A. W. Tozer once wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
If we believe God is caring, we will bring our concerns to him. But if we think he is impersonal, we will avoid a relationship with him. If we believe God is holy, we will strive to avoid sin. But if we think he is tolerant, we will live by our own standards since he just winks at sin. If we believe he is a shepherd who leads and guides, we will follow his direction. But if we think he just leaves us on our own, we will avoid asking him for wisdom.
One of my convictions is that God will provide. In fact, one of his names is Jehovah Jireh, “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14). I am convinced that not only does God meet each one of us at our point of need, he also provides all we need and more besides. I believe he is generous rather than stingy.
In the story of the feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:30-44), Jesus meets seven specific needs for different types of people. He provides:
- Rest for the weary (30-32)
- Compassion for the lost (33-34a)
- Instruction for the seekers (34b)
- Challenge for the self-sufficient (35-37)
- Significance for the inadequate (38)
- Satisfaction for the hungry (39-42)
- Encouragement for the faint-hearted (43-44)
Back in verses 7-13, Jesus sent his twelve disciples out on their first short-term ministry trip. When they return (30-32), he desires to take them away on a staff retreat for a well-deserved rest. However, the crowds continue to follow. Rather than view them as an inconvenience, Jesus had compassion and saw them as sheep without a shepherd (33-34). They were lost and helpless, without guidance, nourishment, or protection.
As Jesus taught the crowds, the shadows lengthened. Late in the day, the disciples encouraged Jesus to let the people go so that they could find food (35-37). In a surprising twist, Jesus told the disciples to feed the people. Their caustic reply emphasized their lack of resources and what they viewed as an impossible demand. It’s interesting that God often puts us in situations where we don’t have enough so that we will learn to depend on him completely.
The disciples scope out the crowd and discover one boy who brought a bag lunch of five loaves and two fish. Not exactly much to feed a hungry crowd of 5-20,000 people. (The text mentions 5,000 men. If you assume women and children, the number swells considerably.) Jesus takes the lunch, looks up to heaven, gives a blessing, and distributes the meal to all. While no explanation is given as to how the miracle occurred, all ate enough to go away satisfied. There was even leftovers to take home.
I take away two primary lessons from this story. The first is the conviction that God will provide. A God who can feed 5,000+ from five loaves and two fish can do anything. Not only does he meet our needs, but he does it in an abundant, extravagant manner. That makes me ask the question, am I willing to put my trust in the God who provides in every situation?
The second lesson is that Jesus involves his disciples at every level of ministry. He gave them the assignment of feeding the crowd. When they said it couldn’t happen, he sends them out to see if there is any food. Once he blesses the meal, he has them distribute it. I am struck with the conviction that spiritual growth comes from serving. If my faith isn’t increasing, it may be because I am not engaged. Again, that forces me to be face another question, where am I using my gifts and talents to serve God?
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on April 12, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.