Do you ever feel that you lack the practical ability to do what is required of you in your daily life, whether in your job or in the maintenance of your home and possessions? Have you discovered that your resources are insufficient to meet your needs? Do you feel inadequate to raise a godly family or to serve the Lord worthily? There is, of course, more than one possible reason for these perceptions. And with one possible exception, no single reason might cover them all. That one potential exception is dedication. To quote Vance Havner: “You do not know what you have until you give it to the Lord.” Much of our perceived lack comes not from inadequate resources but from a flawed view of them. When we view what we have as belonging to us rather than to the Lord, when we believe that we have total freedom to decide when, where, and how to use the resources God has placed in our hands, we are sure to discover that what we have is insufficient to do what needs to be done. (Sometimes we don’t discover that until we have attempted some activity in our own strength and have relied on our own resources.) The Lord can only truly bless and use those who give themselves and what they have to the Lord.
The little boy with the five loaves and two fish is the poster child for that fact. And the Lord must want us to come to grips with this truth because all four gospels record the miraculous event (Matt. 14:13ff., Mk. 6:33ff., Lk. 9:12ff., John 6:1ff.). Apparently, the lad had come with the crowd to see Jesus, or attracted by the commotion, had come to watch the spectacle, and had brought his lunch with him. It would have been obvious to him and to anyone who saw him that he was carrying enough food to provide a midday meal only for himself. Yet when he willingly offered that meal to the Lord for His use, in the hands of God incarnate it fed five thousand men plus women and children with twelve basketfuls of leftovers.
The widow of Zarephath offers another striking example of what happens to a truly inadequate supply when it is given to the Lord—in this case indirectly through His prophet Elijah. The widow was by no means wrong in her assessment of what she possessed—“a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar” (1 Ki. 17:12), enough in her judgment to make just one last small meal for herself and her son before they succumbed to starvation. What she failed to take into account is what that flour and oil would become when she relinquished it to the Lord. Like the lad, she thought she had one meal in her possession. Instead, she had, perhaps, several thousand meals over the course of the drought.
Consider Moses. God called him to deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. What resources did he have to accomplish such a monumental task? Moses knew quite well what he had: a shepherd’s staff (Ex. 4:2). There was no mistaking that fact. Maybe he had used that very staff during his entire forty-year sojourn as a shepherd in Midian. His hand had slowly, gently worn smooth grooves for his fingers in the top of the staff, the bottom had been worn away by many long treks through the rocky desert tending the sheep of his father-in-law, Jethro. But in God’s hands, the staff became a serpent; stretched out, it summoned the plagues on Egypt. When raised, it parted, then closed, the Red Sea. And when used at God’s command to strike a rock, it brought forth water. What Moses reckoned to be only a stick, a useful shepherd’s tool, when yielded to the Lord became the channel for the miraculous operation of God.
“You do not know what you have until you give it to the Lord.” What are you clinging to as your own? Your stuff? Your talents? Your hopes and ambitions? Your relationships? Your will? Until you give it to the Lord, you don’t know what you have, and you will misuse or waste it. As the Lord asked His disciples, “Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up?” (Matt. 16:9). May you and I remember and give all that we are and have back to the Lord. It all belongs to Him, after all. Then, we may be pleasantly surprised by what He has given us.
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