32Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way." 33His disciples answered, "Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?" 34"How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked. "Seven," they replied, "and a few small fish." 35He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38The number of those who ate was four thousand, besides women and children. --Matthew 15:32-38 (NIV)
God understands our needs
When we are in need, when we lack something that we consider to be essential to our happiness and well-being, our first temptation is to think that God has forgotten about us; that He is unaware or unconcerned about our welfare. This is especially true if the need is longstanding.
So when we pray (if we pray?), our prayers take on a petulant, complaining tone. Instead of praying, "God, please meet this need," it’s "God, why aren’t you meeting my need?".
* "God, the car broke down again this morning. How am I supposed to get to work? Why can’t we have a dependable car? I need a car. Why aren’t you taking care of me?"
* "God, the kids need new shoes again. I don’t know where I’m going to get the money. Kids’ shoes are so expensive! What am I supposed to do? God, are you there?"
* "God, why don’t I have a husband? Don’t you care that I’m still single?"
We may pray repeatedly, not because we have faith that God will answer, but for a different reason: either we are impatient or we are worried that perhaps He isn’t listening. We nag.
* My children do this sometimes. "Dad, I’m hungry. Can I have a granola bar and juice?" "Dad, where’s my granola bar and juice?"
* Or when a birthday is coming up: "I want a remote control car for my birthday." "Can I have a remote control car for my birthday?"
* Sometimes wives [and husbands] do this. Why? They’re just not sure that they’re getting through, that they’re being heard. She’s not convinced that their husband really comprehends how essential it is that he fix the toilet. And the noncommittal grunts that she receives when she brings it up are not reassuring.
But [verse 32] tells us that when God doesn’t provide what we feel we need, it isn’t due to a lack of caring or a lack of knowing. It may be because our understanding of our needs is inadequate. Perhaps He has something better in store for us. It may be because the timing isn’t right. It may be because God wants to develop patience or faith. It may be for reasons we can’t understand. But we don’t need to nag or badger Him to get His attention. He knows and He cares.
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. - Matthew 6:7-8 (NIV)
God meets our needs
Who are you depending on to meet your needs? When you think about how the bills are going to get paid, how the refrigerator is going to be filled, how the children are going to be clothed, what does your mind rest upon as the source for meeting those needs. Look at the disciples’ reaction:
33His disciples answered, "Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?" 34"How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked. "Seven," they replied, "and a few small fish."
The possibility that Jesus could meet the need apparently never enters their minds. The need is so great, and their understanding of Jesus’ power so small, that they do not look to Him. Instead, they look to themselves: "Where could we get enough bread?" Isn’t it the same with us? When you are faced with an unexpected need, how do you respond? Do you immediately pray, "Lord, how are you going to meet this need?" Or do you respond like the disciples: "How will I meet this need?"
What was the result of looking to themselves? They became discouraged. ["Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?"]. They considered all the factors - the remoteness of the location, the size of the crowd, the size of their resources - and they concluded that the need could not be met [you can almost hear the note of panic and confusion in their voices].
What happens to us when we react like the disciples? You may get discouraged, even panicky. On the other hand, you may not, at least in the short run. If you are very competent and resourceful, you may do fine for a long while. When needs arise, you manage to find a way to meet them. You take pride in the fact that you are on top of every situation, prepared for every eventuality. Somehow, you always manage to find a way through any difficulty. You are convinced that you have no need of God or anyone else. But in reality, you are desperately poor in the one thing that matters most - fellowship with Christ.
You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. - Rev. 3:17 (NIV)
Eventually, you will face death, and none of your resources will be able to help you.
There are many possible sources we can rely on to meet our needs - ourselves, the government, an employer, a husband or wife, family or friends; your intelligence, your degree, your skills, your reputation; your money - and that’s somewhat OK as long as we realize that those things are not really the source, but only a conduit, of God’s provision. They’re just intermediaries. Our ultimate trust and reliance must be in God Himself. Anyone or anything else will ultimately fail.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father. - James 1:17
God meets our needs through one another
36Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37They all ate and were satisfied.
Jesus could have met this need in any number of ways.
* He could have simply caused their hunger to abate
* He could have caused bread and fish to appear in each person’s lap
* He could have changed stones into bread
* He could have caused bread to drop out of the sky
* He could have produced bread and fish himself
But instead, He chose to use what was offered by the disciples and make it adequate to meet the need. In the same way, God generally meets our needs through one another.
"Share with God’s people who are in need." - Romans 12:13 (NIV)
"At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need." - 2 Corinthians 8:14 (NIV)
"You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and … your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." - 2 Corinthians 9:11 (NIV)
These verses clearly teach that God gives us wealth and possessions, not merely to bless us, but also to enable us to meet the needs of others. We are trustees of God’s gifts, not owners, and God intends that we should seek out opportunities to share those gifts with others.
This requires both generosity and humility. Those who have the resources must be willing to give, and those who lack must be willing to receive (and make their needs known). How do we do this?
* Be sensitive to those who may be in need of financial help; assist them personally and/or make their needs known to the pastors.
* Seek out opportunities to meet needs through the gift of other resources - time, abilities, encouragement, use of assets (car, snowblower).
* Give generously and without complaint, knowing that everything you have comes from God.
God meets our needs in order to reveal the gospel
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." . . . Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. - John 6:26-27, 35 (NIV)
The intent of the feeding miracles was to illustrate is the source of life, just as bread is the source of physical life. Christ cares for our temporary physical needs, our earthly, bodily life, in order to show that He has the power to care for our souls, to give us eternal life.
Are you trusting in Him to give you that life?
(For an .rtf file of this and other sermons, see www.journeychurchonline.org/messages.htm)