My mom makes the best spaghetti in the world. Who would also agree that their mom has a dish that is the best in the world? The smell of my mom’s spaghetti on the cooking on the stove when I came home from school was the best smell, and made homework exciting because i got to look forward to a family meal and a big plate of spaghetti. I don’t know all her secrets, but I know it’s the best. Enough that I would want it over anything else. If it were up to me at that age, I would gladly eat Mom’s spaghetti every night. But, Mom knows we weren’t designed to eat the same meal night after night, and as much as I doubted it, I would have probably gotten sick of it if we did.
Indeed, what is best for us, and for the greater good, isn’t always the thing we think we want.
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! ROMANS 9:1-5
We hear from Paul here that his conviction in Jesus being all in all was enough for him to cut himself from the goodness of Christ in order that others would understand their place in Him. Not only does Paul exemplify Christ in this expression of immense selflessness, but the Word boldly proclaims God to be the source of all goodness. We feel his anguish and understand its importance.
We see time and time again in the Gospels what seems to be a natural doubt.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. MATTHEW 14:13-21
In this story, we watch the disciples come to Jesus– as if He could ever need any sort of reminder about the care of His own creation– concerned that there would be nothing to feed everyone. And although bread and fish may not have been the most delicious meal, the Lord fulfilled the disciples’ need to be fed without dwelling on it, so that they could get on with more important matters. Jesus was the answer. And the best thing the disciples could have done in this situation was trust that He would provide, as He promises to always. Trust that by leaning on Him, they would be filled. Maybe they had visions of going into town to get spaghetti, but the physical need itself wasn’t what mattered– how they got to it did.
This involved a faith in that Jesus is who He says He is.
If we believe in Jesus Christ, that He died for our sins and rose again in order that His Holy Spirit would come afresh upon us and make us new, then we believe that, period. He is the One God, whose same Spirit performs miracles today as He did with the loaves and the fishes, and if we believe that, then we BELIEVE IT, and we invest in relationship with Him. We believe and know that Jesus COULD HAVE actually turned those loaves and fishes into a gourmet spaghetti dinner, better than Mom’s– sorry, Mom, only Jesus could do it better. But He wasn’t concerned with the earthly thing– Jesus reminds us we need only be concerned with HIM, and in the process He fills in the earthly things that He does want us to ENJOY. It is only when those things become the centre of our lust and attention, rather than a tool that we allow the Spirit to work through, that we run into problems.
Of course, experience of Jesus’ working miracles is helpful here. That can start with trusting and believing the miracles He has worked, then allowing Him to fill us with His Truth that He IS forgiveness, IS grace, and is LOVE. Rather than the food being the relevant concern, then, for the disciples, Jesus became the focal point; the disciples concerned themselves with JESUS’ will, and, WHEN food became the afterthought, their baskets were full as Jesus perfectly saw fit.
My boyfriend and I have been dating for going on two years. We met at Laurier, and Johnny decided a year ago that he would be transferring to a school just outside of Winnipeg. For the second semester of our long distance relationship, Johnny and I prayerfully decided our only form of communication would be via letter. No texting, Skyping, or phone calls. It was an emotional thing to enter, but our provision in prayer was that the Lord would teach us the discipline of sitting down to write to each other, and become bigger in each of us as we had to trust God with each other, and in each other. I learned so much about prayer and the blessing of communication in this time, and Johnny and I will forever hold time together dear. As difficult as it initially seemed to take this leap of faith, Johnny and I couldn’t have done this without the Spirit; if our trust had been in each other, we would have failed each other. And we have failed each other, of course. But clinging to Jesus and trusting Him, we have reaped rewards in our relationships with each other and the Lord. Believing that He can do it, and that He always is who He says He is, I have witnessed both in the Word and my own life the way even good things entrusted to the Lord, placed on the altar for Him to tender, are never, ever, ever returned for the worse.
Again, Jesus is JOY, and does not condemn. Rather than randomly making such decisions of faith, our Lord delights in our prayer and relationship with Him.
Martin Luther famously said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Believing that this Jesus created us and is who He says He is and is alive today for our good and our purpose means being in conversation with Him. When the disciples expressed their concern to Him, Matthew’s Gospel clearly states that the Lord worked out of COMPASSION; out of COMPASSION He worked to serve FIVE THOUSAND MEN with five loaves, and two fish. THIS IS AMAZING! This Is the same Lord who is in our midst today and invites us into conversation. Who is anguished when we push Him away. Who KNOWS all our sins and worries no matter what, so thus delights when we bring them to Him willingly. And whether His work is what we may have envisioned as our answer, we trust that HE is the answer, and grow in faith in the one who was our beginning, is our present, and is our end. Sometimes this comes with sacrifice and suffering, but as Jesus sacrificed His LIFE so that we might have it, we glimpse eternity and pure joy when we put our faith and our lives in the will of the One who never fades.