Sometimes God asks us to do something from nothing, or so it seems.
I was a Bible college sophomore when I sensed Him leading me to spend the summer doing mission work in Belgium. As that impression grew stronger, so did my main concern: I was a typical student with big dreams but empty pockets. The thought of ministering overseas for a couple of months intrigued me, but honestly, it felt as though God was asking me to do something from nothing. How could He expect a broke student to give up a summer job, pay for participating in the ministry program, and buy a plane ticket?
It Happened to the Disciples, Too
The disciples faced a similar conundrum late one afternoon. Earlier in the day, crowds of people followed Jesus as He tried to slip away for quiet space in Bethsaida, a city marked by wastelands and deserts.
This was no small crowd. Scripture says there were about five thousand men present. Some theologians estimate that the number was more like 15,000 when including women and children.
Jesus responded kindly and changed His day’s plans. He began teaching them about the Kingdom of God and healing those who were sick. The hours passed, and the day grew late. Finally, the disciples went to Jesus and said, “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.”
Jesus Gives the Challenge
That news wasn’t news to Jesus. He was fully aware that there was nothing to eat—there wasn’t a market, a grocery store, a teashop, or a restaurant in sight. But Jesus, fully God, also knew this wasn’t a problem. He had the power to speak thousands of gourmet meals into existence if He wanted, but He had a better idea.
Jesus looked at the disciples and said, “You feed them.”
Using our sanctified imaginations, we can see the disciples look at Jesus in disbelief. A couple of them snort. Others roll their eyes. Several shake their heads as though to say, “Unbelievable.” But then the protests begin: “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?” (Luke 9:13 NLT)
Their loaves were made from barley and as such were known as the poor man’s food. Their fish were small and dried. Their lunch was frugal. It would barely satisfy their own hunger let alone feed the masses. Besides, even if there were nearby facilities to buy food, they didn’t have money to pay for it. The whole thing seemed ludicrous. How could Jesus expect them to do something from nothing?
How Should We Respond When God Asks Us to Do Something From Nothing?
The disciples were so real. If God has ever led you to do something that required resources you didn’t have, then you can empathize with their response. And when we’re talking about resources, we’re talking about more than money or material goods. We’re talking about our strength and abilities, too.
When God asks us to do something from nothing, our tendency is to focus on our inadequacies rather than His adequacies. And yet time and time again, He proves His faithfulness to provide everything needed to do the work He calls us to do. He takes our limited resources–our measly five loaves and two fish–adds His blessing to them, and miracles happen.
The Results are God’s Responsibility
Those miracles? They’re God’s business. He doesn’t expect us to perform them. He does, however, expect us to say yes to His assignments even if we don’t have what it takes to do the job. He wants to show us His power and leave us in awe at His provision. Saying yes opens the door to experiencing Him in new and amazing ways.
When I sensed God leading me to cross-cultural ministry that summer, I looked at my lack and asked, “Is God really asking me to do this?” Then, believing that I was hearing Him correctly, I asked my parents and a few college friends to pray with me as I trusted God to provide. And He did.
Twenty-five dollars showed up anonymously at my dorm room door. Someone donated to my school account. Someone else slipped an envelope containing a couple hundred dollars under my parents’ outside door mat. It was earmarked with my name and a little note saying, “May God bless you as you serve Him.” My faith stretched and grew as I watched God bless my willingness to say yes. He took my nothing and turned it into something, and I experienced Him in new and unforgettable ways.
My friend, let’s not let our lack hinder us from doing what God tells us to do. He never tells us to do something that is impossible when infused with His power and blessing. He will see to it that we have everything we need to do the job.
May I pray for you? “Father, thank You for calling us to assignments that require resources beyond what we possess. Thank You for opportunities that challenge our faith to grow and give us the chance to see You do the inexplicable. We offer You our meagre resources and strength to use for Your glory, and we trust You to do the miraculous through it. In Jesus’ name, amen.”