The Strange (and Christ-like) Response to Crisis
Think back to the last time you faced a significant, critical need with woefully inadequate resources to meet it, when you had to accomplish something great and your assets to achieve it were meager. Was it last year, last month, last week, this morning?
All of us have faced it, the gut-wrenching dilemma of being asked to accomplish the extraordinary without the means to do so. The result is crisis. There are expectations, requirements, even demands on us to ‘make bricks without straw’ to quote the lament of the children of Israel under Egyptian oppression.
Perhaps our first response was to pray. Commendable. But how do we pray in such times? For me, my prayers have gone something like this,
“Dear Lord, you know the size of this great task before us and how little resources we have to accomplish it. Help us, Lord. We need a miracle. This is your work, and yet there never seems to be enough to get it done. Lord, you own the cattle on a thousand hills, I implore you in your mercy, hear our prayer, meet this need, pour out your blessings on us that we might do this work you have called us to do.”
Pretty good prayer. Sound somewhat familiar? Then what comes next? For me, I usually wait for God to act. When the miracle happens and resources are found, then we move ahead and do the work. That’s my pattern; try not to panic, pray fervently for a miracle, and wait on the Lord.
I always considered this approach to be rather holy. That is, until I was caught up short by a most familiar story. We’ve all read it countless times but hear it again and see if you catch what so stunned me.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. 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. (Matthew 14)
Did you catch it? Jesus, faced with an insurmountable need and ridiculously meager resources to meet it, does what we all do. He prays…and gives thanks to God.
He gave thanks? That’s all? No pleading, no cajoling, no playing on God’s mercy or reminding God of His promises?
Nope. All Jesus does is give thanks for what God has provided. He doesn’t focus on what he doesn’t have, what was lacking or the size of the gap between need and resource. He simply holds up the paltry provision and says, ‘thanks!’ Clearly, he knew what God provided was enough.
Amazing, isn’t it? How often do we thank God for what He provides when it seems so inadequate? How often do we stay focused on what we don’t have instead of thanking God for what we do have?
And here’s the second part of what I found so convicting. Jesus didn’t wait for the loaves and fish to suddenly explode into a mountain of food. No, without hesitation, he took the pitiable portion and put it to use. He gave it to the disciples in faith, and they began feeding people. When God’s provision is appreciated and put to immediate use, miracles happen. Jesus focused on what he had and he inspired the disciples to act in faith.
As steward leaders we are often called to step out in faith and act boldly with seemingly insufficient resources. When we do, let me ask in light of Matthew 14,
Are our prayers ones of thanks, of faith, of recognizing God’s abundance?
“He gave thanks”
Do we invest what we have with faith, not waiting for the miracle first?
“Then he gave them to the disciples”
Do we steward our people to invest God’s resources with faith in His provision?
“And the disciples gave them to the people”
Are we seeing miracles in our ministry as a result?
“They all ate and were satisfied”
It may seem strange to respond to crisis in his way, but it is the Christ-like action of a steward leader. May God grant us the faith to follow His example.