Thursday, April 10, 2008

Loaves and fish and multiplication

I am a student of Andrew Murray (1828-1917). In his book With Christ in the School of Prayer, Murray sets intercessory prayer into the parable of The Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-8). In the parable, you have an unexpected guest show up at midnight and you go to another friend and ask for bread to serve your guest. Murray equates the guest to someone in need. God is the friend with bread. In intercessory prayer, we realize our lack of resources and seek out the One who has bread on behalf of our needy friend. I like that thought. It's not necessary for me to have resources to meet my friend's needs. I simply need to turn to the One who has resources and ask for bounty on behalf of my friend.

This morning, however, I realized that sometimes I'm less in the parable of the Friend at Midnight than in another story which Jesus showed rather than told. It's not that I have no bread in my cupboard at all. It's more that I'm holding on to five loaves of bread and two fish and see what seems to be five thousand hungry people looking expectantly at me (Luke 9:12-17).

I can't truthfully say to my needy friends, "I have absolutely nothing to offer you." The truth is, I am blessed and do indeed have a little extra to share. However, my meager resources aren't enough to satisfy the appetite of even one hungry person, let alone five thousand. I could give up my own supper and join the hungry crowd, but the little I have to offer is just a drop in the bucket in comparison to the need.

I wonder if God is still in the multiplication business. How many times do I refuse to share my resources in light of the enormity of the need and miss the blessing of seeing that multiplication factor at work?

I see enormous needs; I have limited resources for investing time, money, prayer, and emotional energy into those needs. I wonder what the process is for starting to pass out those loaves and fish. How much do I give to the first person among the five thousand who crosses my path today? How much do I save back for the second? How much will I give out before I see the multiplication start to happen?

"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" (John 6:9)

Is God still in the multiplication business? It's an interesting question to ponder.