As I write this blog, many teachers are wrapping up their summer to begin a new school year. There is often great excitement and anticipation for what the new year will bring! While teaching has always been a complex, challenging, and rewarding career, I must admit that much has changed since I stepped into my first classroom thirty-five years ago. As I travel the country and talk with teachers, I am encouraged by their tenacity and somewhat astounded by what I hear. The task of teaching in today’s culture of ever-changing leadership, high teacher turnover, obsessive testing, safety concerns, diminishing resources, lack of legislative support, and broken families can make even the most committed educator feel overwhelmed.
There are no quick answers, no easy fixes. However, as Christian educators, there is something we can do. Let me take you back to a familiar story in Mark 6 (NLT).
31 Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. (I’m pretty sure most teachers feel this way at the end of each day!)
32 So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. 33 But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. 34 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (I love the part where it says Jesus had compassion on them. This reminds me of teachers, too. Teachers are the most compassionate people I know.)
35 Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. 36 Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.”
37 But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!” (I can only imagine how the disciples sounded. I’m sure they were thinking, “You have got to be kidding!”)
38 “How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.” (They hadn’t even considered the possibilities.)
They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred. 41 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. 42 They all ate as much as they wanted, 43 and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. 44 A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed.
Like you, I have read or heard these verses many times, but this time God spoke a fresh word to me. I don’t want to be like the disciples. All they saw was their limitations. The need was too great. I love how Jesus chose to respond to them. He basically MADE them take stock of what they DID have. They didn’t even know! When we focus on our limitations or what we don’t have, we limit what God can do. Jesus simply asked them to bring what they had—no matter how insignificant it was. Their resources were certainly miniscule. Five loaves a two fish were next to nothing compared to the need that faced them.
Do you ever feel like the need is too great, that you have so little to offer? If you do, you are right there with the disciples. Don’t miss what Jesus did. He took what little they had and multiplied it in abundance! As a result needs were met and God was glorified.
You might be like the disciples thinking, “With what?” “What do I have to bring?” Jesus may be saying to you, “Go and find out.” Like the disciples, God has placed you where you are for a reason. He wants to use you to meet the needs of those around you and ultimately bring Him glory. Join me in prayerfully considering the questions listed below.
· Where has God placed you this year?
· What are the needs around you?
· What are your loaves and fishes?
· What can you bring for God to multiply?
Be encouraged! The Jesus that fed the 5,000 is the same Jesus today. He is the great multiplier!