One of Jesus’ primary teaching tools was asking questions. In Mark chapter 8, he asks the disciples this question:

5“How many loaves of bread do you have?” [Jesus] asked.
Mark 8:5

It’s a simple question, and with that question, Jesus is redirecting the disciples’ attention away from the enormity of the need. He’s saying “don’t look at the need, look at me!”

It’s the story of Jesus feeding the four thousand men, along with unnumbered women and children, with only seven loaves and two fish. Jesus first brings the need to the attention of his disciples by calling them together and saying:

2“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”
Mark 8:2-3 (NIV)

Their response isn’t their finest moment:

“How are we supposed to find enough food for them here in the wilderness?”
Mark 8:5 (NLT)

I hear it as “Are you crazy? How in the world are we…?” And since I know the end of the story, it occurs to me that any time I have that reaction, there ought to be a check in my spirit…because God is setting me up for a miracle! Instead of “I can’t possibly…” or “Are you crazy? How can I…?” I want to be the person that shouts “Yeehaw! A miracle’s about to happen!” OK, not so cowboy, but you get the idea.

I’m not that person yet, but the Holy Spirit & I are working on it. We’re getting closer.

The apostles looked at the crowd and said “we can’t possibly feed these people.” Jesus didn’t look at the crowd, He looked at the resources, knowing that when the resources were fully given to God, God would multiply them to meet the need.

Picture it, 32AD: Four thousand men, in addition to the women and children, were in need of food. The apostles had seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Looks to me like recipe for a personal meltdown!

But God…He gently took the disciples by the hand (metaphorically), turned them from the crowed to look into His face, and redirected their thinking from “How are we supposed to…” to “take a deep breath and look at me. Now tell me, what do you have?” No meltdown. Instead a miracle!

I’m going to go back to that, but first I want to ask my own questions. Update the picture: Think about what you’d like to do for God. Go ahead. Pause here for a minute or two here and answer the question: What would you like to do for God? OK, now answer this question: what are your four thousand people? In other words, what is keeping you from accomplishing it. Is it lack of money? Lack of time? Lack of energy?

Jesus wants to uncomplicated things. He simply asks “what do you have?” Quit looking at all the reasons you can’t do what you’d like to do for God. Start telling God what have and ask what you should do with it. He’ll give instructions, and you’ll be on your way to being part of a miracle.

When we give it to Him, God takes what we have in our hands and He uses it to bless others.

That’s the original covenant of the Old Testament – that Abraham would be a blessing to many nations,
and the awesome privilege and responsibility of the New Testament
“go ye into all the world…”

So God wants to take my resources and your resources and use them not to meet the needs of just our families, but to reach out to others. But if we look at the opportunities, at the enormity of the needs, we become paralyzed because our resources seem so puny. That’s when Jesus asks the simple question “what’s that in your hand?” “What do you have?”

Let’s look at that question a bit more: “What do you have?” We don’t know how Jesus actually asked the question, but one method of studying a verse or phrase in the Bible is to work our way through it by emphasizing each word individually. I found that approach to be instructive in this case:

WHAT do you have? – Tell the Lord. Answer the question. In Resting at the River’s Edge we’ve just started the book of Jeremiah. In this book God is regularly asking Jeremiah “what do you see?” And then a prophetic message comes to him after describing to God what he sees. I’ve found that often God doesn’t begin to give me ideas for serving Him until I’ve started describing the situation to Him.

What DO you have? – This encourages us to look at our resources, not just the need. The apostles were stuck looking at the need and it was so great it paralyzed them. Jesus redirected them by saying, “OK, so you can’t go buy food for everyone, what DO you have.” If we look at the need we become discouraged. If we look at the need, it crushes our faith and we don’t take the first step.

What do YOU have? – Jesus asks us to use our resources. We have to give them before he can multiply them. When we hold on to our resources, there is no miracle of multiplication of those resources.

What do you HAVE? – This is an interesting emphasis. At first glance, I wanted to answer that it’s very much like “DO” – what DO you have? OK, I have this, this and this. Then God asks again “what do you HAVE?” In other words, take another look – what do those things put together make. Perhaps bread and fish make a meal. It’s the synergy part of the sentence. It’s the whole thing being greater than the sum of its individual parts.

It’s also the point where we step back, perhaps acknowledge – Lord, we got nothing…so we stare a little longer (hopefully praying while we stare at what we have) and God’s miracle begins to become apparent. OK, I get it! It’s not just bread and fish, it’s a meal. And perhaps it’s not just bread but it becomes the bread of Life as we give it in Jesus’ name. This could be good… Let’s have the people sit down and start feeding them and see what happens!

And what happens is God’s miracle because we’ve looked away from despair, given our resources to the awesome ministry He’s given us and voila! it’s time for His miracle!

Jesus is a master at asking simple questions. We tend to complicate life by moving to the complex when the simple will suffice. Jesus asks “what do you have?” When life crowds in and your need seems to overshadow your resources, Jesus asks: “what do you have?” We would do well to learn from the Master.

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