Do you ever wonder if you make a difference? Do you ever wonder what value you have or if you have any worth at all? We are so prone to measure our self-worth by what we do or what we produce. Is there an intrinsic value in just being? Do only those in charge and on the platform matter? What about those who sit in the background and simply show up? Do they make a difference? What about those with little to give. Is a child the same value as a rich businessman?
My questions center on significance and how it is measured. According to the dictionary, significance means the quality of being important. Important is something marked by or indicative of significant worth or consequence. Importance means that someone or something is valuable in content or relationship. So how do we measure significance? What is really important?
One way to measure importance is to observe the impact that a thing or individual has on a certain situation or event. I was wondering about my significance the other day and the story of the young boy with a sack lunch came to mind. It is found in John 6. Although every Gospel writer mentions the story for its impact, only John gives the intimate details of the event. Matthew, Mark and Luke all relate that over 5000 people were fed by Jesus with only five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. John tells us who found the boy with the fish and bread and why Jesus chose to defy natural physics to feed the people. All the writers in their separate accounts recall the compassion that Jesus felt for the crowd at so late an hour and so far from home. The hospitality of His heart moved Him to act supernaturally, but He did not do it without human assistance.
The first thing we need to see from this story is the purpose of miracles. John clearly relates that Jesus called upon Philip to “prove” him. This does not mean it was a test in the sense of receiving a pass or fail grade. It was a trial to demonstrate what Philip and the other disciples did not know that had in them. The purpose of miracles is to increase our faith!
Philip walked with Jesus but Jesus wanted him to go further and not only be with Jesus, but be like Jesus. He wanted Philip and the other disciples to do what He did and say what He said. Just as the Father had sent Him, He was preparing the disciples to be sent, too. This is the Great Commission in its most graceful essence; as the Father has sent me, so send I you. Philip had not yet apprehended this truth, but he would. We see him in the book of Acts traveling at light-speed, impacting nations. He followed his Lord and this miracle increased his faith. The purpose of miracles is to increase our faith.
As Philip was left pondering the expense of feeding all these people (the equivalent of 200 days wages; tens of thousands of dollars in today’s currency). Andrew appears with a small boy in tow. We might think that Andrew exercised faith in bringing the boy, but his words betray him. As he presents the boy with his small sack lunch, apparently the only food for miles, Andrew’s lack of faith is revealed when he comments, “but what is this among so many?” Even he thought the task impossible. It was, until Jesus did what Jesus did best. The second thing we need to learn from this story is the pattern of miracles. Miracles always begin with human need and are accomplished through human agency. Jesus had presented a problem to the disciples. How are we going to feed all these people? He made them responsible for the task. They were immediately overwhelmed. The need in this situation was for immediate sustenance, but the larger lesson was for increased faith.
Feeding a bunch of people with a little food is really no big deal. I write that tongue-in-cheek. Of course, feeding 20 people with only two fish and five small loaves of bread is impossible. These loves were more like small rolls than the Mrs. Baird’s bread we know today. But I have seen it happen! Several years ago, I led a group of volunteers to Guatemala. We planned to minister to two communities in a beautiful mountain valley in the highlands of Huehuetanago. One village was across a river and some distance from civilization. We learned that people had walked for over a day to come to our events. We preached the Word and played with the children and taught the adults all morning and took a break for lunch. Our hosts had packed a lunch of chicken salad for the dozen of so volunteers in our group. We began to serve one another and some became uneasy because all the local people were standing around and many had not made provision for lunch. It was a natural conclusion to share our little fare of a medium bowl of chicken salad and about a dozen hotdog buns. We began to share and share and share. No one noticed at the time, but soon everyone who wanted something to eat had received something to eat. After stopping the count at well over 150 people, there were still some chicken salad and a couple of buns left. God had repeated the miracle of the loaves and fish, this time with chicken salad and hotdog buns. It was by no means on scale with the 5000+ that Jesus fed, but it was amazing. It did wonders to increase our faith. Feeding a multitude of people with a small sack lunch is no big thing for Jesus.
It all begins with a need. This is the mystery of God, the Father. He calls us to pray, knowing what we have need of before we ask. He even seems to create the need that prompts the prayer. The need here was caused by the reception of Jesus’ message. When He preached, He drew a crowd. Every miracle wrought by God begins with a human need. In this case it was for food.
Every miracle then moves from need to provision by the means of human agency. Jesus saw the need. He pointed it out to the disciples. In the other Gospel accounts, the disciples brought the need to the attention of Jesus. The need was known and Jesus looked to His disciple to be responsible. He was not looking for them to fix it because He knew they were not equipped. He was looking to them to see if they knew what to do and where to look for an answer. As Father, God is responsible for provision. Everything on earth is His. We are to be good stewards of what He gives us. So Jesus was prompting the disciples to look to the Father for the solution and the Father was waiting for their prayer to move.
Andrew brought the young boy with the sack lunch, but he revealed his lack of faith because of the large crowd. He was thinking in human terms. God does not need our thinking or our reasoning or even our best efforts. Collectively, they amount to nothing and less than nothing. What the Father is looking for is our willingness to serve and our availability to be used. Andrew did show up. The little boy showed up. Showing up is what Jesus was looking for.
In the movie Hardball with Keanu Reeves, there is a powerful scene that I can only hope to convey to you. The story is about a self-absorbed gambling addict that has hit rock bottom. He is forced to coach a Little League team in the Cabrini Green Projects of Chicago’s south side. Known as the worst housing project in America, Cabrini Green was a cesspool of gangs, drugs, alcoholics and absentee parents. Over time the young man was changed by his relationship with the team members. At the final game of the season, the team is ruled ineligible to play for the championship and Keanu’s character makes the most pitiful peptalk of all time. It was not the manner, but the words that make it memorable. He admitted his love and appreciation for each member of the team and commended them with this one phrase, “You blow me away with your ability to show up!” They were winners in life simply because they showed up. No championship could validate the significance they had earned simply by showing up.
Is that not all God ask of us? He does no demand excellence or even our best because He knows we are powerless and useless alone. Only our ability to show up coupled with His ability to do the impossible transform things. Feeding 5000+ people was a human impossibility. Jesus could have called caterers from heaven to feed these people, but His intent was to use His disciples. Every miracle begins with human needs and progresses through human agency.
So, the disciples and this little boy showed up. Jesus used them to perform a miracle. He had them gather the people in groups, had them sit down and then proceeded to pass out the provisions. The purpose of a miracle is to increase faith. The pattern of a miracle is to begin with a need and to use human agency. The process of a miracle is obedience. Simply obeying the commands of Jesus precipitated this feeding of over 5000 people. The disciples did what they were told. The key to the occurrence of a miracle is obedience. They sat the people down in groups of 50 and served them. The provision was not theirs. They could not afford it or have arranged it. All they had was enough food for one small boy, but Jesus multiplied it and they stewarded the provision by obediently giving it away. They gave and they gave and they gave until every person had enough and there was still some left over. The process of a miracle is obedience.
This is where the cycle of the supernatural too often breaks down. Everyone can see the need. Some even have the provision, but like Andrew do not believe it will be enough. They key to seeing the miraculous is obedience. We must do what the Father commands. It normally involves some kind of sacrifice on our part. We often have to give what God has given us. The sacrifice of obedience is the spark that lights the flame of the supernatural that can blaze into a wildfire of spiritual transformation. In many cases the lack of the miraculous is a sign of disobedience or the neglect of doing what we know the Father wants us to do. It may not be rebellion; it is most likely passive disregard for others. Do you need a miracle? Give! The Law of the Harvest dictates that fruit comes from like seed. Most often we need to give what we need the most. Give what you have! Be the human agent that meets the need by being obedient. The result is an abundance where there once was want.
There was enough left over from this supernatural event for every disciple to take some home with them. Everyone was satisfied and the disciples left the field with more faith and plenty of food for tomorrow. The product of a miracle is abundance. The need is met with some left over.
So what does this story have to do with significance? Look at it from the point of view of the little boy. He came to see the "Jesus show" and mom packed him a lunch. Who was he? He was just a little boy with a sack lunch. He was not even an adult. He had no wisdom, no experience; he had nothing but a lunch. I dare say that this event could not have happened the way it did without him. This insignificant little boy with no name and only a lunch became the lynchpin to the success of this miracle. His few loaves and a couple of fish were all Jesus needed to work the supernatural. How do you measure significance? Do you look at a man's bank account? Do you review a resume for successes? Does name recognition matter? How about how big the business is? What really determines importance? Could it be that simply showing up and giving defines real eternal significance?
This encouragement is for all of the “little boys” out there who feel that don’t make a difference. To you who feel that you have nothing to add and may never make an impact in people’s lives, I commend this little boy. Continue to show up! Give when you see a need. Let the Father do the rest. This is the secret to genuine and lasting importance. Let Jesus prove you and increase your faith. There is something in you of which you are not even aware. Let the present need expose it and show up. Give and obey. Watch God use you and be ready to reap more than you have ever had before. The abundance is the provision for the next miracle. Jesus wants to elevate your faith account. Look at the need before you. What do you have that you can give? Give it and watch the Father transform things.
Significance is not about wealth or talent. Importance has to do with usefulness and productivity. Eternal significance involves making yourself available to God. He can use anything. He does use humans and need to accomplish His will. Next time you are tempted to question your self-worth, remember significance is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. It means showing up and giving. The rest is up to God. Do you think the little boy with the lunch felt significant before the meal. You know he did afterward!tpt
Posted by Tim Taylor.