“This is a desolate place, and the day is over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” ~ Matthew 14:15
I have been reading the book Reckless Faith: Let Go and Be Led, by Beth Guckenberger. Beth and her husband, Todd, established a ministry to orphans in Monterey, Mexico. In her book she shares stories of how God has abundantly provided on countless occasions for both her and her husband’s ministry and the people in Monterey. Each chapter is a different reckless faith story.
She tells the story of Joel. Joel is a four-year-old orphan in one of the local orphanages. Edgar, the director of the orphanage, has the daunting task of providing for Joel and the other 50 children in his care. On this particular occasion, it was November and Edgar was trying to decide whether to by food, blankets, or heat with what little funds they had.
Beth writes that if Edgar had called their ministry, she and her husband would have worked to find something for the children to eat. She writes, “But in his heart Edgar knew that neither he nor the children should grow dependent on mere humans.” So Edgar and the children prayed. As they prayed for a dinner they had not received, little Joel asked, “We’re praying for God to bring us dinner? What kind of food does God deliver?” Edgar replied, “Let’s just see what he will deliver.” And they continued praying.
Again, Joel interrupted to ask, “Do you think… Will the Lord bring us… meat?” Meat is a mighty request for a child whose daily diet is rice and beans and tortillas. But Edgar told the child to ask and expect God to respond. As they continued to pray, the four-year-old boy interrupted one last time to ask, “What kind of meat does God bring?”
That same day, an acquaintance of Beth and Todd’s called to see if Todd could meet for dinner. Carlos was in town on business at the conference center. He was a meat distributor. When she responded yes, he quickly asked if he could bring some of his extra meat from the food fair. It had been thawing all day and was no longer useful to him. After their meeting, Todd decided to share the meat with the local orphanages. Todd asked Beth to call the local orphanages to ask whether or not they could use some food. Beth called Edgar first.
When Beth called, she writes that Edgar didn’t seem surprised, he just asked what kind of meat it was. Taken aback, Beth responded, “It’s meat, Edgar. It’s food. Why should it matter?” Exasperated, Beth hung up and called Todd back explaining that Edgar wanted to know what kind of meat it was. Todd responded, “Oh, Beth, you won’t believe it. It’s the best meat money can buy – steak and incredible cuts of beef and pork. They’re going to love it.”
When Beth reported back to Edgar, he responded breathlessly, “Praise God!” Then he held out the phone to the children and shouted that the Lord had provided their dinner and it was on its way.
How often do we cover for God? How often do we look to supply our own needs? How often do we rely on our own steam to accomplish the daunting tasks set before us? All four Gospels of the New Testament tell the account of the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus had retreated quietly with his disciples to a “desolate place.” But because of his popularity, a massive crowd of people followed him, 5,000 men plus women and children. Jesus had compassion on them and spent the rest of the day healing them and teaching them. At the end of the day the disciples saw that the people were hungry. They said to Jesus, “This is a desolate place, and the day is over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves” (Matthew 14:15). But Jesus responded, “You give them something to eat” (v. 16).
What did they have? Five loaves of bread and two fish. Obviously, not enough. Why even bother bringing it to Jesus? Except to show Jesus that he should indeed send these 5,000 plus people away like the disciples had suggested.
Instead, Jesus took the loaves and the fish and asked the disciples to have the people sit down. He lifted his eyes towards heaven, gave thanks, and distributed the food among the people. And distributed. And distributed. And distributed. Until everyone had eaten to their full. Then he had the disciples gather the leftovers, which amounted to twelve extra basketfuls.
Jesus could have taken the disciples advice and sent the people away, exhausted and tired and hungry. Although it was late and they were away from any villages, they would have probably found something to eat, for themselves, maybe. But Jesus had bigger plans than anything the disciples or the people could have imagined. He wanted to show them how God provides for his people. He wanted to show them that a quick snack from the closing marketplace before bedtime was not enough. He wanted their bellies full of fresh fish and bread from God’s kitchen. He wanted them to trust in God, not themselves. He wanted them to turn their eyes upward and thank God, the source of all blessings.
Beth concludes her chapter on Joel saying, “Had Edgar gone that day to humans to provide for his children, he would most likely have received money to buy beans and rice and eggs and tortillas. There’s nothing wrong with eating those, and the children would have been grateful, but there is something otherworldly about a King who provides banquet food for his children.”
“How often do I settle for beans, when, if I had only trusted him, I might have been given steak?”
“You, Lord, give true peace to those who depend on you, because they trust you. So, trust the Lord always, because he is our Rock forever.” ~ Isaiah 26:3-4