Thanksgiving is only three weeks away and a few more holidays are right around the corner. Lifeway Pastors wants to help you get ready for these holidays by providing some biblical solutions for your life and ministry. You can use my post today to assist you in preparing for a Thanksgiving or stewardship message, or perhaps just to receive a personal blessing.
Speaking of blessing, do you think your life qualifies as being called “blessed”? If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, count your blessings because more than 1,000,000 people will not survive this week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation remember that there are 500 million people around the world who live without that blessing.
If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of this world.
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish somewhere you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
Yes, most pastors, staff, and church leaders who will read this post are very blessed. November is a fantastic time to count our blessings, as well as the responsibilities that go along with them. John 6:1-15 reminds us of the reciprocal nature of a blessing.
1. God Really Does Want to Bless Us
Of the 36 recorded miracles of Jesus the feeding of the 5,000 is the largest in terms of numerical impact. It is also the only one mentioned in all four Gospels besides the resurrection.
This miracle underscored His mission to be the “Bread of Life,” which is a hard message to hear on an empty stomach. Jesus blessed that crowd by feeding them literally and spiritually. Do you really believe that He wants to bless you and me today too?
What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? …how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9,11)
2. God Wants to Bless Others Through Us
This crowd had followed Jesus to the northern part of Israel on a remote mountain, which became a logistical nightmare because the demand for food was exponentially greater than the supply. Mark counted 5,000 men, while Matthew made sure to add, “plus women and children.” Since there is no realistic way to feed 15-20,000 people without any legitimate food source, the disciples all stated the most obvious and practical solution: “send them home” (Luke 9).
That is ministry-speak for “Not our problem.”
Jesus’ reply had to be painful to hear, “You give them something to eat” (Luke 9:13).
That is Jesus-speak for “They are your problem.”
Sending the crowd ten miles back to other side of the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida without food was not the humane thing to do, yet the disciples had some legitimate points:
- Philip – “Where can we buy bread? We don’t have enough money!”
- Andrew – “What are five barley loaves and two fish for so many?”
There really was no practical way to meet every need that day. In all reality, there is no way your church will be able to meet every need in your community, much less the world. But is that a legitimate excuse to do nothing for the needy?
I will bless you . . . so that you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2)
If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. (I John 3:17–18)
3. Our Obedience Releases God’s Blessings
Mark records that Jesus commanded the disciples to go look for food among the crowd. That boy gave up his basket of barley bread (cheapest) and fish (sardines).
As your church prepares this fall for the 2016 budget, I would encourage you to compare how much you spend on members with how much you spend on Jesus’ VIPs: the poor, widows, orphans, refugees, prisoners, and missionaries.
A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. (Proverbs 22:9)
4. Our Disobedience Restricts God’s Blessings
The one who gives to the poor will not be in need, but one who turns his eyes away will receive many curses. (Proverbs 28:27)
The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will himself also call out and not be answered. (Proverbs 21:13)
Have you led your church to become a channel of blessing for widows and orphans; the helpless and homeless; the prisoners and refugees? Perhaps no church can tackle all of these challenges, but our calling is to channel the unique resources of our churches to bless our neediest neighbors in our community and our world. The happiest pastors and churches I know are the ones who understand that they have been blessed to be a blessing.
Happy is one who cares for the poor, the Lord will save him in a day of adversity. The Lord will keep him and preserve him, he will be blessed in the land. (Psalm 41:1–2)