In the summer of 2002 I had the privilege of hosting Truett Cathy founder of Chick-fil-a who had been invited to speak at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC where I was serving on staff. As I met Mr. Cathy for the first time I remember saying to myself just listen and you will learn something beyond what you are expecting. As our time that afternoon ticked away we talked about the history of Chick-fil-a and our families. He then asked if we could go to Barnes & Nobles for a while followed by dinner prior to his set time to speak. As we walked through Barnes & Nobles he said hello to everyone and no one recognized him. Mr. Cathy turned to me and said, “you never know when you can change someone’s life.” Later while at dinner, I listened as he shared with me ways in which unexpected opportunities came his way and will come our way if we remain open and watchful.
I could not help but be reminded of this story as I was studying a familiar passage of Scripture Matthew 14:13-21 in which Jesus himself had a chance to share with his disciples about being open and watchful to unexpected opportunities. You remember the story in this passage; Jesus takes a great opportunity to teach his disciples as He feeds the five thousand plus people.
Here’s the setting for Jesus in a nutshell; He had just received news of John the Baptist’s beheading. They were close beyond being relatives, including John the Baptist having the amazing privilege of baptizing Jesus. Due to the news and His teaching Jesus and his disciples desperately needed rest so they withdrew into a boat. Yet the crowds continued to follow and it touched the heart of Jesus. As Jesus taught and healed the sick the day became evening here is where Jesus took time to meet the physical needs of the crowd (food) and teach the disciples to be open and watchful for opportunities to change someone’s life as He asked the disciples; “you give them something to eat.”
Certainly, the disciples knew that Jesus could meet the need of feeding the people. Yet they did not turn to Him for help or guidance. They came to him with excuses and earthly solutions: first being, just send the people into the city to buy food. (Mt. 13:15) Secondly in response to Jesus’ test (Jn. 6:5-7) Phillip suggests they use the 200 Denarii they had in order to buy bread, but quickly found that it would not provide enough for each person to have a sufficient amount. Lastly, Andrew comes up with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish from a young boy’s snack. Still not seeing the opportunity Jesus teaches the disciples how to meet needs beyond measure as He takes the 5 loaves and 2 fish, blessed it, broke it, handed it to the disciples and they gave to the crowd.
Seven quick points of application can be applied from Matthew 14:13-21 as Jesus teaches the disciples and us that often times unexpected opportunities are right in front of us.
We respond appropriately to circumstances. (v. 13)
- Jesus could have changed the circumstances, but chose to teach the disciples and us.
Like Jesus, we are compassionate towards people. (v. 14)
- Compassion is stronger than sympathy, it reflects “to have ones inner being stirred”
We understand that God’s ways are different than our ways. (v.16)
- Notice Jesus replies as if the disciples had a large supply of food.
- Jesus knew that the disciples could feed the crowd physically and change their lives spiritually.
- Jesus asks us to give all we have and let him use it as He sees fit.
We listen to Jesus. (v. 18)
- Jesus always understands the needs and situation trust Him.
We are available to Jesus. (v. 18)
- Be available and he will take care of the ability
We pass on what we receive. (v. 19)
- A simple mentoring principle: Give what you have to Jesus, He will bless it, break it, give it to us and we can give to the crowd.
We expect God to do more than we even imagine. (vs. 20-21)
- As His servants, we need to understand, we are the distributors no the manufacturers of opportunities.
How we respond to unexpected opportunities could change our world and ourselves? What are you expecting God to do in your life?