One of the most common short comings that cause many of us to stumble in our spiritual journey is to miss the significance of certain events in our lives. In an age when we are bombarded with so many reports from so many different sources, we sometimes fail to register when an event in our lives is meant to reveal something of God’s will, plan and purpose for us.
There’s a story that appears in all four gospel accounts of Jesus feeding the 5,000. (It’s fair to say that when something was noted by all four authors of the gospels, you might want to take special note!)
In Mark’s version Jesus has been teaching a large crowd of people for quite some time in what is described as a “solitary place.” (Mark 16:32) When it comes time to release the crowd, the disciples note that the people have not eaten and that they really needed to get on their way (vs. 36). Instead, Jesus answered them “You give them something to eat.” As most of us remember, the disciples found a little boy with 5 loaves of bread and two fish and they brought this tiny pittance of a resource into the presence of Jesus for the crowd of 5,000 men, plus women and children, all of whom are hungry and ready to eat!
In Mark’s account, Jesus simply gives thanks to heaven and then begins to break the loaves and starts to pile them into the baskets for the disciples to distribute. In what must have been a truly incomprehensible miracle, the disciples baskets never ran out of loaves and fish until everyone is fed (vs. 42) and 12 baskets full of bread and fish are picked up (vs. 4).
What occurs next is the prime message on my heart today. Verse 45 of Mark 6 says that:
“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida while He dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray.
When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.”
We now have a small boat populated by 12 exhausted disciples who are “straining at the oars” and not making enough progress to cross the lake to the other side. Mark recounts that this was true, in part, “because the wind was against them.” Mark 6:48
Are there times in your spiritual journey that you feel like you’ve been obedient to the Lord and despite pouring yourself out in service or in obedience to the directive of the Lord, you are “straining at the oars” of life and in fact there seems to be something holding you back (“the wind was against them”)?
It is not uncommon for me to feel that when I’m doing something in response to what the Lord has directed, I feel things should go smoothly because this is what He, in fact, wanted me to do. When He allows things like other circumstances to begin to make my obedience difficult, if not impossible, I begin to question whether or not I heard Him correctly and perhaps even worse, whether or not He cares about my situation.
It’s in those very moments, however, when we need to recognize the significance of what we have been experiencing in the Lord. Remember that just a few hours earlier the disciples had seen an amazing, inexplicable miracle of God’s provision for their lives. Now, here they are facing some obstacles in the next part of their journey, wondering why it is so difficult.
You may remember that in this story just a little later on, Jesus begins to walk on the lake and soon overtakes the disciples and is about to pass them (vs. 48b). When the disciples cried out in fear, Jesus said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Note that as soon as Jesus climbed into the boat, the wind died down. It goes on to say
“They were completely amazed, because they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”
Some careful reflection on these words of scripture reveal the all too common experience of not fully recognizing the significance of God’s seminal moments in our lives. When the Lord has answered prayer, when God has given favor or demonstrated His intervention in other areas of our life, we do very well to take note of such moments and to mark them as beacons of faith for all that life may still throw at you.
Rather than understanding the feeding of the 5,000 simply in terms of the physical miracle, the scripture says that their “hearts were hardened” which means that they did not understand the spiritual significance of what Jesus had done.
What Jesus wanted them to know was not that He was just the giver of bread, but He, Himself, was The bread of life. He wanted them to recognize that His presence was sufficient for them to overcome any circumstance that may be an obstacle to the fulfillment of His purposes for them.
I must confess that far too often I move on from one request to another in my spiritual journey without simply reflecting on what God has been doing in my life and in the posture of a believing heart, trust Him to take care of whatever it is that I’m facing now.
The disciples were “completely amazed” because Jesus presence in their boat caused the opposing wind to die down. Note that that was not described as a lack of understanding, but rather, a hardness of the heart. And so it is with everything that has to do with our experience of faith. If our hearts are hardened, that is, closed off toward the possibility of what God wants to do, experiences will come and go. What we need to do is to ponder and even reflect on what each experience is meant to teach us about who God is and what He is willing to do on our behalf.
It’s difficult for me to fault the disciples in all of this because they were already weary and had been in need of rest for some time. I know just how hard it is to be spiritually open and sensitive when I am physically maxed out and exhausted.
However, those are often times the very moments when God will reveal Himself most powerfully because we know we don’t have it in us to do so. These are the moments of great spiritual significance that can shape us, not just in the circumstance, but for the rest of our lives.
Throughout every day, ask the Holy Spirit to help you to “see the significance’ of what God is doing in your life and you are much more likely to build upon the experiences and even the miracles of God’s presence and provision in your every day, extraordinary life!