When Jesus Asks for More Than We Have

When Jesus Asks for More Than We Have

In Articles, Faith Journey, Spiritual Growth by J.R. Hudberg

Have you ever felt your spirit moved to give or be involved in a way that seemed more than you could give?

Has the Holy Spirit ever seemed to ask for more than was in your calendar, your skills, or your budget?

There are so many needs in the world, from our neighbours next door to those around the globe; opportunities to give are abundant.

But let’s be honest: sometimes, the things that tug at our hearts seem far outside our ability to fix, yet we feel the tug all the same.

What do we do when Jesus asks us to do something beyond our resources?

An Outrageous Request

Jesus made such a request of His first followers. The Bible story is familiar—5,000 men (not counting women and children) fed from a small boy’s lunch (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10;17).

Despite Jesus wishing to be alone with His disciples, a large crowd surrounded Him. In empathy, He healed them and taught them (Luke 9:11), working into the late hours of the day.

Scripture says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36). This is Jesus in His essence—self-giving. He wanted to be alone with His disciples but set His own desires and agenda aside to meet the needs of the people.

Concerned by the late hour, the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd away so the people could find something to eat.

You give them something to eat,” was Jesus’ reply (Matthew 14:16)—a request that not only stretched the bounds of generosity but was clearly impossible.

Of course, the story’s ending is well-known. In an act of obedient faith, the disciples offered Jesus their meagre provisions, after expressing their bewilderment at His request and pointing out their lack of ability to do what He asked.

Jesus took what they offered and did something amazing with it, creating an abundance of leftovers. It’s a beautiful story of Jesus’ power and compassion for needy, weary people.

Contagious Compassion

Jesus’s compassion seems to have been contagious; behaviour modelled is behaviour emulated. To cultivate compassion, the disciples simply needed to watch their Master.

The disciples saw the crowd, anticipated their needs, and did what they could, asking Jesus to send them off for food. This was a sensible and appropriate course of action.

Sensitivity to those around us and desiring to meet their needs is a gift of God, and one that we need to cultivate. We need to ask the Lord to help us see others clearly. Like the disciples, we rightly ask Jesus to do something for others. Knowing that He is the Lord of miracles, we ask Him to do what makes the most sense: “Lord, meet their need.”

When we do this, we not only exercise compassion but also follow Jesus’ instructions; Jesus Himself tells the disciples to ask the Lord to provide (see Matthew 9:35-38).

But often, being able to see a need only leads halfway to a solution.

Being Part of the Answer

Sharing compassion for the people, Jesus told His followers, “You give them something to eat.”

Jesus didn’t need to be omniscient to know this was an impossible request. Travelling with few supplies seems to have been pretty standard for this group (see John 4:8). Even if they did carry food with them, provisions for this crowd would have been a ludicrous sight—thirteen people carrying enough food for an estimated crowd of 15,000.

But Jesus asks them to provide the evening’s repast for the multitude, a physical and financial feat beyond the disciples’ means.

The disciples’ response did more than highlight their lack of food or funds; when they reminded Jesus of their inadequate resources (the famous five loaves and two small fishes), they were being honest about what they had.

Jesus, how do You expect us to do this? We don’t have enough for ourselves, and You ask us to feed them all?

But when Jesus asks, they bring what little they have to Him.

Acting in Faith

That’s deep faith, giving everything you have to the task you are assigned even though it is painfully, even laughably, short of what is needed.

When Jesus asks us to do something we don’t have the resources for, it’s okay to tell Him that we don’t have enough. It’s okay to look at our calendar, chequebook, or skills and say, “Jesus, this is all I have, and it’s obviously lacking.”

But when we say that, we, like the disciples, need to offer what we do have to Him, as little as it may be—Here, Jesus, take what I have.

Jesus took the little that was offered and did what only Jesus could do.

He made it possible for the disciples to do what He was asking. He blessed the bread and fish and gave it back to the disciples; in the end, they fed the masses, enough to have leftovers.

They gave to Him, and He gave it back, enough to accomplish the task and more.

He used what they gave Him. He could have created bread out of the rocks, or made manna fall from Heaven, but He used what His followers had.

Not enough was given, but Jesus did the unbelievable.

We should see the world’s needs and pray for them; we should ask Jesus to provide. But our empathy and compassion should not be exhausted by prayer alone.

Our faith prompts us to offer what we have when He asks us to give the crowds something to eat; our limited resources are not a reason for us to decline.

Jesus knows what we have; He knows what it will take to accomplish what He is asking, and He knows that those two quantities are not always the same.

But we give what we have to Jesus anyway, and He uses what we give in ways that only He can.

J.R. Hudberg
J.R. Hudberg is a writer and executive editor for Our Daily Bread Ministries in Grand Rapids, MI, where he lives with his wife and their two sons. He has written Encounters with Jesus and Journey through Amos.
J.R. Hudberg
J.R. Hudberg is a writer and executive editor for Our Daily Bread Ministries in Grand Rapids, MI, where he lives with his wife and their two sons. He has written Encounters with Jesus and Journey through Amos.