bread, oil, and a stick

There’s this “thing” I’ve been dealing with. It’s an ugly, life-sucking “thing”. A “thing” that narrows your view and causes your eyes to miss what is right in front of you. A “thing” that fills your head and heart with worry, fear, and discontentment. This “thing” is lack. Or really, the illusion of lack.

See, I’m really not lacking anything I need. I have everything I need, yet somehow I’ve been feeling like it’s not enough. Not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough sleep. Not enough downtime. Not enough cute clothes. Not enough cupboard space. Not enough electronic toys. Not enough good food. Not enough. Not enough. Not enough.

There were people in the Bible who had the same “thing” as me. They saw what was right in front of themselves, and said it wasn’t enough.

A bush began burning, but it was not consumed. And God speaks to a stuttering shepherd. Having noticed His people oppressed and crying out, God begins his masterful redemptive story through a bush on Mt. Horeb. On this holy ground, God calls Moses to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt.

Back and forth the conversation goes, and in chapter 4, Moses worries, “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me?” What if I don’t have enough power or authority? What if I lack leadership skills? What if I don’t have what it takes to set your people free?

“What’s that in your hand?” God asks.

Moses looks at his hand, and sees a shepherd’s staff. God commands Moses to throw the stick on the ground and when he does, it turns into a snake. Seizing the snake by the tail, it turns back into his staff.


The Bible teaches in 2 Kings 4 of Elisha and a widow who was lacking and fearful. Her children were about to be sold into slavery because of the debt she couldn’t pay off. In anxiety, the widow comes to Elisha for help. He responds “What do you have in the house?”

She tells him she has nothing, except a jar of oil. Not enough. She doesn’t have an education or experience. She doesn’t have a way to make money. She doesn’t have enough skill or wit or crafts or baked goods.

Elisha instructs the widow to go to her neighbors and borrow their vessels. Then, inside her house, she is to start pouring oil into the vessels until each is full.

The widow does as she’s told and the small amount of oil, that wasn’t enough, is miraculously multiplied to fill all of the neighbor’s vessels. Selling the oil, the widow uses the money to pay her debts and save her children from slavery.

The widow’s ‘not enough’ turned into more than she could have ever expected.

Fast forward a few years to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6. There’s a problem  of lack once again. A huge crowd has gathered around Jesus and they’re hungry. Jesus instructs the disciples to give them something to eat, to which they suggest leaving to buy 200 denarii worth of bread. Then Jesus asks them the most profound question: “How  many loaves do you have?”

The disciples tell Him 5 loaves and 2 fish. From there, Jesus takes what the disciples have and multiplies it, performing one of the more well known of all His miracles.

This same story is told on a smaller scale in Mark 8, with 4,000 people and 7 loaves of bread. But Jesus asks the disciples the same question,”How many loaves DO you have?”

What’s that in your hand?
What do you have in the house?
How many loaves do you have?

It’s easy for me to see what I don’t have. It’s easy to focus on what I lack. Enough never seems to be enough for me. Not enough experience. Not enough knowledge. Not enough confidence. Not enough power. Not enough authority. Not enough patience. Not enough time. Not enough training. Not enough income. Not enough influence. Not enough.

But lately, God’s been asking me the question,”What do you have?”

A question that cuts to the heart of my selfishness, my greed, my discontentment. My eyes are clouded and it’s hard to see what I do have right in front of me.

I do have a job. I do have friends. I do have family. I do have a place to live. I do have food. I do have a computer. I do have a closet of clothes. I do have an income. I do have a church home. I do have a life group. I do have 24 hours each day. I do have.

I have just what I need. That’s the thing about serving a God who doesn’t just have access to all resources, but is actually the Source. He has plenty and He is plenty. But He asks us to consider what we have. When I say I lack, He asks, ” What DO you have?”

So consider your gifts, your talents, your blessings…look right in front of your nose and see what you already have. And perhaps God will take what you already have and multiply it beyond your wildest dreams.

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