Ready For Your Miracle

Read: Leviticus 15:1-16:28, Mark 7:1-23, Psalm 40:11-17, Proverbs 10:13-14

“This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go… and buy something to eat.”
But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”
“How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.”
They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.”
Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.
(Mark 6:37-40)

Relate: Jesus feeding the five thousand is one of those stories that any kid growing up in church is guaranteed to hear early and often. It is one of the only miracles repeated in all four gospels and so it clearly is important. But also, it is one of those stories that makes for a great retelling in kids ministry. (Unlike Noah’s Ark. I always wonder why every single nursery and toddler’s room seems to “have” some sort of Noah’s ark mural on the walls. That really, really, really isn’t a story fit for young children. But anyway…) I know that I have shared the story more than a few times in my involvement with kids ministry and it has certainly been the subject of at least a few sermons in “big people” church as well. Generally, the story as I tell it goes something like this.

Everybody is hungry. Jesus is offered a little boy’s lunch. Jesus prays. The disciples pass out food. Everyone eats. There are lots of leftovers. The end.

If you want a more detailed version of the story and you haven’t already read today’s One Year Bible reading link, shame on you. Don’t read me first, read scripture first. So go read that (yes, even the part about infectious skin diseases) and also Matthew, Luke, and John’s version of the story as well.  Now that you have done so, I have a point or two I want to highlight from the events leading up to the miracle itself.

React:

“This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go… and buy something to eat.”

This miracle starts out when the apostles recognize that there is a felt need. Sometimes I hear people saying “all we need is Jesus” but that isn’t true. Well, it is on a salvific level, but on a practical level, we also need food and sleep and social interactions and a purpose and good books and… You get the idea. These people were getting “only Jesus” at his absolute best for hours on end. But now they needed to eat. Sometimes getting a good meal or some healthy rest is the most spiritually beneficial thing we can do. The crowd was at that point.

But Jesus said, “You feed them.”

First of all, I am my brother’s keeper. The words “that’s not my job” or “that’s not my responsibility” are words that should almost never be coming out of a Christian’s mouth. If there is a need and we are aware of it, then we should be doing something about it. Secondly, before a miracle takes place, we should be doing what we can to make the miracle unnecessary. If we are praying, “God, I need a financial miracle” the first thing He might respond would be, “Go get a job.” If the disciples had boatloads of food with them, Jesus would not have been doing this miracle this day. Not because he couldn’t but because that’s not how God (usually) works. If we can meet a need ourselves, rather than asking God for a miracle we should pony up, sacrifice a little, and meet the need ourselves. God prompting and providing through us is the miracle.

“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”

The apostles recognized that their best was not enough to meet the present circumstances. It isn’t that they weren’t willing to put in the work. It was just that the best they could do was not even close to meeting the current circumstances. When someone says that they don’t see God doing the miraculous in their life, my first thought is that they probably aren’t stepping out in faith into situations that are beyond their own ability to meet. Those who attempt great things for God can expect to see great things from God.

“How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.”

Practical research isn’t unspiritual. If God has called someone into a new place in life or ministry then they would be wise to do research about it. It is also well and wise of anyone who wants to pray and/or lead well for God to devour whatever they can that will give them greater insight into the people, community, and culture God has called them to. Thank God for those like George Barna and David Kinnaman whose ministry is studying and explaining modern cultural and spiritual trends. It would be wise of all of us to learn all we can from them.

They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.”

Even though everything they had was not even close to even scratching the surface of the need that was before them, they still gave it all. They were in effect saying, “God, I can’t do it. I can’t even come close. But the little bit I can do is Yours. Have it all.” Ultimately, the little bit they could offer was exactly what God used to provide the miracle. What “little lunches” might we be holding on to because we think it would never make a difference anyway? What great miracle is God waiting to do that might never happen? Are we too insecure that our small sacrifice would never be enough?

Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.

Jesus didn’t do the miracle until they were ready to receive the miracle. Pastors, if God were to triple the size of your church through a sudden revival, how well would you be able to manage the influx? For the rest, if God were to say “yes” to the big prayers you have been praying, would you be ready and able to handle it? Sometimes our prayers are big and huge and faith-filled just as they should be. But our actions demonstrate that we have absolutely no expectation that God might answer them and even if He did, it would not be a healthy thing. God blesses healthy systems and processes. If he hadn’t set these in place before the miracle, it would not have been a life-giving miracle all could enjoy. Both in our personal lives and in our world, let’s get those things ready so that when the miracle comes… whoa boy, look out.

Respond:

In a few days time, I will be getting on a plane and trying to return to a country just a few months before I had been forced to leave. I am stepping out and doing what I can, but if God doesn’t intervene, it will be a very short (and costly) trip. I believe God isn’t finished with where He has called me. But if that’s true, I need a miracle. I would love if you would pray, and continue to join with me in prayer for that throughout this week.

The River Walk is a devotional created by Two Rivers Church. To visit or to watch a message online, please click here.
To read previous years devotionals taken from February 23rd please click below:

Two Birds

Keep It Simple

8 thoughts on “Ready For Your Miracle

  1. I do not believe this blog post has presented a good analysis of that passage of Scripture. The point of the story is not to have us be prepared for our miracle. It’s not even about the miracle at all. The focus is on the one performing the miracle. Jesus is demonstrating his deity, as well as his unity with the Father. The records of the feeding of the 5000 as recorded in all four Gospels are descriptive, not prescriptive. This blog post swerves dangerously close to preaching a foreign gospel of grace plus works (i.e. Jesus will perform our miracle only after we do all we can do). We shouldn’t really even be clamoring for miracles. Having an expectation of miracles is hyper-charismatic false teaching. Scripture is about Jesus. Find the Gospel in Scripture, not self-help principles.

    • As with the event of Simon of Cyrene, walking with Him while bearing our cross means holding up our end while He holds up His. Most Christians err to either one side or the other – either trying to do it all on our own (hyper-focused on works) or praying for every little thing while not lifting a finger (hyper-focused on grace). What I appreciate most about this author is not just the teaching – the author has, and is, living out that balance as an example to others. The results testify to His glory.

    • You are absolutely right in that the lesson in the story is that Jesus is the One who provides. He is Yaweh Yireh, and the Bread of Life. John made it clear that the miracles he includes in his gospel were “written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
      You are also right in saying that with regards to justification, that is by grace through faith and not in any means by works. We do not work to earn our salvation.
      But that is only part of the story. God in His mercy has chosen to allow us to be participants in the building of kingdom. The same Paul who wrote of justification also wrote of sanctification that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Jesus was twice asked what must be done to inherit eternal life. One time he told the questioner to sell all his possessions, give it to the poor, and then follow Him. That’s work. The other time he told the story of the good samaritan with the command, “go and do likewise.” That’s work. He told the people that anyone who would be his disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow. That’s work.
      The point of the feeding of the five thousand certainly is not that the disciples worked. God certainly didn’t act because of what they had done. But that the disciples worked is certainly part of the story. In the same way, Exodus 19’s Israel purifying themselves in preperation for Exodus 20’s Ten Commandmants isn’t the purpose but rather a part of that story.
      God didn’t provide the oil because the woman prepared the jars, but He did only supply the miracle to the level of her preperation. When the last jar was full, the oil stopped flowing. God didn’t rescue the Israelites because the king shot some arrows at the ground. But he did only provide victories equal to the number of arrows shot.
      God doesn’t move because we act. But our actions demonstrate to Him that we believe He will move. It is our way of saying, “God I am desperate for Your intervention and so I will do everything in my power to prepare for when You do act.”

      As far as “not clamoring for miracles…” I respectfully disagree. I understand your sentiment. We shouldn’t seek miracles for the sake of miracles. But we should seek them for the sake of the kingdom. If we are not living lives where we regularly, desperately need God to intervene on our behalf, then we are living lives too small.

      • Reviewing the church website I suspect with the references to “apostolic ministry” that the beliefs that inform this blog may be influenced by the NAR and its “7 Mountain Mandate.”

        • Where are you getting that from? We are definitely not connected to the New Apostolic Reformation. If there is something on our website that is implying that we are, then this needs to be addressed and fixed. The “Apostolic Ministry” segment on our values points to the fact that we believe in raising up and sending out men and women who will plant new churches. Our church is 8 years old and yet we have already planted five new churches or locations. The hope and prayer is that number will continue to grow exponentially. Unlike the NAR, we recognize and submit to authority and are not trying to create anything “new” or “separate.” We are a part of the Assemblies of God (A/G) and also the Association of Related Churches (ARC). Just because some others abuse the word “apostolic” does not mean that there is a right and proper Biblical use. God has and continues to give the Church apostles as well as prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for the building up of the church.

  2. Pingback: Ready For Your Miracle – I LOVE YOU LORD❤️

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