Life has been pretty good and busy lately — good because God answers prayers, and busy because we also have to work hard in both the physical (going out and about) and spiritual (prayer) sense. These past 2 months have been a combination of nervousness and sighs of relief for us, and to say that we're happy with the progress we've made so far would only be an understatement. In actuality, we are absolutely swept away by God's love for us and moreover are we in awe of how things are slowly working out on our part.
In this season of prayers getting answered it is incredibly easy to get swayed by the idea that it is because of our faithfulness and years of prayer that caused God to hear us out, or maybe it's because we serve Him and go to small group and read the Bible. I used to think that way when I was younger, that my dealings with God was the same when my dad would promise me a new “item” if I did my best at school. As I grew in my relationship with the LORD, however, I realized that God does things quite differently.
Last Wednesday, we had 2:42 Bible study group and looked at the first portion of Mark 8 where Jesus fed a large crowd again. This time, it was a crowd of 4,000 people. We all know what happened thereafter isn't it? Jesus asked the disciples for whatever food was available and then He blessed and multiplied it. Our group also discussed how the disciples’ disbelief and doubts sometimes resemble the many of us — that even though we have already seen God's goodness in the past, we somehow still manage to forget to look at that same goodness when a new challenging season strikes us. Another point to consider is that God still provided though faithlessness and disbelief were both present in the air.
This led me to truly wanting to write something on this topic especially for all who still feel like they have to do something “grandeur” for God to come to their rescue. That being said, I’ll be looking back at the first portion of Mark 8 to aid me in this.
NOT ABOUT THE LENGTH
In verses 2-3, even before the disciples or the crowd voiced it out, Jesus knew beforehand that everyone was in dire need of physical food, and take note: He had compassion on them. He knew their hunger beforehand and was concerned that they might collapse on their way after three days of being with Him. For most of us, it comes instantly to mind that the longer we persevere, the longer we pray, or the more impressive our prayers are, the more chances of winning. Sometimes we would even expect for more than what we prayed for because we feel like we deserve to be heard and answered after all this time. But in this story we see that it has only been less than a week yet Jesus knew exactly what the multitude needed and as if it wasn't obvious, a miracle took place! Similarly, the length of one's being a Christian just for God to work on his/her life does not make them more or less important in God's sight.
NOT ABOUT HOW MUCH
Also, another thing to look at is Mark 8:5 where Jesus asked His disciples of the food that was available. They answered "7 loaves of bread". Where in this generation a piece of doughnut is not enough for 1 person, it is simple to understand the great deal of power that Jesus displayed in this story. I see the seven loaves of bread as faith. It is so much like the faith that is as small as a mustard seed (Matt: 17:20), which tells us that what God requires is just faith. It was not mentioned about exactly how much, how big or to what degree. As what others call it, faith is our ticket to heaven. Likewise, faith is our access to God, but unlike concert tickets where the higher the price, the closer we are to our favorite bands, Jesus' death on the cross made sure that whatever we have, wherever we are, whoever we are, or what background we come from is not going to be an issue. Jesus' death was for all, and that has given us the privilege to be called God's children — faith is what it takes to fully live out that privilege.
BUT ABOUT WHO GETS THE GLORY
When we go through all the hurdles and bumps in life and finally reach our destination, why is it that we often if not always, get overwhelmed by the view in front of us that God's goodness becomes hardly recognized behind it all? And worse, we do tend to give ourselves the credit that is due to God.
“I drove safely.” “I knew exactly what to do.” “I had my connections.”
Are these thoughts familiar yet?
In Mark 8:19-21, Jesus also asked His disciples about how much leftovers were there after the feeding of the five thousand and the four-thousand. They answered 12 and 7, respectively. Jesus soon replied to them: "Do you still not understand?" I feel like every single time a prayer gets answered, we're just like the disciples that when we get to the good stuff in front of us, we devour it all and quickly forget the good Father behind it. More often than not, we say "First step is done, let's move on to the second one" (we worry about this step a little bit) and sooner or later we go-past the left-overs from the previous blessing /provision. Guess what? Those left-overs should have been God's reminders that He's given us so much more, what else can He not do this time? And maybe, Jesus still asks the same question to us today. Do we still not understand? Do we still not realize that His goodness still matters more than whatever beauty our eyes/hands can lay on? Or maybe like the Pharisees (Mark 8:12), we still ask for more signs, more wonders, or more answered prayers to fully believe?
This portion of Mark 8 truly portrays a clear message about our faithfulness vs. God's goodness. And that is that all of the miracles Jesus performed wasn't to rub to everyone's faces who Jesus was and what He was capable of doing, but to point everything back to God. The disciples’ & Pharisees’ doubts were an integral part of the story too. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to zoom out and see the bigger picture which is God’s goodness. If they had only believed in Jesus from the start, it would have been easy for us to focus on them and not on God.
Yet just how many times do we feel like it is because of our faith that God has been good to us? And just how frequently do we take the credit that supposedly belongs to God?
At the end God is inherently good, and He does not withhold good from His children. God does honor our faith as it is said in Hebrews 11:6, “without faith it would be impossible to please God”, but I dare say that the bigger reason for our prayers getting answered still lies in God's goodness towards us.
I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. jeremiah 32:40
I also asked the same question to my mom after we had gotten home from our Bible Study that night, and she delightfully told me that our prayers getting answered is all because of God's goodness. It wasn't even because we did something. God certainly had a plan right from the very beginning so that, after all is said and done, the glory still goes back to Him.
I hope this post enlightened you. I may not be a scholar, but I am fond of analogies because I believe that somewhere out there, there are nuggets of wisdom waiting to be unfold.
Glory is all His!
Song to listen to: King of my Heart by Bethel
Thanks for making it to this portion of the internet. I am truly grateful for each one of you for reading my entries! Most of what I've written here are unspoken words — words I wish I could've said or shared with anyone in person but has remained in my heart until I was able to write it in here.
My life's full of downs than ups, but through it all, I have seen and tasted the sweetness of God's grace and love. With that, I can tell you with a convinced heart that God is faithful, He is good and He never runs out of love for you and for me. Hope you enjoy your read(s)!
Rest if you must, but don't you quit!
The Sunday Currently vol 15 (Easter Sunday)
The changing of seasons and what it teaches us
A season of pruning and refining
3 years into blogging + things I learned and unlearned
The Sunday Currently vol. 14
Louvre Museum, Abu Dhabi