As a young teenager and young believer, I was eager to discover God’s calling on my life. I wanted to live the God-powered, fruitful, miraculous, abundant life that He promises. When I came down with an illness that meant I was housebound, could not do anything for anybody, and did not have the ability even to sing praise to him or pray a prayer more than two words, I felt like I could never experience that. How could God be honoured by my months in bed? What was God glorifying about the tears and pain, or the frequent struggle against self-pity or despair? And where, in all this, was I supposed to find and live a life of abundance? Was the promise false?
One of the scriptures God most blessed me with in wrestling through this is John 6, the feeding of the 5 thousand. As Andrew had looked at the few loaves and fish and said, “…what are those for so many?”, so I had looked at my life, and said, “it’s not enough.”
But what did Jesus do? …He gave thanks. He broke it. And he gave it out. Through this illness, I have learned that these three things are essential to living the abundant life.
Giving thanks – “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people.” V11
He took what was not enough, gave thanks for it, and not only did it become enough… but more than enough. (“So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.”V13)
In my life of limitations and pain, I had to learn to open my hands to God and give thanks by faith trusting that He would be enough. I am a pianist, and this was the challenge God gave me the week I had to give up piano (even 5 minutes was enough to make my limbs shaky) – the challenge to give thanks even as I gave up the things I loved.
Thanksgiving can be really, REALLY hard, but God acknowledges this. He says, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” (Psalm 50:14) He acknowledges that there are times that it costs to give thanks, and sometimes it has to be a choice rather than a feeling.
This is to fully live right now, to take the life of “not enough”, to hold it in open hands of grateful acceptance, and to find that, in doing so, you have received the life of “more than enough”. Thismiracle happens because, in opening our hands to receive whatever God gives, we open our hearts to receive Jesus wherever we are – and He is always more than enough. This is to live a life where nothing is wasted. To give thanks is the act of receiving – not only the things God gives, but God himself. It opens our hands to receive God in all things, acknowledging his goodness and his presence in everything… when God is let in, is when miracles happen.
Breaking – The other thing I had to learn, is that this kind of abundance comes through brokenness. As well as performing a miracle, this breaking of bread to feed thousands with baskets left over was a picture of what Jesus would become. Later in that chapter he says “I am the bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst… And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”. He is the true bread of life who was broken and given out, and he has satisfied, and more than satisfied, all who eat of him. This is our source of life, but we could not eat of The Bread of Life until it was broken. Jesus taught this at Passover. He knew that through his suffering we would find life.
“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” V54
The first principle of this, is that we feed off Him – that we are satisfied in him, and turn our cravings toward him. We depend on him to sustain us, trusting that he is enough. He has promised that those who come to him shall not hunger, because he is enough to satisfy every need.
It is by his wounds that we are healed, and though our wounds cannot bring any healing of themselves, if we are imitating Christ, will it not be through our own wounds that we minister the Healing of His?
“To this we are called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
Here is our calling – to suffer, to be broken, and to minister the healing of Christ’s wounds through our own. Jesus, the Bread of Life, had to be broken to bring us life, and it is through feeding on Him – satisfying ourselves in Him – that we find true, lasting, and abundant life. But it does not stop there. To bring healing, to live the miraculous, to share the abundance of Christ with others, we are called to suffer, and must follow in his steps. O God, give me the strength!
And finally, giving out… Jesus took the “not enough”, gave thanks, and gave it out, and it became “more than enough”. We are called to give out of whatever joy, encouragement, hope, strength, ability or possession we have. It is through this that God works, and his miraculous power is released in our lives. One of the things I struggle most with, is when I feel empty, broken, fighting for joy myself, and clinging onto hope, when I know I’m a mess, and have nothing left to give, how can I then give out to others? What do I have to give?
“1 Therefore if you have anyencouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Philippians 2:1-4
“If you have any”… it is so hard to give out when you feel you have not enough to begin with. But if we have any (not if we have enough!), we are called to give out and God will multiply.
This is a very challenging part of our calling to follow Christ, and one that should apply to our whole life – much of which I know I do not live this way. I share this very humbly, not as one who has learnt, but one who longs to. I know I need much growth in this area. My prayer is that God will continue to show me the “if anys” He has given me, and give me the faith to then give them out.
Even when we feel we have not enough strength for ourselves, may God enable us to give out of what we have so that He can work the miracle of multiplication in our lives. Lord help me to do this.