OPEN: I once read the true story of a family that was sitting down at the dinner table for their evening meal. But one of the girls wasn’t happy because they were having leftovers, and she complained about it.
The dad was not happy about that and spent a few moments explaining to her that she needed to be more thankful for what she had. In order to make sure she understood his point, he decided that she should say grace and that her prayer should show her appreciation for what she had.
So she bowed her head and then prayed:
"Thank you for this food… again."
(Heather Marshall in R.Digest, 5/03)
ILLUS: I once read about a minister's wife who was a wonder at conserving food and she rarely threw any of it away. At one meal she gave her husband nothing but leftovers and he was obviously not enthusiastic about it. He began to pick at the food and ate a little… but had not said grace yet.
His wife smiled sweetly at him and gently said, "Dear, you forgot the blessing."
He looked over at her and said: "Sweetheart, if you can show me one item that hasn't been blessed at least two times, I can't see what another prayer can do for it."
In our story today we read about some leftovers. Mark 8:8 tells us that “the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.”
APPLY: Now ordinarily, leftovers are foods that’s been left over and you prepare them a 2nd time, and a 3rd time, and a 4th time…
What Jesus did in our story this morning… was a leftover. You see Jesus had done this food thing once before. If you back a couple chapters in Mark you see Jesus doing this food thing for another crowd.
Mark 6:34-38 tells us that
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."
But he answered, "You give them something to eat."
They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"
"How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."
When they found out, they said, "Five—and two fish."
One of the things I find interesting about our story today is that the Disciples hadn’t learned much from the first time Jesus did this. It’s almost identical down to the conversation Jesus has with them in our text today:
Jesus says: “If I send (the crowd) home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance."
His disciples answered, "But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?"
"How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked.
"Seven," they replied.”
Jesus is serving up leftovers.
He’d doing His food thing… a 2nd time.
Now if I’d been a disciple with Jesus that day, I’d HOPE I’d have said: “Hey Jesus, do that thing again with the food you did last time!”
But they didn’t, and so Jesus had to teach them the same lesson AGAIN. They had to learn the lesson all over again. It was kind of a “spiritual leftover” thing.
But wait, there’s more.
Jesus feeds 5000 people in Mark 6
Then He feeds 4000 people in Mark 8
And just a few verses after that we read something really odd in Mark 8:14-21. Jesus barely gets done feeding the 4000 then he gets into a boat with the 12.
“The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.
‘Be careful,’ Jesus warned them. ‘Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.’
They discussed this with one another and said, ‘It is because we have no bread.’
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?
When I broke the 5 loaves for the 5000, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’
‘Twelve,’ they replied.
‘And when I broke the 7 loaves for the 4000, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’
They answered, ‘Seven.’
He said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’”
What was it that they didn’t understand?
They’d seen Jesus feed 5000 people with 5 loaves and have 12 baskets of leftovers.
They’d seen Jesus feed 4000 people with 7 loaves and have 7 baskets of leftovers.
Now here they sit with one loaf… and they wonder if there’s going to be enough to go around.
What didn’t they understand? (PAUSE)
They didn’t understand that Jesus could supply all their needs.
Paul wrote: “… my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
But the disciples struggled with that.
They’d been there when Jesus fed the 5000 and when He’d fed the 4000, but they still struggled with the idea that Jesus could supply all their needs.
And frankly, we all struggle with that at one time or another.
We all struggle with the faith to believe that God will supply all our needs according this glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
ILLUS: I have a friend who told me of a number of times that God had worked in her life. When she was younger, she was pregnant with her first child… but there was a problem. Her baby was upside down in the womb and there was a chance she’d lose the child. She went to a prayer meeting at church and the women there prayed for her. And she says that while they prayed for her, she literally felt her child flip over in her womb.
And that was just one of many stories she shared with me.
But recently life has taken some hard turns for her and she’s begun to believe that prayer won’t make any difference for her life. She’s begun to doubt that God can supply all her needs according to His glorious riches in Christ.
ILLUS: I once a conversation with a man from another church some time back. He shared how he’d gone to Bible college, and how he loved to go to church. And he loved to sing, and he loved to lead singing.
But he had hit hard times. I think his wife had left him, and I believe Christians had mistreated him and hurt him. And life had gotten so rough that he openly challenged the idea that God would help him… or anyone else. He openly doubted that God could supply all his needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
And at one time or another, this kind of doubt troubles many of us.
Why does this happen to us?
Well, we’re used to doing things ourselves.
ILLUS: In the movie old movie “Shenandoah”, Jimmy Stewart played the self-reliant father of the family. He’d go to church, but essentially he didn’t spend much time thinking about God. At the meal time prayer early in the movie Stewart prayed like this:
“Lord, we cleared this land,
We plowed it, sowed it and harvested it and we’ve cooked the harvest
It wouldn’t be here, and we wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves.
We worked dog-boned hard for every crumb and morsel,
But we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.”
Toward the end of the movie Stewart’s heart changes and he ends up going to church, but the reason I quoted that prayer… is that it reflects a truth in our lives.
• We have to make money.
• We have to pay the bills.
• We have to make repairs on the house.
• We have to put gas in our cars.
• We have to do this/ have to do that.
And God doesn’t do that stuff for you. You do. It’s called being a responsible individual. It’s called doing what has to be done.
But then something happens in our lives that we can’t do. Something happens that we can’t control and we can’t overcome. What do WE do then?
You know what happens when that happens to me?
I’ve been a preacher for 30 years or so, so I know exactly what happens when life gets hard and things get difficult. You know what I do when that happens?
I get mad.
I get frustrated.
I go into panic-mode.
Sorry, I know I should give you a more spiritual answer than that… but it’s the truth.
And if it’s MY fault that things are going wrong… I get REALLY upset.
But over 30 years of preaching I’ve learned. In 30 years I’ve not just been preaching to others, I’ve been preaching to myself as well, and I’ve learned to not STAY upset. When I go into panic mode, and when find myself becoming frustrated and angry, I don’t let that control me. I’ve learned how to control those emotions by two simple disciplines.
First I get down on my knees and I pray. I tell God “I can’t do this. I don’t how to fix this. I don’t have any resources or power to overcome this obstacle in my life. So God I need you to do what I can’t.”
Then I got to bed.
If it’s in the afternoon, I take a nap. If it’s in the evening, I go to bed for the night. It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is… I just go to sleep. Because I’ve found that – when I get up from that sleep – the problem is still there, but the sleep I’ve had takes the edge of my frustration.
ILLUS: I once read the story of a mother who was putting her daughter to bed. But her daughter was a little scared of something and was having trouble getting to sleep.
They got to talking about God and her daughter asked: "Does God ever sleep?"
"Oh, no honey, God never sleeps."
"Oh," said the child quietly. Then she thought about that for a moment and said: "Well then, if God’s going to stay up all night, there’s no sense both of us staying awake." And with that, the little girl turned over in bed, pulled her blanket up to her neck and fell asleep.
ILLUS: A man named Pat Barnes told of coming out of church one Sunday and encountering an old flower lady. At her feet corsages and boutonnieres were on top of a spread-open newspaper. The flower lady was smiling, her wrinkled old face alive with some inner joy. I started down the stairs - then, on impulse, turned and picked out a flower. As I put it in my lapel, I said,
"You look happy this morning."
"Why not? Everything is good."
She was dressed so shabbily and seemed so very old that her reply startled me.
"You've been sitting here for many years now, haven't you? And always smiling. You wear your troubles well."
"You can't reach my age and not have troubles…. Only it's like Jesus and Good Friday... '
She paused for a moment. "Yes?" I prompted.
"Well, when Jesus was crucified on Good Friday that was the worst day for the whole world. And when I get troubles I remember that, and then I think of what happened only three days later - Easter and our Lord arising. So when I get troubles, I've learned to wait three days ... somehow everything gets all right again."
(April 1956 in GUIDEPOSTS)
That’s a repeated theme in Scripture: Waiting on God.
Over and over again in the Bible: Wait on God.
Psalm 27:14 says “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
And how am I supposed to “wait?”
Psalm 5:3 says “…I lay my requests before you and wait IN EXPECTATION.”
How could I possibly wait on God in expectation.
Well, I can wait in expectation because I know God has acted in the past, and because He’s acted in the past I’m confident that He will act in my life in the future. So I wait in expectation knowing God will act in my life.
And the way I know God has acted in the past is if I learn to look for the leftovers.
How do I know God will supply for my needs?
I look at the leftovers.
The 12 disciples are sitting in the boat looking at one loaf of bread wondering how they’re going to split it up between them. And Jesus says: “Don’t you remember?
When I broke the 5 loaves for the 5000, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"
You can almost hear them shyly say: "Twelve".
"And when I broke the 7 loaves for the 4000, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"
They answered, "Seven."
He said to them, "Do you still not understand?"
Look at the leftovers, Jesus says.
Learn to look for what God has done for you in the past.
I’ve been a Preacher for years and I’ve been blessed with a whole list of leftovers. If you sit down and ask me to tell you of the things God has done in my life over the years I could talk all day long. And I’m hardly ever the hero in those stories. God’s the hero. They’re His stories. They’re the stories of how God has fulfilled all my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
I’ve got a boatload of leftovers I’ve seen in my life.
But now, what if you don’t have those personal leftovers to chew on? What if you’re new to the faith? Or what if you haven’t had much experience with God’s kindnesses in your life?
Well, if you don’t have your OWN personal leftovers God says: “Here let me give you a few”. That’s what Romans 15:4 is talking about when we’re told:
“…everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Everything God has had written down here in the Bible was meant to be snack food for us. It was all written for you!
When you read about Joseph being sold into slavery and then unjustly thrown into prison… that was written for you.
When you read about David facing off against a Giant he had no business fighting… that was written for you.
When you read about Esther facing possible death to save her people… that was written for you.
When you read about Daniel being thrown into the Lion’s Den and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace… those stories were written for you.
Those stories were all written down so you’d see real people facing real problems - people who may have struggled with their faith. Most of the time those people struggled but ultimately obeyed God. And because they were willing to obey God even in their fears and doubts God worked a miracle in their lives.
Those tales were not written down so you’d have bed time stories to read to your kids! They were written down so that “through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures (you) might have hope.”
If you don’t have your own leftovers to feed off… feed off these stories.
I pity the person who refuses to accept these stories as real. I feel sorry for the folks who don’t believe what God has written down for them, because they go to bed hungry. They have nothing to feed their hunger for hope and a future. They don’t believe in a God who can supply all their needs for them according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Now, does that mean I should sit back and do nothing but wait on God?
Do I just sit back in my easy chair and put my feet up and say “Que sera, sera – whatever will be will be” and just don’t do anything?
No… that’s not the way this thing works.
When Jesus fed the 5000 do you know what He asked His disciples?
How many loaves do you have?" Mark 6:38 (Five loaves, 2 fish)
And when Jesus fed the 4000 do you know what He said to His disciples?
“How many loaves do you have?" Mark 8:5 (Seven loaves)
Are you sensing a pattern here?
What do you have to give to God? What can you supply?
Well then give it?
But Jeff, it’s not enough!!!!
That’s ok… God will make up the difference.
If God wants 10 and all you have is 2… God will make up the difference.
He wants you to believe so strongly in the fact that He can do what He promises that sometimes he expects you to pony up… and do what you can. Not because He needs your strength or your resources or your influence in the miracle.
God wants you to partner with Him in His miracle.
He wants you to share in the wonder of what He’s going to do in your life.
He wants to give you a story all your own.
CLOSE: Now, one last thought.
I like leftovers … but I can get real tired of them after awhile.
Sometimes I just want to go out on the town and get a meal I haven’t cooked.
I want to go out to Pizza Hut or Red Lobster or Golden Corral or Lin’s Cuisine.
I don’t do it often… but when I do, I really enjoy it.
We need the spiritual leftovers God gives us. They’re important for us to feed on. But you know the day is coming when we won’t have to be eating Spiritual leftovers. One day God is going to prepare a great banquet just for us and there won’t be one left over on the table.
In Luke 13:29 Jesus said “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
In Revelation 19:9 an angel tells John, "Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’”
It’s going to a special meal
And we’ll never be hungry again and we’ll not need to worry about leftovers ever again because we’ll be forever in God’s presence and eating at His table.
But you can’t take part in that great meal until you first belong to Jesus.