Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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-- Proclaiming His Gospel

 

The Law of Use

Jesus multiplies bread

by Dennis Pollock

The apostle Paul liked to compare the Christian life to the athletic games of his day. In writing to Timothy he stated, "And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules." Because we evangelicals fully realize that salvation is "by grace through faith," we often have a hard time seeing rules as having any place in Christianity, but that is a mistake. One definition of a rule is: "a principle or regulation governing conduct, action, procedure, or arrangement," and even though we are justified and accepted in God's sight by the grace of our Lord Jesus, there are still principles and regulations that must govern our lives and behavior if we are to live fruitful, productive lives in Christ.

Imagine a fantastic basketball player who simply refuses to pay attention to the out of bounds lines. He can dribble the ball masterfully, he can drain beautiful long three-pointers, he can dunk the ball at will, but half the time he has the basketball in his hands he turns it over to the other team by stepping out of bounds. All his skill and athletic ability are going to be useless until someone can get it into his head that you have to follow the rules – you have to stay inbounds.

Once we have been born again through faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit enters us and begins to produce in us a great yearning for God to use us to further His kingdom and bring blessings to other people. This yearning is so strong, and its presence such an integral part of what it is to be a Christian, that if it does not exist it is questionable whether the new birth has taken place at all. But desire alone is not enough. There is a prescribed way that we can find ourselves in the place of usefulness. There is a rule which governs how useful we will become. It is clearly enunciated by our Lord, and if followed it will ensure a life of usefulness and fruitfulness. I call it the law of use.

Whoever has...

Jesus was asked by the disciples why it was that He spoke in parables, and not plainly so that everybody could understand. He replied, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him" (Matthew 13:11,12). Here is the law of use; here is Jesus' prescription for spiritual productivity in the kingdom of God. Take full advantage of the little that you presently have and more is sure to come. Refuse to work with the little that you may possess, and even the little you now have will soon be lost. The refusal to take advantage of present privileges and opportunities, regardless of how small, is the surest way to lose what you have.

When Jesus told His disciples of His intention to feed the hungry multitudes, they thought the idea was ridiculous. They asked, "Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?" The little bread available couldn't come close to covering a fraction of the needs of the many thousands of people present. But Jesus asked them, "How many loaves do you have?" He didn't ask them, "How many loaves do you figure we are going to need?" He didn't ask them, "How much money do you suppose it will take to buy the necessary bread?" He asks them, "How many loaves do you have?" The question is never, "What don't you have;" the question is always, "What do you have?" In this case they had seven loaves. The reality was this: they didn’t have much but they did have something. Jesus' attitude was, "Fine, let's work with what you do have."

After He blessed the bread and the fish, they begin passing them out and lo and behold, God multiplied the food until everyone was fed and there was food left over. Those who use what they have receive more; those who sit around and moan about what they don't have are going to eventually lose even the little that they have. This is the law of use. And notice that this is not just a physical law. There is no natural explanation for the multiplying of the fish and loaves. Liberals have sometimes suggested that the real miracle was that when the people saw them trying to feed everyone with such a small amount, they became generous and brought out the food they had been hiding until there was enough food for everybody. But this was no psychological phenomenon. This was a genuine miracle, as the Spirit of God literally multiplied the bread and the fish when the disciples dared to use the little they had and trust Jesus enough to obey Him and start serving dinner to the huge crowd.

pushupThe law of use certainly works on a physical level. Let some scrawny little fellow attempt to do some push-ups. He finds he can only accomplish the grand total of two push-ups at his first attempt. Two is surely not very much but it is better than none at all. He has a little to work with; he has the strength to do two pushups. But as he continues he finds that by the end of two weeks he is able to do four pushups. He has doubled the level he started at – still nothing to brag about but a definite improvement. One hundred percent increase in two weeks' time isn't too bad. Give the man a year and he may well be doing fifty pushups at a time. So the law of use works at a physical level, but we need to see that for the born again children of God it works at a level far beyond that. It works on a supernatural level. As we use the little we have for the glory of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit gets involved and does thing that could never be explained by mere physical laws. Thus the little shepherd boy David easily kills a man three times his size, Jonah turns the pagan city of Nineveh to the true God after three days of preaching, Elisha strikes the Jordan river with a robe and the river parts for him to pass, handkerchiefs from Paul's body bring healing to the sick and drive out demons, and Peter, the former fisherman, preaches a simple gospel message and three thousand people come to Christ. Our little becomes much when placed in the Master's hands.

The Bottom of the Barrel

When David was forced to leave his position with King Saul, he fled to the wilderness, and God began to train him in the ways of leadership. But he didn't have much to work with in those early days. We read: "And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them." We sometimes use the term cream of the crop in reference to the best of the best, but in David's case the men who became his followers out in the Judean desert were more like the bottom of the barrel. All the men who couldn't fit in or weren't happy with normal society gravitated toward David. Can you imagine the problems involved in trying to keep things running smoothly with a group of men like this? At one point, when their wives and children had been captured by the Amalekites, they talked of stoning him. It no doubt took all the wisdom, courage, and patience David could muster to try to keep this group together and functional. When Samuel anointed David with oil and told him he would be king over Israel he certainly never foresaw this. But this is what God gave him to start with, as He prepared His servant to eventually assume the role as king of Israel.

David was faithful. He worked with what he had been given and didn't sit around pouting over what he didn't have. Eventually things began to change. As time went by a better quality of men began to join David's ranks. We read:

Now these were the men who came to David at Ziklag while he was still a fugitive from Saul the son of Kish; and they were among the mighty men, helpers in the war, armed with bows, using both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows with the bow… Some Gadites joined David at the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for battle, who could handle shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as gazelles on the mountains… When he went to Ziklag, those of Manasseh who defected to him were… captains of the thousands who were from Manasseh. And they helped David against the bands of raiders, for they were all mighty men of valor, and they were captains in the army. For at that time they came to David day by day to help him, until it was a great army, like the army of God. (1 Chronicles 12)

David had probably never heard of the law of use, but he was surely practicing it! Starting with his little band of malcontents he faithfully led them, directed them, and followed God's plan for this season of his life. It wasn't glamorous and it wasn't fun, but it was His present assignment from God and he did not shrink from it. As he used what he had, more (and of a better quality) was given to him. One of the surest evidences of God's readiness and willingness to promote you is when you are found using all you have, whether little or much, for the glory of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. So often we want to start at the top of the ladder with the finest equipment, the most talented helpers, and the largest possible crowds. And when God presents an opportunity for ministry and usefulness to us, we look at how pathetically small it is and the few meager resources we have to do the work, and figure that it's hardly worth the effort. This is a fatal mistake! The Bible tells us, "For who has despised the day of small things?" Jump feet first into every opportunity the Lord presents to you, refusing to wait until conditions are perfect and the crowds are enormous. To him that has shall more be given!

Stir Up Those Gifts!

Paul wrote to Timothy, "stir up the gift of God which is in you…" So how do we stir up our gifts? Notice that Paul told Timothy that he was to stir up his gifts; he wasn't to pray that God would stir them up. Christ gives gifts to His people, but we are to stir them up. And the major way we stir them up is to use them. If you are gifted as a speaker, find a way to speak. If there is no 3,000 seat auditorium filled with people available to you, teach in a home group or go to the local nursing home or prison and open your mouth for Christ. But by all mean start speaking. Don't wait for an invitation from some megachurch before you start! If you are gifted in the area of administration, volunteer to organize some aspect of your church's ministry, even if means simply organizing the scheduling of Sunday school teachers, or the routes of the bus ministry. Many who dream of doing great things for God are living in a fantasy world. Waiting for their big break, they are daily overlooking all kinds of smaller opportunities to serve the Lord. And because they refuse to use what they have, their big break is never going to come.

This, then is the rule for promotion in the service of Christ, for productivity, and for increase. And just as athletes never win championships unless they learn and follow the rules of their sport, neither do God's children ever achieve success and fruitfulness without following this simple rule of using what they have. Once we have been born again and begun our life of abiding in Jesus, He will give us assignments. They almost never will start out large or very impressive. There is a testing ground of smallness where we must first prove our commitment. With our eyes on the Lord Jesus, and our hands firmly on the plow He has created uniquely for us, let us go forth with faith in Him. In His time the increase will come.


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