Being God’s people, a people who belong to the Kingdom of heaven, we have heard from the pulpit how we are servants of the Lord, our King. We often associate service with pastors, missionaries or people in service of the church. Some of us serve in our community of church as servants of the Lord. However, we live in a world where we don’t see slavery or encounter a master/ servant relationship. I believe that we don’t quite understand what servanthood looks like as believers. This is a concept I have been revisiting because in my desire to be ready for the new season in my life, I want to make sure that I am a useful vessel for the Lord. I want to be sure that I am ready to make changes to myself.
The best way I have been able to describe servanthood is to relate it to being a vessel, which empties itself of its own importance and makes itself available to be used however the Master of the vessel sees fit. The story that has given me the most insight into how to apply this in the world is in Matt 14:13-21 and John 6:1-14.
Jesus is near Bethsaida, He has just heard of John the Baptists’ death, and He and the disciples have withdrawn to process their grief and rest. But the crowds have followed them, and Jesus continues to teach and minister to them with the disciples. Soon there are about 5000 men, excluding the number of women and children present. The disciples become aware that people are hungry and need food.
The Disciples’ Assessment of the Situation
When the disciples came to Jesus, they had already assessed the situation, just like we make assessments of situations when we discover a need:
- They had already realised that what they have is insufficient in the situation, so when Jesus asked them to feed the people (a clear instruction because Jesus is aware of the needs of the people) they were ready with an answer; “We don’t have what is needed.” We often give Jesus the same response when He asks us to do something. We look at our talents, time and resources, and we know that what we have to offer is not enough for the need that God is asking us to meet. We have looked at our resources, and like the disciples, we have said to the Lord, “This is all we have; it is not enough.”
- Very often, we have investigated the cost of doing what God has asked us to do. The disciples had already determined that it would take “eight months wages” to feed the people. When we look at what God is asking us to do, we have calculated the cost in time, money, commitment, emotional energy when criticised, our comfort, etc. We often know and have a good understanding of the costs involved in being obedient to what God asks us to do and have figured out if we can pay it or not.
- They looked at an impossible situation and immediately asked: “What are we going to do about it.” Often in our lives, we and our own resources are our first port of call in impossible situations. We say to ourselves, “What am I going to do about it?”
We usually come up with a good, logical, human solution; “they must go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Often, when faced with a difficult situation, we come up with our own solutions, good and logical solutions. Leave this to someone else to handle, send them to a professional. Just pray for them, don’t get involved; you don’t have the time. You don’t have money, so you can’t make a difference.
The people with the need in the situation are left to find their solutions.
What did Jesus see in the situation?
Jesus does not only minister to the hearts of the people and their spiritual needs. He is concerned about the whole person, including their physical needs. In John, the passage contrasts the attitudes of the disciples with that of the little boy. Jesus asks Phillip, who came from that Bethsaida area, “How much do you think this will cost?” They were already focused on the needs in the situation, the immensity of that need and the task at hand. But here was a boy, looking at his resources and being willing to offer the two fish and five loaves of bread that he had.
- Jesus knew He was the Son of God Almighty being led and enabled by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was present in the situation. The disciples failed to recognise WHO was with them. They had Jesus and His power; they had something! Jesus expected that the needs of the people could be met. He said to the disciples, “Go and see what we can give the people.” The disciples solved the situation by looking at what they had but failed to see God in the same problem. Jesus, however, knew that He could meet the needs of the people.
- But a young boy saw Who was present and willingly offered up what he had for God to use. The disciples offered nothing because their assessment of the situation was impossible to solve, so they did nothing.
- The boy willingly offered what he had. Jesus took his insufficient resource and multiplied it to a miracle. Jesus loves to use people, and here in a boy, he finds a heart that recognises Him in the situation and willingly offers what he has available. Jesus takes what He gives (the offering) and, in the Power of the Holy Spirit, meets the people’s needs. The offering of five loaves and two fishes was all that Jesus needed for the Holy Spirit to become active in the situation.
Something offered, acting like a little vessel for the Holy Spirit to fill, met needs and glorified God.
Jesus says in verse 14, “Bring them here to me.” Jesus just wants us to bring something, present something in His presence as an offering.
When we make an offering, we must be mindful of who we are bringing that offering to?
When we offer our talents, our money, our time, our skills, our knowledge, our know-how, our experience, and bring it to Jesus, we have no idea of what that offering could do combined with the power of the Holy Spirit.
No wonder Paul urges us in Rom 12:1 to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” We are limited and have limited resources, but offered to God as a vessel; people’s needs can be met.
Paul is reminding us to offer ourselves as vessels to the Lord, vessels of the Holy Spirit to go out there and meet the needs of people. It is not our resources that meet needs, but the Holy Spirits power, filling our offered vessel, meets people’s needs.
Lord, it is liberating to realise that You are not asking me to meet ALL the needs around me; I know that what I have is limited and insufficient in many situations. You are asking me to make myself available to be used by You to meet needs. You, who is God Almighty capable of meeting all the needs in the world. Lord, I want to be a useful vessel to You, available to be used of You in my world. Help me see my time, talents, and resources as an offering I can make available to You, representing vessels for Your Holy Spirit to fill and use. Thank you for loving me; I long to have other people know and experience Your love as I have known it.
- Have you ever considered yourself a vessel to be used in the service of the Lord? Ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit and used in any way God sees fit?
- Have you considered your personal time, resources and abilities as unique offerings that can be made available to serve the Lord?
- Review the Disciples assessment of the situation and consider if you use their strategies when faced with a need in your world?
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