“Calling the twelve to Him, He sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. These were His instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.’”
When Jesus sent His disciples out to do ministry on their own for the first time, he sent them with a lot of guidance that we should probably learn from, too. A couple things from these verses that we need to be mindful of if we want to be as effective as the disciples were:
- You can’t do it alone. Jesus had twelve disciples, but He paired them off…sometimes it may seem to us that God’s way of doing things will take more time, or will be more complicated, or just simply won’t be as effective as what we have in mind. The disciples could have seemingly covered a lot more ground and done a lot more ministry if they had gone individually, but Jesus cut their numbers in half so that they wouldn’t be alone. One of the biggest lies we can buy into is that the more spread out we are, the more we are able to accomplish. Jesus knew otherwise. He knew that the disciples would need each other; they would need encouragement, and they would need accountability, and they would need each other to fully invoke the presence of God. Pride simultaneously convinces us that we are capable, and makes us entirely incapable. God is King. And sometimes we need to stop trying to be, and allow others to come alongside us so that we can accomplish things that are bigger than ourselves!
- You have to trust God to provide. God is waiting to fill us with His dreams and place His provision in our hands, but in order to receive we must first make room. You will not have room for God’s kingdom in your life if your kingdom never gets smaller. As Bill Johnson has said, “the further you go with God, the less you can take with you.” Jesus didn’t want His disciples to take anything with them, NOT because He wanted them to have little, but because He wanted them to put all their trust in the Father so that He could provide for their needs. Our dependence and trust in God is directly tied to our impact on the world, and if we do not need God for anything, we won’t know God for anything either. But as soon as we make room in our hearts and put ourselves in positions of dependence, the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with holiness and our Father reaches from heaven to prove His faithfulness to those who love Him!
The story of Jesus feeding five thousand (although including women and children it was probably in the area of fifteen thousand, if there were five thousand men) is a common one, I heard it plenty of times growing up in Sunday school, but I never cease to be amazed at God’s ability to reveal something new to me every time I read scripture, regardless of how familiar I am with the text.
I think that scripture is commonly thought of as, at best, well-written text with truthful life teachings. In the realm of Christianity it is also believed to be inspired by God. This is all well and good, and much can be taken from the Bible this way. But this also limits scripture to the words that are there, which begins to cause confusion when there are numerous versions and translations and some of them sound quite different than others, and it tends to make things a little blurry sometimes. And I’ve found that this common conception of scripture is, while not false, extremely basic…and there seems to be a lot more to it. How else could this be explained when I find something new every time I read it?
But the author of Hebrews says that “the word of God is living and active (Heb 4:12).” And this seems to be the only explanation for the things that it does. And when we look at scripture as well-written text, we are only looking at the skin—the outer surface—of this living, active breath of God (2Ti 3:16). There is an infinite complexity beneath the mere text of scripture, just as there are countless veins and arteries and nerves and organs that all work in different ways, doing different things, to keep the body alive. Scripture is alive, and too often I find myself satisfied with what I see on the surface. My God is so much bigger than just words.
Questions sparked by Jesus feeding the five thousand (specifically in Matthew 14:13-21, though it’s also found in Mark 6:33-44, Luke 9:12-17, and John 6:1-14):
- How far am I willing to go to be with Jesus? (v.13)
- What excuses do I make to keep people from being with Jesus? (v.15)
- When do I ask God to do something for me when he’s expecting me to take action? (v.16)
- Do I let circumstances cause doubt, or do I have faith that Jesus will provide even when I have no idea how it can be done? (v.17)
- Am I thankful for the things I have, even when I don’t think it’s adequate? (v.19)
- Do I offer the gifts of God to others like the disciples gave away the food, or do I keep them for myself because I’m afraid they’ll run out? (v.20)
- Do I ever doubt that regardless of who they are, God will provide more than they need? (v.21)