Tuesday, November 24, 2009

With God All Things Are Possible... but Not Guaranteed

Five loaves and two fish. With this meager offering, Jesus miraculously fed the 5,000. Slice it and dice it however you want, and you can get lots of sermon illustrations out of this. How God can take our meager offerings and do great things with them. How we tend to look at human circumstances from our finite perspective when we need to see the world from God's eyes. How with God, the impossible becomes possible, for nothing is impossible with God. With faith as small as a mustard seed, mountains can be moved.

What I find interesting is that I've never heard a sermon preached (that I can recall) on what immediately precedes this story in Matthew chapter 14; namely, the beheading of John the Baptist. Where was John's faith? Where was John's meager offering? And more importantly, where was God to make an impossible situation—namely, saving John's life—possible?

Granted, there's an underlying assumption that God's sovereignty is always at play in these circumstances. He will make the impossible possible if it is His pleasure and desire to do so. What we think is best is not always in line with what God has in mind, so when “sometimes [He] just don't come through” (to quote Tori Amos), it feels like either His hands are tied or His heart is unmoved.

When I find myself in a seemingly impossible situation, as I do in my life right now, the loaves and fish don't bring me much hope. I know God can do the miraculous, but I've rarely seen it, and never on such a grand scale. More often than not, my impossible situations seem to turn out more like John's, and rather than find joy and surprise in the moment like the 5,000-plus hungry people, I have to quietly rest on the hope that somehow in the grand scheme of things, it's going to work out for His glory and my good.

I wonder if I've been “having faith” in God much like a person engages in wishful thinking or rubs a good luck charm—holding out for the big, magical moment when God sweeps in a fixes everything. What if it doesn't come? What if the 5,000 go home hungry? What if the axe still falls? I know God is not any less powerful or less good. But am I trusting Him for what He can do, will do, or might do, or am I trusting Him for who He is? I know He is loving. I know Jesus loved his cousin John just as He loved the little boy with the loaves and fish and just as He loved every person He fed that day. Just as I know He loves me even when my impossible situation remains impossible.

Just because God can doesn't mean He will. Just because He is able doesn't mean He should. He gives, and He takes away, the sun rises and it sets: life marches on. Sometimes His intervening hand sets aside the laws of physics, of cause and effect, of natural consequences. But sometimes it doesn't. Praise Him anyway.


Dan Martin said...

I hear you, Leesha. I ask similar questions myself...in fact I was asking them last night when I should've been sleeping but couldn't. I'm sure Jeremiah asked them in the cistern too; what I often wonder is if Moses asked them during the 40 years he was rotting as a shepherd out in the middle of nowheresville. I keep hoping I don't have to wait till I'm 80 to start doing what I'm supposed to do...

Not much encouragement, that, but at least somebody else hears you...

E. A. Harvey said...

I appreciate that, Dan. Perhaps if believers spent more time discussing the "suffering years" of our favorite Bible characters instead of jumping ahead to where the action is, we might find more encouragement for our long, painful years in the wilderness. Thanks for bringing up that point.

I'm with you, though--40 years in the wilderness does seem like an awfully long time... and while I don't want to go back to Egypt and I know the Promised Land is a long way off, would an oasis in the desert here and there be too much to ask? :-)