Slim Pickings

“Here is a boy here with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” – John 6:9 (NIV)

He was one of the children among the crowd following Jesus that day. He carried with him five small barley loaves and two tiny fish, perhaps packed by his mother when he left that morning. When Jesus eyed the throng, He turned to Philip. “Where are we going to buy bread for all these people?” 

“Eight months’ wages wouldn’t buy enough for everyone to have even a bite!” Philip answered. It was Philip, remember, who later asked Jesus to “Show us the Father, and we’ll be satisfied,” to which Jesus replied, “You’ve been with Me all this time, Philip, and you still don’t know Me? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father!” Poor, blind Philip. 

It was Andrew who volunteered the lad’s lunch. He, too, didn’t see the potential, didn’t connect the dots, after all Jesus’ miracles he’d witnessed: “But how will five small barley loaves and two small fish feed 15,000 people?” 

You know the rest of the story—the multitude was fed and the leftovers filled 12 baskets!

But what if the boy had refused to donate his munchies? The obvious answer is the people would have had to get something to eat themselves. The less noticeable answer is that a blessing—a huge blessing, a blow-your-mind, knock-your-socks-off kind of blessing—would have been missed.

The lad didn’t lose anything, didn’t give anything up, really. He, too, ate until he was full—of the small offering he gave to Jesus, who had the power to transform “not enough” into “more than enough.” 

Sometimes we think what we have to offer Jesus is slim pickings. How could it possibly make a difference? 

Ah, therein lies the test! 

Give Him all you have, no matter how small you think it is. Let it go, completely, all of it, like the little boy who held back none of his lunch. And watch God take what you give and multiply it so that it blesses more people than you could have imagined.  

Remember the words of Martin Luther: “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

I think of authors who have had many of their books and articles published, of speakers who take their messages the world over. I compare myself with them. And I feel so . . . little.

Shame on me. I’m blind like Philip and skeptical like Andrew, who no doubt thought he was being practical. 

Shame on me. I need to be more like the little boy who gave up his lunch—and trust that what I think is slim pickings, in the hands of God, will be multiplied many times over, work more miracles than I could ever have dreamed possible—and come back to bless me, too. 

Forgive me, Lord, for doubting what I have to offer could ever be enough to make a difference. Remind me that, in Your hands, little is much! Amen.

Read and reflect on: John 6:3–13.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Work: Blessing or Curse?

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Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. –Colossians 3:23

It was 25 years ago. The door had firmly shut on the job of my dreams –teaching – and, after I got over my major, extended funk, I realized this was an opportunity to pursue another one of my life’s interests – writing.

So I got a job at a local newspaper writing feature articles.

I loved it! I wrote human interest stories with a positive slant. Interviewing folks fascinated me, their stories intrigued me. I had the best of both worlds: a job I loved and freedom to set my schedule and choose my topics. But I was too stupid to see it. I wanted a position on staff, not be merely a stringer.

So when the society page editor resigned, I stepped into her position. I didn’t like it as much as writing people stories, but I was caught in a “climb-the-ladder-to-success” scenario. Excuse me, trap is a better word.

Fast forward a year or so, and I found myself in the editor’s office. Editor of the entire newspaper. I hated it. I hated the hours. I hated the politics. I hated everything about it.

In his book If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, John Ortberg tells the story of a man who was offered the presidency of a university. A Quaker, he called together a half-dozen Quaker friends to help him discern whether this was truly a calling from God.

When asked what he would like about being president, he told them all he wouldn’t like. Finally, when asked a third time, he came face to face with the real reason he even was considering it: “Well, I guess what I’d like most is getting my picture in the paper with the word president under it.”

“Parker,” one man asked, “can you think of an easier way to get your picture in the paper?”

We can laugh, but that’s where I was. I liked the words “editor of the newspaper” behind my name, but there was no joy. I was absolutely, totally miserable. The mother of miserable.

Fortunately, I didn’t last long. I went to another newspaper, where I continued to write my devotional column, plus another column about my former town and also covered board meetings.

My sister’s death in 2003 made me realize I still wasn’t fulfilling my God-given calling. I was letting money and prestige dictate my job choices.

When you’re fulfilling God’s purpose for you (see Psalm 138:8), joy will fill you. Your work will be a blessing. But when you’re out of sync with that calling, uneasiness, restlessness, joylessness, and even downright misery will rule the day. Work will be a curse.

It takes courage to step out of the rut we’ve carved for ourselves, take off the masks, and leave the comfort of the known.

But remember, God has a plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11), and He will guide you, direct you, prepare the way for you, walk with you, go before you, and provide for all you need.

Commit your way to the Lord, and your plans will be established. He will make your steps firm (Proverbs 16:3 and Psalm 37:23–24). In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path (Proverbs 3:5–6).

Why not ask God what He wants you to be doing? His answer may surprise you – and will definitely delight you.

Thank You, God, for giving me satisfying work that uses the talents You gave me, fills me with joy, and fulfills Your purpose for me. Amen.

Read and meditate on Matthew 25:14–30.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.