Friday, November 11, 2011

Bring What You Have

I have a handful of posts I am hoping to write on adoption finances and fundraising. When I talk with people about adoption, the first thing that usually comes out of their mouths is “There’s no way we can afford that!” Yep, Jake and I said the same thing! But there is a way….many ways actually! There are just a TON of resources on this topic, and I will be blogging about them next week. But first, for today, we’ve got to get our perspective right. My mom’s comment on my post yesterday about ‘God’s multiplication’ is the perspective that we will be grabbing today. I’ve taken a little excerpt out of one of my favorite books, The Hole in Our Gospel (pages 251-253). Everything below was written by the author Richard Stearns - I added a few tiny thoughts in blue....

One of the most common mistakes we can make is to believe that we have nothing of significance to offer – that we’re not rich enough, smart enough, skilled enough, or spiritual enough to make much difference at all, especially in the face of huge global problems. Remember the words of Moses, when God asked him to go to Pharaoh and lead His people out of Egypt? “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” He had his excuse too: he wasn’t eloquent enough. And we’re just like him. Deluded, we sit on the bench, watching the game from a distance, content to let others play. But the very good news for those of us who want to follow Christ and be part of God’s plan for our world is that He uses what we have to offer, no matter how unimportant we think it might be.

In the New Testament, the story of the feeding of the five thousand is found in all four Gospels. Jesus used it to change the way we think about underwhelming resources in the face of overwhelming challenges (sounds like adoption finances to me!!!). We are told that as Jesus and the disciples attempted to retreat to a quiet place to rest, a large crowd of people, eager to hear Jesus’ teaching and to be healed, followed them.

The first thing we notice is how differently Jesus and His disciples viewed the situation. The disciples saw only a large problem: “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (Mark 6:35-36). But Jesus looked at the exact same situation and saw an opportunity: “When Jesus…saw the large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things” (v.34). And according to the gospel of Luke, “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing” (9:11).

When we see poverty and sickness, hunger and famine, cruelty and abuse, do we see them as problems, or do we, like Jesus, filled with compassion, see their human faces and immediately begin to respond – as a shepherd to his vulnerable sheep? The disciples told Jesus that He needed to do something: he should send the crowd away, so they could buy food. In other words, “Jesus, You need to deal with this problem!”

Of course, Jesus did not tell them what they wanted to hear. Instead, He calmly put it right back on them. “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16; emphasis added).

Now, this was an overwhelming predicament, from the disciples’ point of view. There were five thousand men present, “besides women and children” (v 21). Theoretically, then, there may have been as many as ten or even twenty thousand people present. At this point the disciples were getting a bit exasperated, and they panicked; Jesus couldn’t expect them to do the impossible, could He? They even did some calculations to demonstrate to Jesus the absurdity of His reponse. “That would take eight months of a man’s wages!” they told Him. (again, this sounds like an adoption finance thought!) “Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?” (Mark 6:37).

There. Surely Jesus gets it now, they thought. There is no earthly way all these people can be fed. There are too many; it would be too costly; it’s not possible. But Jesus persisted.

“How many loaves do you have?” He asked. “Go and see” (v.38). Notice that Jesus did not fall into the same trap His disciples had, by being overwhelmed by the size of the problem. He didn’t ask about magnitude or strategy or feasibility. He asked not how much it would take to solve the problem, but only how much they had to offer. The disciples told Him that one boy had five loaves and two fish that he was willing to give. “Bring them here to me,” He said (Matthew 14:18).

The disciples had found just one boy who was willing to give what he had. Presumably there were others, too, that had some food. Thousands even. They could have offered it, but instead they kept it to themselves, perhaps rationalizing that “someone else” would respond. And one did – just one. So Jesus received this generous but meager offering and showed the disciples what God can do with even the smallest gift offered in faith. “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” (vv.19-20).

Can you see the real miracle at work here? Confronted with an overwhelming problem, Jesus did not ask the disciples to do the impossible; He asked only for them to bring to Him what they had. He then multiplied the small offering and used it to do the impossible. The principle here is so very important for those of us who are overwhelmed with the immensity of human suffering and need in our world: God never asks us to give what we do not have…But he cannot use what we will not give.

I used to wonder why we are told so specifically at the end of this story that there were twelve basketfuls of leftovers collected. Why twelve? Might it be because there were twelve disciples who needed a tangible reminder of their lack of faith? Each one now had his own basketful of God’s surplus. And as the little boy who had given his lunch looked on, can you imagine the joy he must have felt, seeing his gift multiplied by God to feed thousands of hungry people, many of whom he probably knew? It was his lone “puzzle piece” that completed this miracle of God. When we, as Christians, are willing to lay our pieces down on the table, we, too, can take part in God’s “multiplication”. But if we are unwilling, we will assuredly miss out on every opportunity to be used by God in a powerful and amazing way.

1 comment:

Sincerely, Jenni said...

We're adopting through the foster care, so real big expenses to speak of, but I found a really neat fundraising site you might be interested in. It's AdoptionBug.com, and you they offer different adoption -themed tshirts you can sell and earn a profit off of. Very cute shirts, and you can design your own shirts and sell them on there. (I'm not affiliated with them or anything, I just found them recently, and thought I would mention it to you.)