Jesus Always Multiplied

brown and blue house on mountain

Jesus’ first recorded miracle was when he turned water into wine. At a wedding in Cana, Jesus’ mother told him that the wine had run out. Then, ordering some men to fill the six purification water jars (each holding 20-30 gallons) with water, the master of the feast tasted a glass and was impressed with the good quality of the wine. He didn’t know where it came from, but the men who filled the jars knew. Jesus took twelve apostles and multiplied his disciples. Jesus took five loaves and two fish and multiplied it into enough food to feed 5,000.

Over and over again, Jesus multiplied blessings for people. And he did this with virtually nothing. In fact, he told his twelve apostles to “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart” (Luke 9:3-4 ESV).

It’s important to note that Jesus told them to take away, not add, resources that could potentially help them in their ministry. Money is generally considered a necessity when serving other people. Ministry can be extremely difficult without it. Shoes and clothes were generally considered necessary for travel. But Jesus told them to take nothing beyond the clothes on their back. The church was birthed out of a need to depend on both God and the goodwill of other believers.

The COVID pandemic has stripped a lot of churches down to bare bones. We can look at it either one of two ways. We can either say that the church is doomed and can’t go on without the resources it once had or we can trust that God will multiply. Already we are seeing some surprising (and healthy) trends emerging from churches that have had their resources stripped away. God is blessing and there are many good things to come!

Never Give Up

wood dark dirty sign

All entrepreneurs who are successful will say the same thing–that giving up was never an option. They may have failed time and time again, but they never gave up. Our hope in Christ requires the same of every believer. We don’t have the option of giving up. We must not give up on the church. We must not give up on God. We must not give up on serving others.

Peter says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises. . . ” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV). Peter also says that steadfastness is a must.

Try to think about the disciples in the Bible who gave up and quit. It’s challenging to think of a list. They were so committed to the cause of Christ that they remained faithful even when tortured. It takes tremendous strength to keep pressing on, not knowing what the earthly outcome will be. But they stayed focused on the goal of heaven and God blessed the church!

There’s a common phrase that’s used in wedding vows–“for better or worse, in sickness and in health.” In other words, no matter the season, I will remain committed to you. Circumstances don’t change our loyalty to God and His church. When this is the case, the kingdom is blessed with fruitfulness.

Are You an Unworthy Servant?

hotel servant making bed in bedroom

Employers are not known for inviting their workers into their home to sit down at family meals. There is a separation of work and family, and workers are expected to do their jobs. We’ve been talking about passages where Jesus talks about the cost of being his disciples. People who plow and look back (come up with excuses) are not fit for the kingdom. Likewise, whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Jesus cannot be his disciple. Jesus also told a story of unworthy servants.

So what is an “unworthy servant?” Here’s what Jesus had to say: “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'” (Luke 17:10 ESV). Unworthy servants do their job. Unworthy is not the same as unvalued. In fact, unworthy servants have incredible value. Unworthy servants do not expect favors. They don’t demand or expect to sit at their boss’ table to eat until their work is done. They don’t expect to be thanked and commended for the work they were hired to do.

Christianity needs to remember this lesson. No job is above us. We are all called to serve our neighbors. We shouldn’t demand to be rewarded with praise and excessive gifts for doing the work God has called us to do. Entitlement is ruining the church. Instead, we need humility and thanksgiving. We are entering into the season of American Thanksgiving and it’s a reminder that we ought to always be thankful for all that we have. Every opportunity to serve others is a gift from God.

The Prodigal Returns

pink pig

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal is a younger of two sons who asked for his inheritance early. He took it and spent all that he had recklessly. When a famine hit, he hired himself out to someone and was feeding pigs. We often miss the grotesqueness of this image because we don’t consider pigs “unclean” like Jews did. It was highly offensive for someone to work for a farmer who raised pigs. Yet the prodigal worked among the pigs and even longed to eat from their trough.

The scene Jesus paints is one of embarrassment and despair. The prodigal had hit rock bottom. He wore shame like a blanket. Luke records, “When he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against haven and before you” (Luke 15:17-18 ESV).

The prodigal did, in fact, return home. When he was a long way off, his father saw him and had compassion on him. He ran and embraced him. Then he told his servants to kill the fattened calf and dress the son in the best robe. The older son was infuriated that his father would give preferential treatment to the irresponsible brother who squandered all of their dad’s money. But the father replied, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (vs. 31-32). God is a God of grace and always prefers to see his children come back to him.

You Cannot Plow and Look Back

tractor beside grass field

There’s no question that the entire structure of the church is changing rapidly. For the first time ever, US church membership fell below the majority. This is incredibly significant. It’s impossible to overstate how rapidly church membership is in a freefall. We’re in a similar situation that an airplane pilot would be in if the plane was in freefall. There is no time to look back and assess what went wrong. In the moment, it’s the pilot’s job to fix the free fall and avoid a crash.

Jesus gave a glaring example of this when he told his disciples the cost of following him. Jesus told a man to follow him. He replied, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (Luke 9:59 ESV). Another said he was going to say farewell to those at his home. Jesus responded by saying, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (vs. 62). In other words, the mission is too important to take care of other matters first. This is not only a lesson on the cost of following Jesus, but is also about priorities. When other things become more important, the church falls apart.

Immediately after this, Jesus sent out the seventy-two, two by two, into every town and place where he was about to go. Jesus was preparing for his ministry by equipping others to go before him. His words are important: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). The same is true today. We are in desperate need of laborers. More specifically, the church is in need of laborers who refuse to look back. If we are going to expand the kingdom, we have to be willing to follow Jesus now. We need to prioritize him above everything else in our lives. And we need to keep our eyes on the goal.

Rejoice In the Lord

woman surrounded by sunflowers

In life there is always an abundance of things thrown our way that are cause for complaint. Habakkuk knew this all too well. He was weary of witnessing oppression. While the lives of the oppressed got much worse, the lives of the wicked got better. Habakkuk complained, “Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted” (Habakkuk 1:3-4 ESV).

What’s even worse is that Habakkuk noticed that righteous people are like the fish of the sea. . . helpless to save themselves when the wicked cast their nets, swallowing them up and making offerings to their dragnet. The wicked profited off of stealing from and selling the people they oppressed: “for by them (the righteous oppressed) he lives in luxury and his food is rich. Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?” (1:16-17).

God answered Habakkuk and reminded him that the righteous live by faith and those who oppress others will receive their judgment. Habakkuk appropriately ends by acknowledging that hard times will come, but we still need to rejoice: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (3:17-18). Even in the hard times, God is still God and we should take joy in the God of our salvation.

Christianity Requires Us to Do Good To Others

cold dirty texture wall

Do good. It’s not a phrase that we hear often. But it’s one that was repeated often in the scriptures. Ephesians 2:10 ESV says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We were created for good works, for doing good to others. That is our purpose and God’s desire. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

2 Thessalonians 3:13 says, “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” And Hebrews 13:16 says, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Are we getting the picture? Over and over again we are told to do good to one another.

Perhaps a different way to put this is, don’t be greedy with the many ways you can bless others. The word “good” is intentionally broad. There are literally a million ways that we can do good to one another. We can mow a lawn or rake leaves. We can drop off groceries to the hungry family. We can pray with those who are struggling. We can lend an ear to people whose lives are in tatters. We can put gas in someone’s car. The sky is the limit. But whatever good we do, we should point people to Jesus Christ. As Paul said, “in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”