Sufficiency in the Master’s Hands

Preached at St Alban’s, Tema, Ghana at the unveiling ceremony for their musical instruments

May I speak to you in the name of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit…Amen.

The theme for my sermon this morning is “Sufficiency in the Master’s hands” and it will focus on our gospel reading for today taken from Matthew 14:13-21.

This gospel reading is one of the narrations in scripture where we see the human side of Christ. The reading starts with Christ having heard the news about the death of his first cousin; John the Baptist.

Naturally as a man…a human being…he was grief stricken and the, scripture says, “…he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”

So picture Jesus. Heart broken. Not just over his cousin, but also at the wickedness of man’s heart. After all his cousin had been beheaded at the request of a child.

In the midst of all this sorrow, a crowd comes to Him…not to commiserate with him…not to comfort him…no…they were there so that He would give of Himself and solve their problems.

Now, most of us would have shut down and said, “you know what…this is my day off…I can’t take anymore” But not Jesus Christ.  The Bible said that when Jesus saw them, “…He had compassion on them and healed their sick” in other words he went right back to work.

That day, by going back to work, Jesus, put aside His first problem…but as He was doing that another problem came up.

It was getting late and they were in a remote area, so the disciples suggested to Jesus that He should send the crowd away to go and buy food. But Jesus calmly said, “They don’t need to go away, you give them something to eat”

You know I can imagine that if the disciples were Ga they would have said, “Oh mini sane po n3???!!!” (What kind of problem is this???!!!). Because think about it, you have a crowd of 5000 people (that is about 10 times the full capacity of this church), and Jesus says, “you feed them?!?”.

With what???

The disciples knew that they only had 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Obviously they had calculated pehpehpeh (exactly) how they were going to share that food amongst themselves with enough for Jesus.

Just like how each of us at the beginning of each month calculate our monies pehpehpeh with enough for the church.

And now here you have their leader Jesus making this absurd request that they should feed the 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.

Clearly it was a bad deal! And yet sometimes that is the hand that life deals us. A bad hand. A bad deal.

Life can sometimes put us in a situation where maybe our spouse dies. And so immediately one income is cut off.   And yet we have school fees to pay, rent to pay, utility bills to pay. And on top of all that the car breaks down and the mechanic tells us that the cost of repairing it is equal to the money we have put away to cover our monthly expenses. What do we do???

Bills must be paid…fees must be paid…and we need our car to get to work. We look at our money and we look at our problems and we realize that just like the disciples your resources are not enough. And so we complain, “But God, I only have 5 loaves and 2 fish.”

Or maybe we were managing just fine then suddenly a loved one; our child, our parent or our spouse; falls ill. If we can’t afford to hire someone to take care of them, it means we must take care of them ourselves. But we also have to work to keep making money for food, medication and so on. We look at our loved one and consider the time we need to take care of them and we realize that we can’t make it work. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

So once again we are just like the disciples. Faced with an impossible situation. And so you complain “But God, I only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.” In other words “I only have so much time, I cannot work and take care of my loved one at the same time.”

But when they complained. Just like when we complain…listen to what Jesus said. He said “Bring them here to Me.” Entrust your resources to Me. Let Me take care of the situation.

The story goes on to say that when the disciples gave Him the bread and the fish, He took them, looked to heaven, gave thanks and broke the bread…and on that day…5 loaves of bread and 2 fish fed 5000 men not to mention women and children.

Honestly, I don’t know…and I’m not even going to try to explain what miracle Christ performed to feed those 5000 men that day.

But what I do know is that when we surrender our resources to Christ; no matter how small we perceive them to be; He will perform that same miracle for us.

He will ensure that He not only meets our needs but exceeds then. The Bible says “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.”

You know, half the time, our problem is that we limit ourselves, and we limit what God can do in our lives. Let’s examine the language of the disciples. They said “We have here ONLY 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.”

The word ONLY implies insufficiency. So right from the word go, the disciples had done the mathematics in their heads and concluded that it is impossible to feed those 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.

Do you think that Jesus did not know how little food they had?

Were they….or are we suggesting that Jesus didn’t know that 5 loaves of bread couldn’t feed 5000 people.

Of course He knew!!!

He was well aware of their resources before He asked them to feed the people. He knew that what they had was insufficient…

…Just like He knows now that the economy is tough and it is difficult to find money we need, let alone money to give away. Even if it’s to the church.

But on that day He wanted to know if His disciples believed in the sufficiency of God.

He wanted to test how they would respond to an overwhelming situation.

How about us?

How will we respond now that He’s asking us?

In the face of job losses due to banks collapsing all around us. In the face of inflation. In the face of luxury taxes. How will we respond to raising money for His church.

Will we respond by complaining and saying, “but God, we have here ONLY 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.”

Or will we trust in the assuring voice of Christ that says, “Bring them here to Me.”

Whatever lack we are facing today…be it that we do not enough money to pay bills, or enough time to just take a break, or enough health or strength to be available to our children the way they deserve…whatever it is that is making us say the proverbial, “But God, I ONLY have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.”  Today, Christ is saying, “Bring them here to Me.”

He’s saying to us, that if we entrust our resources to Him…He will do for us what He did that day with the 5000. We will not only have enough to be satisfied, He will give us more than we need.

Let me tell you the story of Thomas Obadiah Chisholm. He was who was born in 1866 and struggled all his life with poor health.  He was so unhealthy that as an adult there were long periods of time when he would be confined to bed. Unable to work.

At the age of 27, Thomas found Christ and took great comfort in the Scriptures.  He came to believe that when he was sick, God was his strength and his provider.

His favorite scripture was Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Despite his lousy health he lived to be 94. Upon his death, his friend found several poems that Thomas had written.  One in particular stood out to him.  He was so touched by the words of this poem that he put music to it and composed the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness.

I’m telling you Thomas Chisholm’s story because it reminds us that all of us lack and are insufficient in various ways. For some its money. For some its time. And for some its health. But whatever we lack, whatever our insufficiency…Christ is saying “Bring them here to Me.”

Let’s give him our time. Let’s give Him our money. Let’s give Him our energy. And He will show us that there is sufficiency in the Master’s hands!

Sing with me the hymn ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest; Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above; Join with all nature in manifold witness; to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

In the name of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit…Amen.

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