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When the challenge is great, but God is greater

Updated: May 2, 2022

John 6:8-13 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.

This story has been on my mind a lot in recent days… Isn’t it interesting that in this scene there are five thousand men there, perhaps 10-15 thousand people when counting women and children, and yet there is only 1 kid who had food? Could it be that no one brought food for the journey? The boy was the only responsible one?

Or could it be, that someone else had food, but saw the crowd of people and realized that what little they had to offer was nothing compared to the enormity of the need, and so no one offered up their food except the young boy who had yet to get infected with the cynicism of the world? He had a hopeful faith that this rabbi who was asking for the food, was to be trusted with whatever he asked for.

We don’t know, any answer to that question would be pure speculation, of course, nevertheless, only a little boy approaches Jesus, and yet in verse 9 we see Andrew expressing the thought that so many of us would have: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”.

How often do we see the immensity of the challenge, and in fixating on that we take our eyes off of the author of life and the creator and sustainer of all creation? How often do I tell God how big my problems are instead of telling my problems how awesome and powerful my God is?

Well the church I have the privilege to pastor, Loftstofan Baptistakirkja, is a tiny church compared to US standards, and our budget is tiny as well, yet we were faced with an enormous need, the war in Ukraine had left some of our partnering churches in some European cities including in Ukraine itself struggling to provide for the immense need there, so we as a church committed to minimizing our costs as much as we could, to give whatever money was left over to churches in 2 cities in Ukraine doing amazing work to serve their people and point to Jesus, and a bunch of churches in Poland doing the same as they take in refugees and try to provide necessities and housing and such.

Our people stepped up and gave sacrificially and we got to send some money out to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and Poland, but then refugees start coming into Iceland, as of right now we have roughly 800 of them, and Vlad and Anna, who have been attending our church for a couple of years and are Ukrainian started to do whatever they could to help them as they needed help with translation and so on.

Quickly they saw there was a great need for basic supplies like toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, cutlery, towels, basic foods, clothing and so on, and so the church started helping with some of those needs.

Well... since we started this initiative roughly 8 weeks ago we have covered the basic cost of ministry and been able to take in over 3.000.000kr. in pledged giving (that's roughly 23,000$) to go towards relief, and due to Anna and Vlad stepping up in faithfulness with what little they had to offer for a giant problem, they have now been able to be directly in contact with almost 200 of the 800 or so Ukrainian refugees in Iceland helping them in various ways, leading to a few of them even joining us for Sunday morning services, it has been a joy to see God take what little we have to offer and using it to meet a very great need.

During roughly the same time period God also met another huge need that we had been waiting for for over a year… Due to Salómon’s disability, we needed a bigger car with a wheelchair ramp that can fit 5 people plus a wheelchair.

A grant from the government came through that roughly paid for half of the car and all the modifications for a ramp, a church came in and blessed us with roughly ¼ of the price of the car, and after looking for a car and asking God for guidance, our options were limited to basically 1 car, and it turns out that it had been a showroom car in the dealership for over a year so the price of it was dropped and we can now afford it.

This financial problem that had been weighing me down for SO LONG, and looked like an impossible problem to overcome, was just eradicated in 2 weeks, it was really crazy to experience.

Lastly, as I’ve thought about this, how God has taken what little we have financially and multiplied it and used it in mighty ways, I wondered if I had missed it in other ways that were not financial in nature.

If you haven’t worked as a pastor let me tell you, there’s a surprising amount of stuff to do that I in no way thought of when I took the step into ministry... Admin work, paperwork for the government, e-mails to answer, salaries to pay, bookkeeping, fundraising, calls, meetings with various people for various reasons, pastoral meetings and on and on the list goes.

I’m guessing that it is surprising to most people who go into pastoring to realize just how easy it is to neglect the actual call of the pastor to teach the word and to pray (Acts 6:4), well during these last 2 weeks I had to focus on admin work, and I decided to start by giving God the best time in my day to focus on prayer and reading and using the rest of the day to wrap up the other assignments that needed to be done.

Surely enough, not only have I had some of the best moments in prayer and in the Word, uncomfortably long at times as I felt my tendency to want to go and do something that felt more "productive" and tangible, but just as God had taken what little we had to offer and used it to solve immense financial challenges, God had taken this pledge and used it to make my time spent on admin work be way more effective than before.

Man, I wonder how much peace do we forfeit trying to do everything ourselves? chopping the mountains down into little pieces to move them, when we simply need a little faith in the one who can move it with ease, and when it is his work, and so obviously his work, he alone is glorified. What an awesome journey to get to be a part of.

Soli Deo Gloria as the saints of old used to say, may it be so, to God alone be the glory. "What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!" -What a friend we have in Jesus.

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