Every one of us is an addict. We all require a certain substance every day without which we will go through severe withdrawal and ultimately death. People have been known to go to extreme lengths to obtain this highly addictive substance, going so far as lie, cheat, steal, and kill for it. Pursuit of it has destroyed friendships and families and even toppled nations. An overdose on the substance is excruciating, leading to painful joints, a distended colon, heart disease, diabetes, and even death. We are all addicted to food. In John 6:5-13, Christ used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed more than 5,000 people. Extraordinary as this task was, and familiar as the miracle is to long-time members of the Faith, there are a couple points about God’s provision that can yet be gleaned from it.
The Practice of Provision
When Christ asked his disciples how they might feed the multitude, Phillip was quick to reply that even 8 month’s worth of pay wouldn’t buy enough food for everyone. How often are we like this as Christians? God asks us to perform a task, and our immediate reply is, “But I don’t have enough to make it happen, and I couldn’t get it if I wanted to.” Andrew then brings a boy with a few fish and bread to Christ but qualifies the presentation by saying, “how far will they go among so many?” (6:9). This response is also similar to our reaction as Christians. Even if we have the gift or resource needed to accomplish a task God has given us, our next thought is that what we have is insufficient, or the problem is simply too large to be tackled by our meager resources.
As always, Christ demonstrates His sufficiency by taken what was brought to Him and using it to provide for His people. A popular phrase which I greatly dislike is “God never gives us more than we can handle.” I believe this is patently false, for if God only gave us what we could handle on our own, why would we need Him? Rather, God always gives us more than we can handle because He wants us to call on Him! Just like Phillip, who said they had nothing, or Andrew, who said they had something but not enough, we often focus only on our own capabilities, immediately discounting the supernatural multiplier God applies to all we give Him.
Furthermore, when the people had eaten their fill, the disciples collected bushels worth of leftovers. What does this tell us about God’s provision? Not only does He provide for us, but in abundance. 1 Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” When I think of glorious riches, I don’t picture someone living in a van by the river but rather Windsor Castle or the Vanderbilt estate. Extrapolate glorious riches to being God’s, and there is no means of imagining how much He wants to and will provide.
The Purpose of Provision
It is one thing to know that God provides for us, but I often find myself asking why. Why would God want anything to do with me, much less meet me where I am and give me more than I could possibly achieve on my own? Quite simply, God provides for us so we recognize Him as our mighty, eternal benefactor.
Later in John 6, Jesus encounters the same crowd He fed earlier. They asked Him for a sign of His authority from God, saying, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you?” Considering the enormity of the earlier miracle, it is incredible to think that these same people were now asking for a sign that Jesus prove His divinity! If a man shows you an unbelievable magic trick and says he is a magician, you need no further proof to believe him. If a man paints a gorgeous painting and says he is an artist, we again take him at his word. Yet when Christ multiplied a single meal into thousands, the next thing the witnesses said was, “That’s neat, but show us more. We’re not convinced.”
At the same time, how often do we, as Christians, misattribute the blessings in our lives? When we see a picture of gorgeous scenery, we don’t say “I want the camera that took that picture,” but rather, “I want to go there.” Likewise, if we eat a delicious meal, we don’t say, “I want the cutlery used to chop the food,” instead, “I want the recipe!” Just the same, when blessings come into our lives, too often we say, “Well, that was fortunate,” and think nothing more of it. We must always be mindful that any time good comes into our lives, it is the blessing of God, and we must always be thankful to Him. He wants to bless us richly and abundantly, and not just for our benefit, but that we might come to appreciate and know Him better.
The Promise of Provision
We can be assured that once blessed, we are always blessed, but there is a degree of commitment on our part required to remain in God’s blessings and plan.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says “Pray without ceasing.” That is not to say we should all become monks and spend our days in solitude humming repetitive petitions to God, but in all things we should be seeking His guidance and blessing. When we make decisions big and small, when we work out how to attack a problem – no matter the circumstances, God wants to be involved. He created us, and even if we separated ourselves from Him, He will ever provide a way for us to reconnect! The real message of 1 Thess 5:17 is about continually strengthening and tending to our faith and relationship with God. Think of french fries, fresh out of the frier, covered in a generous layer of salt, hot and steaming, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Now think of french fries fifteen minutes later. Mushy, cold, and flavorless! Or consider rice on the stove. If we set it to boil and walk away, soon we will have a big mess resulting from our lack of attention. Our faith is the same way. We mustn’t let it grow cold, and we must constantly mind it to ensure it does not become stale.
Additionally, we must also guard ourselves against distraction and temptation. Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Many denominations of Christianity have introduced numerous pointless aspects of tradition, some of which have mistakenly come to be viewed as necessary for a healthy relationship with Christ. The truth is, John 6:35 tells us that believing in Christ is all that is necessary for salvation. The rest follows if we truly believe. If we love Him, we will do His will and keep His commands – and He will ever provide for us.
God will always provide – we must simply accept!