infant son died and how her husband drowned in the Mekong River. She told of how she stayed on because of her love for Jesus and the people she served. She told of how, years later, one of her grown daughters went to school in England and then returned to serve with her mother in China and then died only a few months later. Yet the woman stayed on as long as she could until she was too old to stay. Now, compared to what this woman had done, the couple picking her up and taking her to church was performing only a little service. Yet God used that little service for bigger things. What things? Hearing these stories week after week, the children sitting in the car grew up with a burning desire to serve the Lord. One became a pastor and the other a missionary, all because of the way God used that little service of picking someone up on the way to church.
Another example is that of a successful businessman. He did not normally attend church and was certainly not a Christian. But he decided while on a business trip to attend church. As he listened to the sermon, he thought of all kinds of arguments against what the preacher said. Then, as he was about to leave, a young man walked up to him and happily said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The businessman, ready to argue, said that he didn’t see the connection between God giving His Son and having everlasting life. Undaunted, the young man simply repeated, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The businessman, having university training, gave more arguments. But the young man simply repeated, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This continued several times. Each time, the young man would only repeat John 3:16. Finally and suddenly the light went on. God opened the mind of that businessman to see the truth of those words. In faith, he got on his knees and wept and was saved. He later found out that the young man was retarded and the only Scripture he knew was John 3:16. But God used that young man’s small gift to bring the Gospel and eternal life to that businessman.
Turn to Mark 12 and I’ll begin reading in verse 41:
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
Now, we are all familiar with this event. It is another example of someone giving even what little she had. One mite was worth about a quarter. But you could think, What good did it do? What did those two mites do for God’s work? Well, Jesus took notice of it, God made sure it was put into the Bible, and every generation of Christians since has been inspired by it to good works. So even a contribution of money can have more far reaching effects than just the value of the money. I have on more than one occasion heard preachers say that, yes, it was noble for the widow to do this, but it was also foolish. It was foolish of her to give everything. But Jesus didn’t say it was foolish. I believe God took care of her every need.
The widow gave all she had. Are we doing all we can for Jesus?
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