Have you ever felt inadequate for a task you were facing?
Certainly the disciples felt this way when Jesus told them to feed a crowd of five thousand who had gathered to hear him preach and heal those who needed healing.
“You give them something to eat,” Jesus told them, but they protested, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish.” They complained about how much it would cost to feed so many. Then Jesus instructed them to have the crowd sit down in groups of fifty. He took the five loaves and two fish, gave thanks, broke them and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. Luke reports, “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (Luke 9:10-17)
Jesus took what was insufficient and made it sufficient to serve his purposes. He does the same thing with us. He takes our resources and talents that are usually insufficient for the task of taking care of God’s creation and building his kingdom, and makes them sufficient.
When my wife and I were first married in our early 20’s, I was silently apprehensive about whether I could be a good father when we had children. I felt grossly inadequate for the task. I had trouble imagining myself as a father doing all the things that would be necessary and appropriate to raise children in a Christian home.
When our first daughter was born, much of that apprehension started to melt away. My first stop upon leaving the hospital was to visit our church and thank God for her birth. Five adult children and thirteen grandchildren later, I look back and see how God’s grace took my early inadequacies and made them adequate. Surely there were mistakes, but he took my desires and love and those of my wife, and multiplied them to serve his purposes. One of his purposes is to build and perpetuate his kingdom through family.
Jesus is the great multiplier. From the very beginning he took a handful of uneducated fisherman, a despised tax collector and others, and transformed them by the power of his Holy Spirit to lead the most profound revolution the world has ever seen. He has done the same thing with people throughout the history of his church – many of whom were initially leading sinful lives.
He is doing the same thing today with us. He takes our inadequate prayer, desires and efforts, and multiplies their effect to enable us to bring his presence to the people and circumstances of our lives.
As we prepare to celebrate God becoming one of us in the person of the baby Jesus, let us remember that he takes us as we are, and by his grace and with our cooperation, multiplies us into what he wants us to be and enables to do what he wants us to do.