Inadequate for the Task

–Dr. Garry K. Brantley

Most of us–if not all–have at times felt completely inadequate for the tasks we are called to accomplish. It matters not what our profession, or vocation, might be. There are occasions when we simply are not up to the challenge of life’s demands. Deadlines. Bills. Teenagers. Sickness. Relational tensions. Monotony of life. Whatever the demand, our human resources fall woefully short to meet it.

During these times, I remind myself of the feeding miracle in Mark. Confronted with 10,000 hungry eyes, the disciples simply did not have the resources to feed them. They suggested that Jesus send them away so they can buy bread. Amazingly, Jesus said: “You give them something to eat.” They were astonished. How could this small band of brothers meet this demand. In frustration, they basically said: “There’s no way! We don’t have enough.” Undaunted, Jesus looked at them and said: “What do you have? Go and see.”

Ah. Jesus won’t let us off the hook so easily, will He? He’s not interested in what we don’t have; He’s interested in what we have. Often I find myself thinking of the abilities I don’t have, comparing myself with others. If I only had….then I would….. Far too often that is the mantra by which humanity tends to live. So, we simply don’t try.

Against this human tendency, Jesus says, “What do you have? Go and see.” The disciples found a smattering of food, five loaves and two fish. Bringing this obviously-inadequate provision to Jesus, they seemed to say: “See. This is all we have. It’s not enough, now send them to get something to eat.” Jesus would have none of this. He took the bread, blessed it, gave it to the disciples to distribute to the people. Mark concludes: “They all ate and were satisfied.” Beyond that, 12 basketfuls of fragments were collected.

I have always wondered just how this happened. Modernistic theologians who attempted in Bultmannian fashion to “demystify” such texts have provided naturalistic explanations. They have suggested that, once the disciples starting sharing this food, others were prompted to share what little they had as well. Once everyone shared the little they had, everyone eventually was fed. Needless to say, this theory does not explain the abundance of leftovers.

Mark isn’t concerned about how this miracle happened anyway. He focuses on the divinely produced results: “They all ate and were satisfied.” And, in God’s economy, there is more than enough!

Such miracles remind me, not of how powerful Jesus was, but how powerful Jesus is. It also reminds me that true ministry is humanly impossible. As humans, we simply do not have what it takes to accomplish the divinely-described tasks before us. God does not leave us powerless, however. He asks us simply to allow Him to touch our feeble efforts. Then, and only then, can miraculous results occur.

I’m thinking right now: “Lord, I don’t have what it takes for the task before me.” “What do you have,” He replies. “All I can find are some saltine crackers and sardines in my pantry of ideas, talents, and abilities. Maybe you should send the people away to be fed elsewhere.” His reply remains the same, however. “Give it to me…they all will eat and be satisfied.” Only by His power.