When my wife and I moved into our apartment nearly a year ago, I had a pallet that a friend helped me turn into a tabletop. That is what it remained for a good while, simply the surface of what could be a coffee table. Finally, we found two castor wheels that could work as legs in a shop. But we could only find two! For this project to become Pinterest-worthy, it would need all four. I mounted the two wheels on the table in hopes that two more of the same wheels would show themselves somewhere soon. Weeks turned to a few months and all I had was a lop-sided coffee table stored away in the garage with no purpose in life, no way to hold our mugs in the morning. I needed a solution and I was terrified because I’m really only a handy-man in my imagination.
My wife and I are off-beat decorators of sorts and instead of traditional lamps, we had clamp work lights that provided illumination to our home as well as an industrial, rustic aesthetic. They were old and from a garage sale, so the electrical chords in them gave out making them useless after only some short use. Unlike the lamps, a light bulb flipped on above my head and I went to get the tabletop. I cut the electrical chords out of the brushed steel lights, and placed them under the table where the other two castor wheels should have been. Voilà! A solution was found as the height of the work lights perfectly matched the height of the wheels on the other side and we had a working coffee table that maintained the look that we wanted for our living room. It finally worked when I wasn’t leaning on my own creative strategy or skillset. It just, sort of, happened.
We often try to employ strategies, especially in ministry, in ways that bank on our own skills and creativity. We may grow things through strategic planning, and we may get our name out there – but is the purpose we were aiming for really being accomplished? Things may look new and put together, but people may miss out on Jesus in the process.
There’s a balance to our planning and God’s provision.
When Jesus saw a large and hungry crowd following him, he looked up and asked his disciple Phillip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (Jn. 6:5). He said this to test him because Jesus already knew what he was going to do. Phillip responded, “‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little’” (6:7). Then another of his disciples, Andrew, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (6:9).
The reality of our creative strategy apart from partnering with God in his perfect work, no matter the outward appearance of growth or progression, ultimately looks like the strategic plans Phillip and Andrew had to offer. We either have no real solution and claim it cannot be done logically, or we present a game plan that logically won’t work with even the time, talent and treasure available us.
Jesus has the disciples seat the people down and they go on to pass the bread and fish they already had there and it was multiplied by Jesus. The disciples got to participate in the work, but it was God who provided and accomplished the plan. Jesus says that he is the solution and the strategy. The disciples were looking at what they had and thinking about only what they could do with it. When we understand that what we have – our time, talent and resources; and strategies – can be multiplied exponentially when we ask Jesus to take the main role in them, that is when we experience the illogical in our lives and ministries. That is when the work you wanted to see come together, just sort of happen, and then some. And then a lot more!
We must not think like those disciples who only thought of what they could do with what was available. But as disciples who know that God can do anything with what we have been given.