The potential in lack

God does not multiply if there is enough. He does not do so because there is no need to. He does not find desperation in man, there is no emptiness to fill. But lack is something different. It is an opportunity to receive in abundance from Him.

One evening, during a Wednesday service in Pemba, Mama Aida (this is what Mozambicans call Heidi Baker) gathered about thirty children on the stage. She wanted to illustrate the story about the multiplication of bread and fish with their help. As I watched this take place,  a dangerous thought came up in me, I thought to myself, ?I am sure I will not learn anything new from this story that I have not already heard.?  This is a very risky way of thinking in our walk with God. So that?s why I decided to treat it as an opportunity to ask God for more. To open my eyes to something new.

I watched the whole event carefully. Mama Aida patiently allowed one of the boys to read the passage from John’s Gospel. When he could not read a word, she leaned over and whispered a hint in his ear. At the same time, the other children helped  visualize the whole story, acting out their assigned roles. There were even real fish and a few bags of rolls.

Everything took place very slowly. It had not been rehearsed or planned before .  In Poland I thought, such events must be very well prepared. It would not be appropriate to put a child  who had not read the Gospel passage many times before in front of a crowd. But in that place and time it did not matter. Mama Aida was doing something special. She appreciated each child on that stage. She honored the place, the culture, the Mozambicans. On the stage in front of me was a white woman who I knew  was American, but I could not resist feeling she was a native.

Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ?Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat??  But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, ?Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.? One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter?s brother, said to Him, ?There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?? Then Jesus said, ?Make the people sit down.? Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ?Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.?  Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ?This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.? (John 6:5?-?14 NKJV)

In this passage, it has always been clear to me that Jesus sees a need and responds to it, that the little we have  is enough and we should bring it to Jesus. Furthermore, that gratitude and sharing are the keys to multiplication and God multiplies so abundantly that they will always be excess. But it was at that Mozambican service that I saw the simplest thing – to multiply, first there must be insufficiency. Insufficiency that scares us, that stings us, that is very uncomfortable. The kind we would prefer not to experience if we could choose.

Is it not strange that we all want to see supernatural multiplication but none of us want to experience lack? But for there to be a need to multiply, there must be insufficiency – of skills, food, money, time, courage and strength. This is an uncomfortable place, where we find ourselves helpless. A place where we have to let go of control (control that we already do not have!) So that He can control the situation.

After the meeting, Mama Aida asked the Mozambicans to pray for white people. From the beginning I was quite fascinated  about their prayers. Those who experience inadequacy at many basic levels of life and do not have as many emergency exits as us before they reach  impossibility, come to God determined, because He really is their only way out. This lack, which can not be satisfied by their ways causes desperation in their pursuit of God and His intervention.

When it comes to multiplication,I like taking a mathematical approach when trying to explain the independence of God’s actions from logic. In the Gospels we are told two similar events in which there was  multiplication of food. The difference is in numbers. Compare:

  I have
the food they had
my need
people to feed
baskets with leftovers
I. (Matthew 14:13-21,
Mark 6:35-44,
Luke 9:10-17, John 6:5-13)
5 loaves of bread, 2 fish 5 thousand men
(plus women and children)
12 baskets
(and a little of fish)
II. (Matthew 15:32-39, Mark 8:1-10) 7 loaves of bread, couple of fish 4 thousand men
(plus women and children)
7 baskets

Let’s start with some assumptions. Suppose in both cases one man is able to eat about the same portion, that the loaves of bread and fish are of similar size and the number of women and children in both cases is proportional to the number of men. Also, let’s assume that the baskets in both stories are of the same size. This will all help us compare the two situations.

In the first case we have less food than in the second one and definitely a bigger crowd. Logic therefore requires that in the first case there should be fewer baskets, because there is a greater lack of food. Of course, assuming that God is multiplying the same amount in both cases. But we see that it is not true! Where more was lacking, there was greater multiplication. Where more was lacking, more was left. Where there was less “ours” and a greater “lack”, He multiplied more abundantly.

If God wanted He would only just meet our need, but He goes one step further, and gives us more than we need.

If God was guided by our logic, the remnant would be less where the need is greater and our contribution smaller. But He goes two steps further, more was left where we had less.

I love God, His ways aren’t ours and He has nothing in common with the rules of our logic! It’s a simple equation:



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