Then, as we know Jesus took the 5 loaves of bread and the two fish and fed 5,000 men and in addition the women and children and there were 12 baskets of food left over. For those of us who grew up going to Sunday school we heard this story many times and I remember often hearing of how the young boy was willing to share what he had and Jesus took his humble offerings and multiplied it. The moral of the story for us kids was to not dismiss our own gifts no matter how insignificant we thought that those gifts were because Jesus could take our humbling offerings and make them into something beautiful and impactful.
It was a good lesson for me as a kid and is still a good lesson now. How easy it is to measure our efforts by the direct consequences that we see. But, the direct consequence that we see may not be the actual consequence of our efforts. Did the young boy with the fish and bread even realize that it was his lunch that Jesus took and blessed and gave to the people? If he did see Jesus multiplying his lunch, then it would be quite certain that he did not take pride in the 5,000 being fed as he would know that he only had the 5 loaves and the 2 fish and had no power to multiply them. The only choice he had was giving what he had. And if he did know it was his fish he was probably ecstatic about what he was seeing happen in front of him. These hungry people being happily fed by his lunch through the power of God.
Occasionally, God lets us see His multiplication happening. We have heard stories from missionaries and pastors in astonishment and worship telling us of the giving of their humble gifts and God’s multiplication. A pastor decides to lead the church in a renewed vision and people start coming. A missionary starts meeting a local need and the mission grows nationally. A pastor decides to be vulnerable about his struggles and the church body grows in compassion and honesty. But just because we don’t always see it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
In our fall 2016 newsletter, we printed the testimony of a couple who came to Marble Retreat 25 years ago and then came back again recently to deal with a ministry challenge in their life. While at Marble Retreat the second time they told us of how coming the first time changed their life, and because their life was changed they went on to impact others. We got to hear the stories of multiplication from the ministry of Marble Retreat.
We tend to link success in ministry with skill, opportunity, personality, having “the right team,” hard work and good luck. While we should always endeavor to do our best to improve our skills, take advantage of the opportunities God gives us, and choose our team well, we cannot forget that God is in the mix. Actually, God is the mix.
And because we link success to the things of man then we can unfairly judge our own humble gifts and occasionally inflate the reasons for our success as being that we are somehow special. I have worked with a pastor who was tremendously gifted in speech and intellect and extremely knowledgeable of Scripture. Yet, he questioned whether the church he served was better off with him or without him. I have also worked with some who were experiencing tremendous success in ministry and were taking credit for it, though in comparison to many others their gifting was not extraordinary in any way.
The point is that we in ministry are to heed Jesus words when it comes to our gifts and efforts. “Bring them here to me.” And then trust that He will do with our lunch what He wants to accomplish and we can enjoy and praise Him for what He does.