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Weekly Word

Entries in Provision (5)

Sunday
Nov122017

The Provision of the Lord

1 kings 17:18-16.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 12, 2017.

Today we continue looking at the prophet Elijah.  Last week we saw that Elijah had prophesied to King Ahab that a famine would come on the land and would not be broken until Elijah said so.  God had then provided for Elijah to retreat into the wilderness.  When we stopped at verse 7 last week, the stream by which Elijah was staying went dry.  Today we will see the new way that God had planned to care for Elijah and learn from it that we need not fear when things go sideways.  God is always looking out for us, whether we are someone as important as Elijah the prophet or a widow in a foreign land who has nothing.  However, He doesn’t always use the same things to provide for us.  Let’s look at the story.

The Lord is our source of provision

As I said earlier, Elijah has hit a transition point.  The way God had been taking care of him has now dried up.  What now?  Has God forgotten about me?  Has God failed or no longer cares about me?  These are the normal questions when such a time happens in our life.  We can begin to doubt God’s care and fear what lies ahead.  However, the same God who provided the stream of water and the food-bearing ravens now had a new plan.  This new plan involved a widow who lived in another country, the widow of Zarephath (Zair-uh-fath).  If we step back and think about Elijah’s life to this point we will recognize that God is not letting him get comfortable.  He presumably starts out at whatever his home was.  Then he ends up living in the wilderness next to the brook Cherith.   Now things are changing again and he is going to have to move again.  It is clear that God is testing Elijah to see if he will keep obeying and trust God.   However, He is also teaching Elijah that God is able to take care of him, no matter where he goes.  It is easy for us to think of God caring for Elijah, but not necessarily caring about us.  Who am I?  I am no great prophet.  Why would God even give a second thought about me?  Well, pay attention to how God is both taking care of Elijah and this widow from a foreign country, who no doubt is not a worshipper of Him.  When God has been using something or someone to help us, we must not look to those things desperately, as if they were the source of provision.  We must always recognize them as only the means of God’s provision.

On a side note, we have a good piece of information here.  Elijah is not some powerful guy who says whatever he wants and God backs him up.  If so, he could have just commanded the stones around him to be turned into bread (like the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness).  No, Elijah is a man under the direction and command of God.  Thus, that is not an option.  He could have tried to do so, but it wouldn’t work.  God had a different plan.  God then gives Elijah the instruction and the leading that he needed to get to the next channel of God’s provision.  Now in our lives, it seems that we don’t get clear and quick instruction from the Lord.  I would say, however, that we do not know how long Elijah was at the side of the dry stream bed praying and waiting for an answer.  Regardless, God can give us instructions quickly or after a time of waiting.  We must be faithful to seek His instructions and leading, by reading the Word and seeking Him through prayer.  It is part of trusting God, to keep looking to Him even though it seems to be taking a long time.  No matter how long we may need to wait, the answer of the Lord will always become clear eventually.

So let’s talk about God’s plan.  Why is he going to use a widow from Zarephath?  Zarephath was a village on the outskirts of Sidon and under its control or dominion.  Remember that King Ahab had married Jezebel, the daughter of the king of Sidon.  There are at least two ways to look at this plan.  In Luke 4, Jesus had been healing people in the area of Galilee and then had come home.  There was resistance and jealousy of him there.  In fact, Mark 6:3 says that they took offense at him.  They wondered why he didn’t do lots of miracles in Nazareth as well.  Jesus answers by reminding them of our story today.  He asks why God sent Elijah to a widow near Sidon.  Weren’t there enough widows in all of Israel to pick from?  At this point in time, northern Israel had fallen into idolatry, led by King Ahab.  God was not doing powerful things through Elijah for the material benefit of his hometown, or Israel, or perhaps for the churches today.  No the miracles are for God’s purposes and benefit those whom He chooses.  He sees the needs of everyone, and those who are full of themselves and quick to offense will typically not be His first choice.

Another aspect of this new plan has to do with Spiritual Warfare.  King Ahab of Israel had fallen into idolatry and an alliance with the enemies of God.  This was a blow to God’s work through Israel.  There is some irony that God sends Elijah into the backyard of King Ethbaal of Sidon.  This counter-attack is not of the same kind, but it is a spiritual advance into a territory under the dominion of darkness.  Here Elijah will plant the seeds of truth in the life of a woman and her child.  The God of Israel was the only god that cared for her, and even in a miraculous way.  These seeds would grow and bear fruit throughout that area.  I can imagine that later, when the apostles went through that area, they may have found some remnants of those seeds that were open to the Gospel.

Now we can also recognize that this new plan of God is very different from the previous.  In the previous, Elijah was by himself and the provision came from nature, at God’s command.  But, the new plan is to use a person who can provide for his physical needs.  God often uses other people in our life to care for us and to help us.  It is not always in material needs.  It might be someone who knows the Word of the Lord and can share it with us.  Or someone who understands what we are going through and can comfort us.  Regardless, all of our connections to others in life, especially within the Church, are used by God to provide something in our lives.  Sometimes we can be too stubborn to receive it.  Now, this works the other way as well.  God wants you to care for others even as they care for you.  Our gifting are not the same.  God intends that we help each other in different ways.  It can even be in the same way, but at different times.  I can help you today, and find I need your help in the same area tomorrow.  God can always cause something to come into our life without the help of another person.  But, He often chooses to use people and relationships with others.  He does so because relationship is what He wants most with us.  A relationship with an unseen God can be fraught with self-deception.  But a relationship with a flesh and blood person requires us to be real.  When we are constantly faced with reality by our relationships with others, it helps us to be real with God.

It is interesting that God tells Elijah in verse 9 that He has “commanded” the widow to provide for him.  It is clear from the story that the widow did not get the memo, as they say.  The word here most likely has the sense of an appointment.  God had decreed or appointed that Elijah would be helped through this woman, but He doesn’t tell her, except through Elijah.  Often, God has appointments for us that do not make sense at the time.  Imagine, this widow being asked for food and water by Elijah.  How insensitive that must has seemed to her at the time.  “You picked the wrong person, buddy.”  She was a widow and thus very poor.  Worse than that, a famine was upon the land, and so she couldn’t even forage for more food.  Worse than that, she was at the end of her food and fixing her last meal with just a handful of flour for her and her boy.  How heavy her heart must have been as she prepared to starve to death.  Yet, in the middle of all of this lack, God has a plan for her to be the one who takes care of the prophet Elijah.  He didn’t pick a widow from Elijah’s hometown, or from Israel.  Instead, God picked her.  She didn’t know that she would meet a prophet that day.  She did not know that her response to the prophet would be death or life for her.  Instead of being eaten up with bitterness and anger, even now she is gracious to the man who bothers her for some water and a small cake of bread.  Instead of anger she responds with brokenness.  She tells him her dire straits, but then goes and makes a small cake for Elijah.  Why would we choose to be stingy when we have little?  Some who have more than they need are stingy.  It is not really a matter of what you have.  It is a matter of your heart.  If I have nothing left than why not share it with another person?  Poor people can often be the most giving because they have empathy and know what it feels like to have nothing and no one.  Her sacrifice makes all the difference.  Don’t look to your circumstances to determine what God is doing with you.  Don’t get bitter and resentful.  Instead, keep doing the little that you can do and trust the Lord who has appointed you for His work (whether you know it or not).

Yet, we also see that Elijah doesn’t just ask for the bread.  He gives her a word of hope.  If she sacrifices in order to give Elijah some bread, then her bin of flour will not be used up, nor her jar of oil run dry until rain falls upon the ground.  God does test our faith, but He also gives us a word of hope.  Yes, pick up your cross and follow me (to die).  But if you do, you will gain eternal life.  When obeying God’s word isn’t easy, we are tempted to disobey and go our own way.  But our way leads to death, and God’s leads to eternal life.  There is always a blessing in doing it God’s way.  Whether in generosity, or obedience in another way such as honesty or sharing Christ with others, the word of God tests us to see if we are going to be offended and miss out on the blessing, or sacrifice our flesh and receive a blessing from the Lord.  The blessing is not always something like a bin of flour that doesn’t run empty for three years.  However, even our material provisions in life are truly from the Lord.  Yes, God has appointed this widow who has nothing to care for Elijah, but it was the Lord who was actually doing the providing.  She simply had to keep trusting the Lord.  Instead of creating a dam and storing up all the provision for herself, she shared it with Elijah and experienced a miracle unheard of by anyone in her country.  Today, we are being tested by the word of the Lord in our country.  Let’s trust God’s way and walk in the blessing that may not always feel like a blessing.  Yet, it always leads us to great things with God.

Yes, God cares about little old you.  Regardless of what you have been through in the past and may be suffering in the present, He has a plan through it, if you will only cry out to Him and wait in trust for the answer.  The Lord is our source and will provide for us though the whole world be under a famine.  Amen!

The Provision of the Lord audio

Tuesday
Mar012016

Living by Faith

Luke 22:35-38.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 21, 2016.

Throughout the history of the Church the idea of “living by faith” has taken on several different forms.  For some it became the idea that we should never prepare for or save up for anything.  They attempt to obtain a radical trust in Jesus and His provision alone.  The opposite view sees it as only affecting the spiritual issue of salvation.  Thus they trust Jesus to save their souls, and yet do not look for any “provision” from God in their life.  I believe that the truth lies in between these two extremes.  We should trust God for both spiritual and material needs.  However, we also work hard, save up, and prepare for the inevitabilities that lie ahead.  As we look at today’s passage, we will get a better feel for this area.

The Sending Out Of The Twelve

In Luke 9 Jesus had sent the 12 into the towns and cities of Israel.  He had given them authority to heal diseases and cast out demons, while proclaiming the kingdom of God.

Part of the reasoning for this is that they would prepare the people to hear Jesus later.  In a sense they were pre-evangelizing the area.  There are different aspects to sharing the Gospel with people.  Sometimes it is brand new to them and can be symbolized by casting a seed into their minds and hearts.  Sometimes they have run into this before and our interaction with them can be symbolized by watering seed that already exists.  Lastly, we may come into the life of a person who has had seed planted and watered.  Their seeds have grown to the point of maturity and can now be harvested.  We should always bear in mind these ideas when we are sharing the Gospel.  We intersect with a life that is in motion and has a past.  However God chooses to use us, we must give our all without being discouraged by what we do or don’t see.  Be faithful.  The work is greater than any one attempt to evangelize.

Of course, it was also an opportunity to strengthen the faith of the disciples and to prepare them for their future.  Jesus told them to take no money, provisions, or extra clothes.  They were to depend solely upon what was provided by those who accepted them.  Of course God is ultimately the supply in all of our lives, but we are not usually commanded to do what Jesus told them to do.  This was clearly a part of their training and yet was also beneficial to the ministry.  After reminding them of their previous ministry He asks them if they lacked anything.  Their answer to the Lord is an emphatic, “We lacked nothing, Lord.”  It is important to recognize that we serve a God who is able to provide and, when He does, He often does so through people.

They Had Entered A Turning-Point

This time, Jesus is going to give them a command that is different than before, and it hinges on the phrase, “But now…”  The circumstances are going to be very different in the future than they were.  Before Jesus was a novelty that many people were interested in, and his disciples shared in that popularity.  Also they were only going to the cities of Israel.  Everyone there understood the Bible and God to some degree.  In a sense it was a best case scenario for ministry.  In the future they are not going to be in places that would be relatively easy.

In fact, the biggest issue ahead is that Jesus will no longer be with them physically.  He says, “The things concerning me have an end.”  That is there is a purpose in mind and it is that He must die on the cross.  It was not the Father’s will to continue things as they were before, and it was not his will to restore things to how they were after the resurrection.  They would be the main ministers now.  There would be no Jesus coming behind them. 

The earlier time was only preparatory for the Great Commission that would go beyond Israel to all the nations of the world.  This world would be dark and difficult.  In 1 Corinthians 4:11-13 Paul says, 11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.  Before they lacked nothing, but in the future they are going to experience great lack in material things, yet not in the spiritual.  This brings us to a real challenge with faith.  Faith is not about getting what you think you need by declaring it.  Sure God tells us to ask and promises to provide for us.  But the disciples were headed into new peaks of faith that would require a person to trust God regardless of how good it looked like He was providing.  Sure, you have faith in God when you are blessed.  But, what about when you are hanging on a cross and feeling forsaken by God, do you have faith then?  I am not saying we will all end in such a situation.  However, it is our faith that overcomes the world, not our blessing.

Living by faith is not about how much or how little you have.  Before, he made them take nothing.  But having faith in God is about more than proving you trust him by having no provisions.  In Christ if you have nothing to start with, or you are fully supplied, you will need to have the same faith to accomplish what God is sending you to do.  Many a ministry that has been fully supplied has been ruined through trusting riches and fearing their loss.  However, many have never attempted ministry because they feel they have nothing to start it.  Do not look at what you have but rather look at what God is telling you to do and trust him.  The supply in this sense becomes irrelevant in regards to faith.  Use what you have, but never let it be what you trust in.

Why Did He Want Them To Have Swords?

The issue with the swords at the end of this passage has been a difficulty through the ages.  Why would Jesus tell them to get swords?  He is famous for being peaceful.  The word for “sword” here is in reference to a large knife or small sword.  Though it could be used in battle, it would be a very common thing for travelers to use for protection against animals and robbers, as well as a practical tool for cutting.  So why does Jesus want them to get these short swords?

Some have pointed to the Scripture that Jesus quotes, “He was numbered with the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12).  When Jesus is arrested, the presence of the swords, and the cutting off of the servant’s ear, would help to fulfill this Scripture.  Yet, Jesus was arrested and crucified for blasphemy.  He is crucified with a thief and a murderer.  How much more would need to be done to fulfill this prophecy?  If you look up the Isaiah 53 passage, you will notice that the quote follows the statement in Isaiah that the messiah would pour out his soul unto death.  I think that Jesus quotes this verse to point out that things are changing and not why they need swords.  Jesus is seen as a criminal and thus will be executed.  This will change things for them.

Another answer has been to say that they will need them as they journey on the Great Commission for protection from animals and robbers.  This seems to fit the passage better.  It would be another item of provision when going on a journey through wilderness areas.  Paul’s list in 2 Corinthians 11 gives us a feel for what they encountered in their travels.  “23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”  The swords could come in handy on such perilous journeys.  However, this still doesn’t quite fit to some.  We never see stories of the disciples using swords later.

Living By Faith Audio

Tuesday
Sep022014

The Cost of Following Jesus

Today we will finish Luke chapter 9 (vs. 57-62).  Jesus has been teaching his disciples what it means to be great in God’s eyes, in contrast to what they believed.  The capabilities of Christ seem wasted in merely dying on a cross.  This last section looks at three different men who are going to follow Jesus, but something gets in the way, whether they know it or not.  Jesus as a teacher points these barriers out to them, but also wants his disciples and us today to recognize the cost required in order to follow him.

Regardless of the Provisions

The first guy is found in verses 57-58.  He makes a bold statement of following Jesus “wherever you go.”  Jesus responds by reminding the man that he doesn’t even have a place to lay his head.  Now Jesus doesn’t mean that literally.  He is saying he doesn’t have a place of his own.  He is at the mercy of what God provides.  This issue of provision can become a stumbling block to many.  Christ makes no promise of earthly comforts to his disciples.  “Come follow me,” but I don’t know where I am going to sleep tonight.  The person who wants to follow Jesus is going to have to deal with the worry that rises in the heart of a person regarding provisions. 

This man desires to follow Jesus; however, Christ sees something in his heart.  He is a man who is us attached to certain provisions in his life.  It will be difficult for him to follow Jesus long if he doesn’t face the reality up front.  His good desire to follow Jesus is mixed in with many other desires.  The desire for comfort and certain provisions will eventually be challenged when following Jesus.  “Pick up your cross and follow me,” is no promise of great provisions.  It is a promise that he knows where he is headed and if we follow him God will take care of us.  God always provides, just not what we always desire.

Look at the life of Jesus.  He had meager origins and he lived by meager means.  Those who followed him in those days shared in that.  Even though he had donors who gave gifts to help him out, this is still a worrisome proposition for our flesh.  Thus if we are going to follow Christ then we need to sit down and count the cost.  This man only saw what he would gain in following Jesus.  But, Jesus wants him also to think about what he will lose, or at least might lose.  Jesus promises that if we lose anything in this world for his sake, God will make it up to us with so much more of something better.  Whether in this life or the life to come is not our concern.  God is more concerned with our spiritual growth than he is with our material prosperity.  Though it may serve His needs from time to time to bless a person with material prosperity, it is a test of faith as much as the times of little.  If my heart is overly attached to the material things of this world I will have trouble following Christ in difficult times.  The person who has little is tested in learning to trust the goodness of God.  The person who has much is tested in learning to give God the credit for the goodness and to use it for His glory.  Where your heart is there your treasure will lie.

Regardless of Timing

The second guy is found in verses 59-60.  We see some of the same issues in the next two guys.  So I will focus on the timing issue in this situation.  Here it is Jesus asking the guy to follow him.  Yet, the guy asks for more time in order to deal with his aging father.  Apparently he wants to follow Jesus, but the timing isn’t good for him.  Though the text says he needs to bury his father, it is highly unlikely that he means his dad is already dead.  People were buried very quickly after death.  Most likely his father is old and failing in health and he wants to go back home and wait until this situation has ended.  Of course then the estate will be divided and since he is following a man who can’t promise any provisions…  Well, you get the picture.

God often calls us to do things that are not good timing from our perspective.  “Go talk to your neighbor about their soul.”  Answer: But Lord, I’m not ready yet.  “Follow me.”  Answer: But Lord I have too many things I want to accomplish first.  When I’m retired I will really get down to business in serving you.  It is this “lack of timing” that causes to surface precisely what we need to deal with.  God’s timing is not bad.

We also see that here that good things can get in the way of God’s things.  There is nothing wrong with caring for family, burying those who die, and inheriting an estate.  However, such things can also divert us from doing what God is calling us to do.  In some cases, like missionaries, we have to say goodbye to many good things and simply trust the Lord.  In other cases, we must learn to do those things AND serve the Lord; at the same time.  We must be careful of thinking, “I will do this first and then serve God.”  If God is calling you today, then you either don’t need that which you will have to leave behind.  Besides, maybe he is calling someone else in the family to step in and care for dad.

The response that Jesus gives sounds strange.  “Let the dead bury the dead, but you follow me.”  Jesus is speaking spiritually here.  If the spirit of God is speaking and you are spiritually alive then you need to obey and follow God.  But if you are dead to the Spirit of God then by all means stay and do what you want.  There are many spiritually dead people in this world pursuing the joys and pleasure of this life without a thought for what God wants them to do.  But if you are alive then you can’t live like that.  What are God’s purposes in this world?  And, how do I fit in with those purposes?  These are the questions we need to answer and then act upon.

Regardless of What We Leave Behind

The third man is in verses 61-62.  This man also wants to deal with his affairs and say goodbye to his family.  His seems to be less of a wait and yet a wait nonetheless.  Let’s focus on the things we have to leave behind.  Sometimes family ties can hold us back from God’s call.  Even the mother and brothers of Jesus tried to restrain him from doing what He knew God was calling him to do.  So Jesus understood this problem well.  Dad and mom may not always understand what God is calling you to do.  If you let your good attachments to them get in the way, you may never follow Jesus for yourself.  It is not wrong to love family.  But our love for family should not be greater than our love for our Lord.  We use the phrase, “inordinate love.”  It is a love that is not given the correct order in relation to God.

Jesus also uses an image from farm life: plowing a field.  This metaphor demonstrates the importance of not looking back.  We must keep our focus on the task before us in order to do it well.  Distracted work is not done well.  Jesus does not want us to be distracted workers.  God is worthy of our undivided attention in the task that He gives us.  Thus learning to serve God with a whole heart is primary.  When the Lord calls us to salvation we can be tempted to look back to the pleasures of this world.  Those friends of the world will not be our friends any more unless they follow Jesus too.  It can be difficult to accept such things.  Even in service to the Lord we can be looking back to easier days and “better” things.  We can pause or even stop in our following of Jesus.

In each of these cases, Jesus is not trying to dissuade these men in following him.  But, precisely because he knows the path ahead is difficult, he requires us to count the cost in advance.  We do a disservice to people when we try to remove all the barriers to getting saved and following Jesus.  This is not real life.  Later, when you are not there to remove those barriers for them, they will falter.  God gives us truth so that we can make a decision that is based upon reality rather than fantasy.  May God help us to follow him regardless of these things to which we too easily become inseparably attached.

Cost of Following Jesus audio

Tuesday
Jul082014

The Lord Our Provider

We have many needs in life.  However, if we are not careful, our life can become a version of seeing how many plates we can keep spinning.  In such cases we are driven to keep an innumerable amount of desires satisfied.  Of course, it is never enough.  If I only had more skill at this then I could be like so and so.  Have you ever stopped to think that this most likely is not God’s plan for us?  Scripture clearly states that God does not want man to worry about how his needs will be supplied.  As long as God is with us, we can trust in Him.

Another problem is that we can focus only on material needs and neglect the even more important spiritual needs.  We need spiritual sustenance and healing as well as physical.  As we look at Luke 9:10-17, we find Jesus ministering to both the physical and spiritual needs of the people.  In this passage the feeding of the 5,000 teaches us that we need not grumble about what we lack because God will always provide.

Jesus Has Compassion For Us

Luke’s account is brief compared to the other gospels.  In both Matthew and Mark we are told that Jesus was “moved with compassion.”  This is a hallmark of Christ.  He is deeply touched with what it means to be human and have need.  Though it may seem strange, the teaching that God took on a human nature makes sense in the light of compassion.  He can identify with our situation and cares for us.

In fact the reason Jesus had gone out into this uninhabited area was in order to be alone with his disciples.  They had been going throughout Israel ministering with Jesus and had just returned to him.  Jesus knew that they needed some time alone with him in order to be the receiving ones.  Humans were not designed to only be givers.  We are to also be receiving from God and from that supply giving to others.  So it is not just the crowds that need Jesus, but also his faithful workers.

Even Jesus himself later sends his disciples across the lake while he prays on the mountain alone.  This sets up a powerful understanding.  We all need to receive from God as individuals in a quiet secret place of our own.  From that place we can be an encouragement to our close friends and family.  This part is a two way street.  I am giving to them, but they are also giving to me.  The third layer is the one of the crowd.  These are people who have no relationship with us at all.  However, Jesus had compassion for them as well.  Notice how we often want to choose one over the other.  Jesus kept them all in balance because he truly did care for each one.  Sometimes we can let the sheer numbers of the crowd and the never ending need drown out our care for them.  The opposite is true as well.  Some people care more for the crowds than they do for those closest to them.  May God help us to love Him, our friends and family, and the unknown people around us.

These people were imposing on Jesus and his disciples.  But he had compassion on them.  Many of them would only follow him if he was doing miracles.  They would never enter his Church after his resurrection.  Some of them would stand in Jerusalem shouting, “Crucify Him!”  Yet, he had compassion.  As he ministered to Judas, knowing that he would betray him, so we must listen to the heart beat of how Jesus operated.  Jesus began teaching the people and healing those who needed healed.

Jesus Wants His Disciples To Have Compassion

As it approaches evening, the disciples come to Jesus with a practical concern.  He needs to tell the people to leave if they are going to find lodging and food for the night.  The area they were in was uninhabited.  But, Jesus turns this problem back on them.  “You give them something to eat.”  Jesus is not a dummy.  He understands that there is not enough food around.  He is testing them.  Another word for testing is “training.”  These disciples need to learn to operate from the same compassion and trust in God that Jesus had.

It starts with choosing to be a giver.  It is easy to always send people on their way and never ask the question, “Does God want me to give to them?”  Being a giver has nothing to do with how much you have to give, but with how much you care for the other person.  Even when we have much to give, we can operate from a “mentality of lack.”  People need Truth and Love even more than they need food and clothing.  We always have something to give.  Like Peter at the temple we can say, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee.”  Quit looking at what you don’t have as an excuse for your lack of compassion.  Rather, give what you can material or spiritual out of compassion.  Our heavenly Father is a great giver.  Look at all that He has provided on earth and throughout the universe.  To become like Him is to become a giver.  So make that choice.  You will find that when you become a giver, your out-of-control consumption is restrained.  Your mentality will not be about how little you have, but how much you can give.

Which points out, we shouldn’t worry about what we have to give.  Whatever it is, it is enough.  It is enough to help the other person.  You are not God and He doesn’t expect you to meet all of their needs.  We spend too much time bemoaning what we don’t have.  In truth we can actually rejoice in the little that we have.  Why?  We can rejoice because God’s supply will be easier to see.  Paul saw this when he said, “when I am weak then I am strong.”  He knew that his weakness would make God’s strength all the more obvious, which would then strengthen his faith and the faith of others.  When we are strong we delude ourselves into thinking it is all us.  When in truth God is even then helping us.

We need to also give in both material and spiritual things.  Different people tend to go one way or the other.  We either give $5.00 to someone and go on our way, or we hand them a Bible tract and go on our way.  I am not saying that either of these is wrong.  The real question is about our motivation.  God, how can I help this person?  Sometimes we need to stop giving people money and help them in other ways.  This takes true care and the wisdom of God.  Jesus was able to do both.  He fed the people food, but also taught them about the Kingdom of God.  Sometimes people do not realize that they have great spiritual need.  They may despise your attempts to minister to them spiritually.  Compassion should not be given because the recipient is so thankful.  It should be given because it is the right thing to do.

This Event Parallels Israel In The Wilderness

When you step back from this story, you realize that is practically a reenactment of Israel and Moses in the wilderness.  First, we have a people who go out to meet with God in the wilderness.  In the Exodus it was Israel leaving Egypt to follow Moses.  Here it is people who are hungry for God leaving the society of Israel behind to follow the Messiah.  In both cases it is a remnant of all the people in the land who follow God.  Today, the Church is the remnant of the tribes, tongues, and nations of the earth that have been called out of the world system in order to meet with God.

The second point is that God provides bread and meat for them.  In the exodus, they began to complain and God miraculously provided manna and quail as well as water.  Jesus of course takes 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and feeds over 5,000 with it.  In fact in this case it is the Messiah who does the miracle.  Whereas Moses only told the people what God would do.  Even today, the material needs of God’s people are met by Him.  He promised that if we would put His Kingdom first, then He would provide our material needs.

The third point is that God provided Truth and Instruction for them.  Moses is known as the lawgiver because God gave his laws to Israel through him.  Here, Jesus instructs the people in the new society they are to become a part of, the kingdom of God.  It is easy to settle for bread and meat and to not care about the spiritual.  God is not content to just meet our material needs.  As Christians we can be guilty of being part of the religious crowd, but not really letting the teaching of Christ change our life.  Here is a question for you.  Do you interpret the Bible in the lens of what you want and feel?  Or, do you interpret your feelings and wants in the lens of Scripture?  Don’t be foolish and twist God’s Truth to fit what you want.  We are the ones who need to repent, not God.

In some of the other gospels we are told that the people continued to follow Jesus in the days after this great miracle, hoping for more bread and fish.  Yet, he rebuked them and said they needed to work as hard for spiritual food as they did for food for their stomach.  Thus commendation is for those who trust the Lord, not those who saw a miracle.  In days of the Exodus, all the people saw great miracles, but they perished in the desert because they did not have faith in God.  Faith turns away from grumbling and towards thanksgiving.  Faith turns away from complaining and towards rejoicing.  Faith turns away from disobedience and towards obedience.  Faith does not focus on our lack, but rejoices in His faithful supply.  The Lord is our provider and He has not failed us yet!

Lord our Provider Audio