Faith and Fish

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July 24, 2023
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4 min read
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It's right there in the fine print. In Mark 6, the disciples come to Jesus with a problem. Moved by the needs of a crowd that followed him to a remote area, Jesus has been teaching for hours.  The desolate location worries the disciples, as does the late hour. Jesus needs to call it a day.  They’ve decided Jesus should wrap this sermon series up:

“When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place and the hour is now late.  Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (Mark 6:35-36).

Jesus’ reply shows he has a motive too. His, however, is a far deeper one:

“But he answered them, “You give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37).  

Jesus answers with more than a reply. He calls them to action. It’s like he’s saying, “It’s time to stretch folks. It’s time to use that faith.”

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus throws down all kinds of golden opportunities for faith. His disciples witnessed many wonders before this conversation took place. The demon-possessed man who lived among the Gerasene tombs had been freed. A woman whose twelve-year struggle with an issue of blood had been healed through a faith-filled touch. Jairus, a ruler in the synagogue, welcomed his dead daughter back to life. Christ’s disciples had seen many miracles happen. Now Jesus invited them to be part of one.

Jesus calls us to the same thing. In ways both large and small, he asks us to join his supernatural work. The still, small voice of our Savior faithfully speaks, but we don’t always respond. Perhaps we’re called to reach out in love to a neighbor or family member who has hurt us. In casual conversations, we may be called to speak up or remain silent. Proactively operating in love, God may call us to do something or make some reparation. The hard, humbling work of overcoming evil with good, per Romans 12, is the essence of Christ’s calls.

What if the disciples responded differently? What if their response was, “Well Jesus, we don't know what we're doing, but you do, so pass those smoked fish, and let’s see what happens?”

That is the essence of faith. It’s climbing a ladder when you can’t see every rung. It’s moving forward in the fog, closely minding the lines on the side of the road. It’s holding on as the boat rocks back and forth and up and down, because you understand Jesus is Lord of land and sea. Hebrews 11:6 outlines a beautifully accessible definition of faith. It is believing God is who he says he is, and that he is the rewarder of those who earnestly seek him.

Why does God call us to use our faith? Every skill attained in life is strengthened through practice. Runners grow faster and stronger as they log the miles. The Michael Jordans of this world sink thousands of free throws before the game, so they can sink them at the line. Chess prodigies spend hours rehearsing novel strategies. Seasoned cooks experiment with new flavor combinations, and master gardeners fuss with soil combinations to tease out exotic blooms. Likewise, the muscle of faith gets stronger through use.  

Years ago I heard Elisabeth Elliot speak at a gathering in Akron. Her text came from Mark 6:45-52, where Jesus led the disciples straight into a storm at sea. Why would Jesus lead them into a precarious, dangerous situation? Why would he direct them to cross to Bethsaida when he knew they would meet with a calamity?  

Elliot's answer was strong and clear. The lesson was simply that God has a mission for our lives, and the outworking of that mission is about his glory. “God is far more concerned with our faith than our comfort,” Elliot stated calmly. I was stunned and inspired. This woman had been led into dramatic storms with powerful, life-altering repercussions.  

Jesus continually throws down opportunities that require faith and says, in his way, “Go ahead– you feed them.” Faith always operates outside our comfort zone, and that reality gives God glory. He calls us to stretch our spiritual muscles in new contexts and touchy situations, through stressors and struggles, and with friends and family members who disappoint or discourage us. He asks us to take a step of faith and see what happens. 

Jesus wasn’t going anywhere when he called the disciples to feed the five thousand. His promise of presence stands true in every faith throwdown; he will never leave or forsake us. Whatever the call to faith, he will be there, a strong powerful player in the process.  

When we pick up Christ’s faith throwdowns, we realize they’re never about tangible things like fish. They’re about him.

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Crystal is a Christ-follower, wife, mother, counselor, and friend. She is passionate about connecting others with the truth of God's miraculous power and sustaining presence.

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