Water and Bread
“Then His disciples said to Him, ‘Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?” (Matthew 15:33)
Many ask, “Where is God?” They might say, “If He could feed 5,000 people as it says in Matthew 14:13-21 and if He fed 4,000 just a short time later, using only a little bread and a few fish (Matthew 15:32-38), why isn’t He taking care of my needs? I have problems, too.”
Part of the problem is our limited perspective. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, I was consumed with my work in the mortgage banking industry and it seemed like all my efforts were spent in just keeping the utilities connected. And they did stay connected – just barely. Three times I went for six months without income for the family, but somehow the utilities were paid. Early in the morning I sometimes wore older clothes and stood in some public assistance line for bags of food to feed the family. Then I would spend ten hours or so in a three-piece suit, working with my “clientele.” In the evenings I would often wear older clothing again, functioning as a janitor in a high-rise building or medical lab.
In my heart it seemed like God was saying, “Your utilities will not be disconnected.” And time-and-time again, they weren’t. But one day in Tucson, Arizona, things appeared to change. The water company said on the phone, “No we won’t give you another day; the service representative will turn off your water this afternoon!” Not unlike the disciples I wondered, where would the money come from? I asked God, but did not know what to do.
That afternoon I had no more appointments and was at home, anxiously looking out the kitchen window. The water company truck was in the alley. The driver bent down and did something behind the low fence at the back of our rental property. Then he stood up, got in his truck and drove away. It was summertime in the desert and I suddenly thought, “the children!” and began to fill up anything that would hold water! Glasses full of water soon surrounded the sink. It was then I noticed that the water pressure was not lessening.
The phone rang. It was our neighbor to the east, Iona, who said in a sad, loud voice, “My water doesn’t work!” They had turned off the water to the wrong house! Amazingly, the money then came in as it so often had in the past. The water was NEVER turned off and it was the same with the other utilities, though He allowed the struggle with payments to go on.
We now have a wider perspective, for we are also seeing answered prayer in the lives of many other people. The Prayer Team for the First Church on the Net includes those who really PRAY! We receive dozens of prayer requests each week and it seems that the more needs we encounter, the more praise reports we hear about. He is answering all the time and often He responds even as we ask.
Each month we’re privileged to attend a meeting of local pastors. We get acquainted, sing, pray and listen, as each host church’s pastor tells us about how his church came to be. This month we visited the start-up church of an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship pastor named John Teter. Pastor John is a UCLA graduate who was a campus ministry outreach chaplain at the University of Southern California (USC) for several years. USC is an affluent school and he took student workers into slums to feed the homeless so they might see another side of life. He told us about the time that he and his team, including his wife, Becky, were serving food to homeless people in a disadvantaged area. Becky had been spreading peanut butter on bread for quite some time, but then she said: “We’re running out of bread.”
It was a very bad part of town and no stores were open anywhere in the area. The only outside activity came in the form of occasional police cars. The police officers would inevitably ask, “Are you all right?” Just as they were beginning to wonder what to do about the bread, an expensive black car pulled up to the curb. The man in the car asked them, “Would you like some bread?” John went with the man to the trunk of the car and when it was opened he saw several large trash bags filled with loaves of bread. There was enough for the many homeless people who came to them through the night, and each team member was able to take a loaf of bread with them to their own homes. Twelve loaves were left over.
We can see the interesting similarity between the responses of Jesus, 2000 years ago, in feeding thousands with a few loaves of bread and a handful of small fish, and what happened to Pastor John and the team of USC students. The miracles of Jesus are still happening today, but for most of us, they are “below the radar” and we don’t see what is all around us. We’re relieved when things go well, but we’re often better at blaming Him when things go wrong than we are at thanking Him when things work out. He answers ALL the time.
The Lord definitely seems to like to allow impossible situations into our lives; presenting us with apparently impossible obstacles that we can’t deal with in our own strength. He also likes it when we tell Him we can’t fix it, so He can accomplish those impossibilities and show us that He cares. Jesus said to His disciples when they wanted to send the multitude of people away, “They do not need to go away. YOU give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16). He was completely aware that supermarkets had not been invented yet, and He fully knew they were in “a deserted place” where it was impossible to buy food. They complained that they did not have enough, and so He took their limited resources and made it MORE than enough. As it says, “so they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained” (Matthew 14:20).
Note that Jesus was fully capable of bringing the answer to their food shortage “out of nowhere.” He could have created loaves and fishes out of nothing at all. But much like the man in the expensive car with a trunk full of bread, He used the resources of this world to answer to their need. “He took the five loaves and the two fish” from the disciples, “blessed and broke” them and handed them back to His followers. “They all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained… five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 14:19-21). God has ample water, bread and faith for us all.
We often miss miracles, by the way, because we think we did it ourselves. We thank the doctor who did the surgery and often don’t thank the Lord who blessed the hands of that surgeon. We earn the money to buy our food, forgetting to thank Him for enabling us to earn that money. “Where is God?” you may be saying right now. He’s here right this minute, waiting for you to pray and ask Him to help you.
Father, You know my situation, how hard I have tried. I do not know what to do, and I come to You. Help me to look to You and to trust that You will answer. In Jesus Name. Amen.