12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, "Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here."

13 He replied, "You give them something to eat."

They answered, "We have only five loaves of bread and two fish--unless we go and buy food for all this crowd."

Luke 9:12-13 (NIV)

I love the disciples, they are just so human! “Send those people away!” “There is no way we can feed this throng with these mere five loaves and two fish!” “How could we possibly afford to even purchase enough food for this crowd with the few coins we have jingling in our pockets?” They had to be thinking “There is NO way we can do this – honestly Jesus, have you lost your senses?” In all actuality, in and of themselves, they were right on the mark. They did not possess the ability to feed this multitude but (and this is a big BUT indeed!), they were in the company of the One that could! Oftentimes, God allows us to be in circumstances that are far beyond our ability to do anything about. He is the Master of bringing us to the end our own abilities – to the end of ourselves, so to speak. This occurs, as Paul tells us in II Corinthians, so that we may rely NOT on ourselves but on Him and His all-achieving power:8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 2 Cor 1:8-10 (NIV)
I would venture to say that the disciples were at the end of themselves. Isn’t it funny that we often have to get into that position before we will ever look up? Wouldn’t it rather be advantageous for us to live in this way? I think so. God desires for us to rely on Him in ALL areas of our lives – not just the ones that we may feel ill-equipped to handle. Hell-o, we are ill-equipped to handle all of them in our own strength for eternal purposes and value. Jesus gives us that insight in John: 5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NIV)
We can accomplish many things for this world and ourselves in our own strength yet all that does is add more stubble to be burned up in the fire when it tests the quality of our earthly work. Anything done apart from Christ will never make it through the flame. Yet everything done in His name and for His glory will last throughout eternity. We are told this in 1 Corinthians: 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Cor 3:10-15 (NIV)
“Each one should be careful how he builds” - it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to pick the most valuable choice of building supplies listed here – gold, silver, costly stones verses wood, hay and straw! Why waste our time on the temporal? Why waste our lives on the unprofitable? I am reminded of King Asa who started out so strong but finished so poorly. He relied on human strength instead of the arm of the Lord and God was not pleased: 7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: "Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. 8 Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war." 2 Chron 16:7-9 (NIV)
In contrasting the phrase of the above verse – “Because you relied on the king of Aram” with the phrase from the verse from Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:10 – “On Him we have set our hope” we can discern on Whom God desires for us to place our trust and hope – and the answer is NOT on the arm of man (no matter who that arm belongs to!). The prophet Isaiah is clear: 10 Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. Isaiah 50:10 (NIV) “Best of all, God is with us.” John Wesley

What I Glean

  • God often will place me in circumstances “far beyond” my ability to endure yet all the while knowing, as Charles Spurgeon states: “If He bids us carry a burden, He carries it also”.
  • I can do nothing of eternal value apart from Christ.
  • I should be careful how I build upon my foundation choosing the valuable in lieu of the chaff. “The real value of a thing is the price it will bring in eternity.” John Wesley.