Several months ago, our congregation faced a challenge—a large one. Some children, with whom, over the past eighteen months, we have been blessed to build a relationship, were faced with a problem. The place of safety where they were staying was closing down and it looked as if they would be placed back into the system of family-social services. Among other things, this would mean that we would most likely have lost contact with these children whom we have grown to love. What should, and what could, we do?
As we considered this sad state of affairs, we were confronted and challenged from the Word of God to do something to make sure that we would continue this healthy relationship. The story of Jesus feeding the multitudes from a few scones and sardines became our template. In the end, we have been just as astonished as was that miraculously well-fed multitude. Like them, we have been wowed!
The disciples came to Jesus and suggested that the only option for feeding such a large group of people was to send them away (Matthew 14:15). After all, they could only come up with one lad’s lunch, and “what is that among so many?” (John 6:9). Apparently, it was a lot.
Jesus said to the disciples, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16). The disciples, perhaps with scepticism mixed with faith, then witnessed an amazing, “wow-producing” miracle. The entire crowd of many thousands was fed. In fact, they were fed so well that there were twelve baskets left over. I suspect that the young fellow who shared his lunch was the recipient of these edible dividends.
Our congregation was challenged from this text that the Lord had placed these eight children in our midst and that there was no need for us to send them away. In some way, we were sure that the Lord had provided enough scones and sardines in our congregation to care for them.
We very seriously listened to the biblical appeal that we needed to recognise God’s providence in this situation and needed to consider how we could respond. The passage teaches many principles, including the truth that, when God’s people step out in faith, it often results in experiencing the “creativity” of God. It would appear that, in this miracle, the Lord multiplied the food as it was distributed. Now that is creative! And like the first creation, no doubt those experiencing it said, “It is good” as they smacked their lips and licked their fingers.
Well, we have experienced the same kind of “creativity” as our congregation has responded with our own scones and sardines. Many people have pooled a mixture of financial resources, entrepreneurial skills, social welfare know-how, and just plain hard work, with the result that we have not had to send them away! These precious children are still in our midst, being loved and cared for and being instructed in the ways of the Lord. And all I can say is, “Wow!”
As I sat in my study today, praying and praising the Lord for what He has done, I was struck with the reality that we are experiencing a miracle before our very eyes. By God’s grace, we have stepped out in faith as we faced a very daunting situation. To be honest, there were times when I wondered whether we would be able to constructively “solve” the problem. And often in those moments, my phone would ring or an email would come through bringing with it the news of another lunch that had been contributed. The Lord has provided homes for these children within our congregation. In addition—and a very important addition—many, many people are practically involving themselves in the lives of these children. Wow!
This experience has brought to light, once again, that we have been saved by a great God and are privileged to serve and to lean on our great God.
It has also brought home to me the embarrassing all-too-frequent realisation that I do not count my blessings enough. I am often so immersed in challenging situations that I fail to be wowed by God’s kind and gracious interventions. I need to take heed to the exhortation of the old hymn: “Count your many blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
The Bible tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Just a few verses earlier, the same author reminds us that this same Lord is our helper and we therefore have no need to fear (v. 6). By faith in the Lord, we will find ourselves in situations where the ultimate outcome will be, “Wow!”
What challenge are you facing? It may be extremely painful and even daunting to the point where you feel hopeless. I am not in a position to say that everything will turn out the way that you want it to. However, the Scriptures do provide us with numerous inspired examples and exhortations that give us every reason to know and to believe that the Lord is at work. He wants to wow you for your good and for His glory. No leap of faith is necessary; we are not called to launch out into the abyss of irrationality. Rather, we are called to do something as simple as giving up our lunch by faith. And then be ready to say, with both astonishment and deep affection for the Lord, “Wow!”