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Look to Jesus When the Assignment is Tough

Professor Paul Schaller • Eau Claire, Wisconsin

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
(John 6:9)

When Jesus proposed to His disciples the problem of feeding the great crowd of people that had come to see Jesus, there was no brainstorming session. As you know, brainstorming is when any and all ideas for solving a problem are thrown onto the table without taking the time to evaluate each one. Instead, the hope is that the ideas suggested may spark yet more ideas.

But when Jesus’ disciples came up with ideas, they immediately came up with objections to their own ideas. Jesus asked, “Where shall we buy food for all these people?”

Philip answered in effect, “Forget where! Who can afford to feed all these mouths? There must be at least five thousand men, not counting women and children! If only half of them came with families (and it could be more with the Passover holiday near), it could take almost $20,000 for each family to share one filet-o-fish sandwich!

Now, Andrew was used to finding people. After meeting Jesus the first thing he did was find his brother Peter to bring him to Jesus. Now he finds a young boy who had brought some food: five barley-cakes and two little dried fish. Andrew quickly added, “but what is this much among so many?

So we don’t have enough money, and we don’t have enough food, and we haven’t even bothered to answer the Lord’s original question “where” shall we go for food. It was obvious there was no McDonalds® in the area. A tough assignment.

Sometimes ILC has been criticized as being sheltered from real life. But most every school is sheltered in the sense that the assignments that are given are do-able. Oh, once in a while there may be a problem given which is well beyond the student’s ability in order to teach that there is more to learn. But by-and-large assignments come in manageable increments in the classroom.

Outside the classroom, however, problems face us that are way beyond us, even while we are still at school. We need to learn where to turn at times like those.

And outside the classroom when we are no longer enrolled, we will face challenges which we may not have realized would come so soon.

About a year after graduation, some wish they could go back and restudy some things to which they had not given their full attention because they had known them from youth. Now it was not a matter of whether they had always known it but how they might bring someone else to a knowledge of the truth.

The same could apply to all our schooling: we may not have seen a purpose in learning some materials, and sooner than we thought we are faced with the problem for real and we just cannot remember those things we once yawned at.

But even if we were diligent to make use of every opportunity to learn, we would many times still feel inadequate to teach others. We know the kind of problems they will face but not the exact circumstances. So we cannot tell them exactly the words to say and the action to take in every case down the road.

Should you someday experience the blessing of becoming parents, the same will be true in bringing up your children. You can show them a lot of things and help them develop a lot of skills. But you do not know everything that they will have to face in life, and because of your own human weakness, your best efforts will finally amount to five barley-cakes and two small fish.

For what if you grow in understanding after your children have already received your mistaken advice? Or what if you look back and see mistakes you made that affected their lives? Or what if you did not really understand what you were doing at the time?

Then look to Jesus who not only loves you and gave Himself for you for the forgiveness of your sins, but who also can take your five-cake, two-fish efforts and make them go farther than your fondest dreams.

So, teach your children, your students, your parishioners, your friends to look to Jesus no matter what situation they find themselves in—elation or disappointment, victory or defeat, rejoicing in life or grieving over time misspent. Look to Jesus!

And if they do that and find the peace of God which passes understanding, it will not be your little contribution, but His great blessing and distributing of your efforts. It is God who works in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

So… “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5). Amen.