Monthly Archives: December 2012

God’s Crazy Maths (Fruitful Insights #3)

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I’ve written a post about fruitfulness and productivity which is a kind of introduction to these posts. This is the third post about specific insights about fruitfulness. The first is here and the second is here.

So the third insight related to this theme that I want to share with you came to me when I was working at the Warehouse NGO/charity full time for a week to help coordinate volunteers who had come in to sort and pack donations for those affected by a bad fire in Langa township. If you want to read more about that there’s a few stories here and here.

As we were praying one morning, in that busy but fullfilling week, the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 popped into my mind. That same story kept seeming to come up, before and after that day, in sermons, bible readings and conversations. I was starting to get the impression that God wanted to bring it to my attention.

What occurred to me was that the disciples were overwhelmed and freaked out because they thought Jesus was asking them to meet this huge need of the massive crowd’s hunger with their own resources. They were wondering if Jesus really meant them to go and spend the equivalent of a few years wages on just one lunch. Surely not?! They were worried that their own resources weren’t enough… and they were right.

But Jesus wasn’t overwhelmed or panicked. He wasn’t for one moment expecting to meet the need from purely human resources. He knew that God would be meeting the need, supernaturally. He calmly used a small, seemingly inconsequential amount of resources, a seed of the provision (a few little loaves and fishes) from the very community that had the huge need. He thanked God for the seed, not waiting for the full provision to be thankful. And then the miraculous provision came and he invited his followers to be part of distributing the provision from God to the people.

I reflected that I often get overwhelmed by the needs I see around me. But I’ve realised that’s often because in some way I erroneously believe that I’m supposed to be meeting the need with my own resources, my own physical resources or from my own wisdom or in my own strength. But that’s never what God’s asking of me. I don’t need to be overwhelmed because I can stand with the community or person with the need, and help them to identity the seed of resources they themselves can offer, however seemingly small – whether that’s physical resources, initiative, vision, energy or skills. We can together present that to God with thankfulness and allow him to be the one who provides. Then, wonderfully, I can be part of the distribution of that provision, being a channel of it rather than a source of it.

The other thing about the feeding of the 5,000 story is that, although often our efforts, our ‘maths’ may come to ‘nought’, Gods maths is crazy multiplication. 3+5=5000. Abundant, crazy maths.

Obviously how that looks in specific situations can be tricky to work out and I know it’s not always as simple a that, but it’s been a huge mental shift for me. I now recognise when I feel overwhelmed by need and remind myself that I need to adjust how I’m thinking about it; that it’s not down to me to fix it with my own strength and resources but to be part of God meeting that need, using the initiative of the person/community as the starting point or seed and presenting that to God with thankfulness and anticipation. And in that way, the results are God’s crazy multiplication outcomes that I couldn’t make happen myself.

All poems and original writing on this blog are Copyright © Hilary Murdoch 2013
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Fishing in the right spot (Fruitful Insights #2)

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I’ve written a post about fruitfulness and productivity which is a kind of introduction to these posts. This is the second post about specific insights about fruitfulness. The first is here.

Recently, since coming back to South Africa this year, I feel God’s been sharing insights with me on a similar theme through incidents in the gospels.

When Peter was called to be a follower of Jesus, he’d spent all night working hard fishing with nothing to show for it. Striving to be productive.

Then Jesus audaciously tells him to throw his nets out on the other side of the boat. Peter must have been ready to explode: sleep deprived after a long and frustrating night, this could have been the last straw. Why would the other side make any difference? It’s the very same water he’s been fishing all night entirely unsuccessfully. Any fisherman with any sense at all would know you fish at night, not during the day. It doesn’t make any sense. But amazingly he did what the stranger said. He didn’t know much of Jesus but he knew enough to know it was worth listening to him.

And his obedience was fruitful, mind-blowingly, abundantly fruitful. In just one drop of his nets he caught more fish than he could pull in and had to ask for help, both boats were bursting with jumping fish! So much so that they started to sink under the weight of fruitfulness. In the midst of the chaos of bringing in the miraculous catch Peter must have been utterly baffled and shocked, who on earth is this man?! He is left in no doubt and is so convinced that he leaves everything to follow him. Jesus promises him that the sign of fruitfulness in fish will be replicated in fruitfulness in people’s lives.

That story really spoke to me about how often we slog away, working long and hard on what we think will be productive, even what we think will be fruitful. But if we listen to what God’s trying to tell us, and go where he’s prompting us and opening doors, even if it doesn’t seem sensible, then it can be hugely abundantly fruitful, often with less effort exerted. It’s not lazy, just efficient! Maybe it doesn’t always require the long hard slog we think it should in our work=value ethic. If we focus on the places/ relationships/activities that we believe God’s guiding us to, then the fruit can be disproportionate to our effort. He likes it that way because then we know it’s from him not us.

I’ve experienced that recently, the less I try to force and orchestrate stuff to happen that I think will be productive, and the more I try to listen to God and be flexible to go with the flow of where I believe he’s guiding me, the more I get into unexpected and hugely fruitful conversations, opportunities and encounters that would never have happened if I’d been fixing it all up. I’m definitely still learning but I’m feeling so excited and grateful for this insight and how I see it working out in my life.

Photo credit: Flickr ezioman