June 16, 2019

When All You Have is Not Enough
John 6:1-13

I was sitting on a window ledge in my foyer, feeling really stupid, but I decided I would feel even more stupid if I fell and broke my leg.

It all started when I decided to change a light bulb in my foyer. To change the light bulb I had to climb up to a landing that juts out just above our entryway. The landing is about 10 feet above the floor, so I was pretty certain I could climb up to it with my 8 foot ladder, and I did. Granted, I had to climb almost to the top rung of the ladder and hoist myself up to the ledge, but it was really no big deal. At least it was no big deal until I started to climb down. That’s when I discovered I didn’t have enough leg length to safely reach the ladder. It’s one thing to hoist yourself up from a ladder. It’s another to lower yourself down two feet and reach the top rung of the ladder without it sliding out from under you.

So what did I do? I sat on that landing’s ledge for almost an hour until Pat finally got home. Imagine her surprise when she walked in the door and heard a voice yelling, “Help, help. I need somebody to hold this ladder so I can get down.”

As I sat there on that ledge I realized that all I had was not enough and it was a pretty desperate feeling. Perhaps you understand how I felt. Perhaps you’ve experienced a time in your life when all you had was not enough and despite your very best effort you ended up feeling inadequate and desperate.

Maybe you felt inadequate when your children started giving you problems. You raised them with all the wisdom and love you had, but all you had was not enough.

Maybe you felt inadequate when you started caring for your aging parents. You did your best to loving meet their needs with all the patience you had, but all you had was not enough.

Maybe you felt inadequate when one of your family members died. You did your best to deal with the grief, but that grief became overwhelming. You gave everything you had to cope with the pain, but all you had was not enough.

Maybe you felt inadequate as you dealt with a difficult relationship. You did all you knew to do, said all you knew to say, and all your effort just wasn’t enough.

Yes, all of us come to those times in our lives when we give it our best shot. When we use all our money, all our time, all our wisdom or all our love only to discover that all we have is not enough.

That’s why I think today’s Bible story is so meaningful to me. It’s a story where the disciples are faced with feeding over 5,000 people, and after they take inventory of all their money and supplies they quickly discover that all they have is not nearly enough. Listen as I read John 6:1-13.

Sometime after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

This is an interesting story that takes place during the early years of Jesus’ ministry. As Jesus and his disciples travelled through Galilee they were thronged by crowds, thousands of people who wanted Jesus to do something for them.

On this particular day, Jesus decided to escape the crowds by getting into a boat with his disciples and sailing to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But Jesus didn’t escape the crowd for long because the crowd ran around the coast to catch up with him shortly after he docked. John tells us that when the dust finally settled, over 5,000 folks had crowded around to get a look at Jesus.

To the disciples’ surprise, upon seeing the crowd, Jesus turned to them and said, “These folks are hungry. Let’s give them something to eat.”

Quickly the disciples began to inventory what they had. Philip probably turned to Judas who had the money bag and asked, “Judas, how much do we have.” Soberly Judas answered, “Just a few shekels short of 200 denarii.” With that Philip responded to Jesus, “Master, we haven’t got money enough to begin to feed this crowd. Even if we spent all we had, we couldn’t buy enough bread for everyone to get even one little piece.”

Now while Philip was counting his coins, another disciple, Andrew, was looking through the crowd to see if there was anybody out there that could help. Before long he spied a young boy with a picnic basket. Quickly he asked, “Son, what do you have in your basket?”

“Oh, just 5 pieces of bread and a couple little fish that momma packed for my lunch.” Then before the lad knew what happened, Andrew ushered him to the front of the crowd and introduced him to Jesus.

Well, the rest is history. Jesus took the boy’s picnic and miraculously turned it into an all-you-can-eat buffet for over 5,000 people, and it took 12 large baskets to gather up all the left-overs.

As we apply this story to our own lives, I think we need to ask this question. What can we do when all we have is not enough?

The story in today’s text reveals two responses, the response of Philip and the response of Andrew. First, the response of Philip – When Philip looked at the crowd and realized all they had was not enough, he fixated on the problem. He counted the money, calculated the crowd and sadly announced, “There ain’t no way.” Never once did Philip propose a solution. Never once did he consider using what they did have. Instead, Philip focused on what they did not have and bemoaned the problems associated with Jesus’ outrageous request.

But Andrew had a different response. When Andrew discovered that all they had was not enough he focused on the potential. Granted, the potential wasn’t much, only 5 loaves and 2 miniscule fish, but at least it was better than nothing at all. Instead of fixating on the problem and bemoaning what they lacked, Andrew focused on the potential and brought it to Christ.

I think this story depicts the two ways we tend to deal with our times of inadequacy. When we realize all we have is not enough, some of us are like Philip. We spend our time and our energy fixating on the problem, bemoaning the pitiful condition we find ourselves in. When we see that all we have is not enough we look to the heavens and shout, “Ain’t no way.”

But others take the approach of Andrew. When they discover that all they have is not enough, they do not lose heart or bemoan what they lack. Instead, they gather together everything they have and present it to Christ, trusting on him to make up the difference between what they need and what they have.

As I grow older, I’ve begun to pay close attention to other senior adults to see how they deal with life and its troubles. I’ve noticed some senior adults are very miserable people, while others seem to live the autumn of their lives with excitement, enthusiasm and joy. So what’s the difference?

The difference is not their circumstances. Both sets of seniors face the same kind of problems. Both face financial struggles on limited incomes. Both face losing their mate, losing their independence and eventually losing their health but one group faces these things miserably while the other group seems to be unaffected at all. So the difference is not the circumstances.

What is the difference? The difference is attitude. Some seniors are like Philip. They see the problem and become fixated upon it. They see what they’ve lost and bemoan the misery of it. They see what they can’t do and predict how much worse they will become. In the end, they become miserable because when all they have is not enough they fixate on the problem.

But other senior adults are more like Andrew. Granted, at times their losses seem more than they can bear, but before they become fixated on their problems they start looking for potential. Instead of bemoaning what they’ve lost, they look for ways of using what they’ve got left. In the end, God tends to multiply their potential in great ways, allowing them to do things they never dreamed possible.

What do you do when all you have is not enough? You either fixate on the problem or focus on the potential. You either bemoan what you lack, or bring what you’ve got to Christ.

Before his death in 1898, George Mueller cared for over 10,000 orphans in his orphanage located in Bristol, England. Most of the funding came from donations by churches and individuals, and at times, the orphanage struggled to meet the needs of so many children.

Mueller’s housemother tells about one particularly difficult day, when the orphanage’s supply of food ran very low. Early that morning she came to Mueller and said, “The children are dressed and ready for school, but there is no food for them to eat.” Mueller asked her to take the 300 children into the dining room and have them sit at the tables. He thanked God for the food and waited, believing that God would provide food for the children as he always did. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning, so I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.”

Soon, there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. So he asked George if he could use some free milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans of milk - just enough for the 300 thirsty children.

Several years after Mueller’s death, Kattie Suffield wrote a hymn that encapsulated Mueller’s faith. The hymn was simply titled, “Little is Much When God is in It.”

Yes, when all we have is not enough there’s no need to panic. Instead, what we should do is bring the little we have to Christ and watch what he can do.

So what do you do when all you have is not enough? You bring it to Jesus, remembering that even if all you have is just a little that’s still okay, because “little is much when God is in it,” even when all you have is not enough.