"How Many Loaves Do You Have?"

When we talk about an exciting vision or ministry that will change lives or make a difference in our community someone always begins the conversation with, “We could do that if we had...”, and they begin to list all of the resources we don’t have.”  I remember a friend of mine as we were growing up who always had crushes on the most popular girls in school but would never ask one out because he felt he didn’t have the goods to be in their league.  I talk with people all the time who feel called to a ministry, but are unwilling to step up into leadership because they don’t feel prepared or gifted enough.  We tend to focused on the issue of feelings of being  inadequate or underprepared to do something we feel called to do.  We start with what we don’t have.  I would do that if...?  Have you ever felt that way?

Read Matthew 15:32-38.  In this passage, Jesus has been teaching for several days and a massive crowd has gathered around him.  Jesus doesn't want the crowd to leave hungry. The disciples seem to scoff at the idea of feeding the crowd -- they let their resources dictate their vision and immediately focus on their inadequacy.  Jesus then poses a rhetorical question: "How many loaves have you?"  He then proceeds to take their small number of loaves and feed thousands. 

Observe that by posing this rhetorical question, Jesus wants his disciples to focus on their blessings in that moment.  He wants them to take an intentional inventory of what they do have and not focus on their inadequacy.  Note that we are often like the disciples in this passage -- when we set out to accomplish something, we often first focus on the resources we don't yet have.  Like he did with the disciples, Jesus is asking us, "How many loaves have you?"  Jesus wants us to do an intentional inventory of all that God has given us and to have confidence in these blessings. 

Scripture is clear that God has given each of us the gifts that He intends for each of us to have (check out, 1 Corinthians 12:18and Romans 12:6-8).  Whatever traits, skills, talents, and interests you have, God has made that combination unique and special to you -- and God wants to use all of these gifts for good.  Sometimes, however, we don't use the gifts we have been given.  Perhaps we don't have confidence in our gifts because we haven't taken the time to take an inventory of our blessings.  Or perhaps we have decided some of the gifts God has given us are irrelevant and we have taken them out of play in our lives.

Part of knowing God is knowing the gifts God has given us. I hope you will join me in setting aside some time to prayerfully and intentionally take an inventory of the gifts God has given you.  As we express thanks to God for the gifts, I hope we will also turn them over to God for Him to use.  With God all things are possible.  May we stand in awe of God's life-giving and life-changing power as we recognize our unique gifts and trust God with their potential.  Is there a ministry you are called to lead?  Is there something God is calling us to do?

David Stewart is the Lead Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.