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two hands holding out a circular loaf of bread wrapped in a cloth
Photo by Kate Remmer on Unsplash.

Loaves and fishes

03 Jul 2023 • 11 min read

This post is an adaptation of a speech I gave in church on May 28th, 2023.

I was recently pondering about offerings that we give the Lord when my thoughts turned to these verses:

33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him.

34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

35 And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:

36 Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.1

16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.2

In this story, there is a very large crowd of people that the Lord is teaching. The scriptures say that there were 5000 men, plus more women and children that weren’t numbered. The end of the day is approaching and it is time for them to be on their way. But Jesus doesn’t want them to leave, he wants to take care of them and give them something to eat.

Imagine you are one of the disciplines and the Lord turns to you and says, “give ye them to eat”. What do you do? How do you follow through on this command?

One of the Lord's disciples had his doubts:

7 Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year's wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ 3

The Lord is asking them to come up with food for an enormous group of people, and there are so many people there that half a year’s wages would hardly buy each person a bite, let alone give them a full meal.

Is there a time in your life where you feel like the Lord is asking you to do something that feels so impossible, so out of reach, so beyond your current capacity? Do you feel that way right now?

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,

9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?4

About this individual, Elder Stanfill said:

Do you ever wonder how the Savior must have felt about this young boy, who with the faith of a child offered what he must have known to be woefully inadequate in the face of the task at hand?”5

Here we have this young boy who makes an offering of maybe two grocery sacks full of food in an attempt to feed a crowd large enough to fill a small stadium. At face value, the boy’s attempt seems absurd! But with that offering came a miracle:

41 And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.

42 And they did all eat, and were filled.

43 And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.6

There are times when the Lord approaches us with an ask like this–where He asks us to do something far beyond our capacity. But rather than turn away or shrink from it, let us make our very best–even inadequate–offering to Him. Because when we give an offering to the Lord, He can take that offering and magnify it to accomplish things far beyond what we thought was possible. And when the miracle is done–we are left with more than what we initially offered.

In the future, you may be invited to make an offering for the Lord. Whether you have accepted or declined invitations like this in the past, I invite you to consider this story before giving an answer to the invitation. Choose to accept it and make an offering–woefully inadequate as it might be–because that is how the Lord can use you to do wonderful things.

Jesus makes it possible

Now, imagine in this story that we replace Jesus Christ with any other earthly teacher. The teacher asks his associates to help find food for the crowd, a boy approaches with $30 worth of food (which does no good to solve the problem), and everyone leaves hungry.

Jesus makes all of the difference in the offering.

So as we make an offering, we should direct our focus to Him who can make it more than it is. This is what King Benjamin was talking about when he said:

16 Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.

17And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.7

When you choose to offer your time by visiting your ministering sister, you aren’t ministering because you were given you an assignment. You are ministering for Jesus Christ.

When you accept a calling that feels outside of your comfort zone, you are not serving simply because you accepted the call. You are serving for Jesus Christ.

When you choose to make the trek up to attend the temple despite a hectic schedule, you are serving for Jesus.

When we make Jesus the focus of our service, we begin to be more truly yoked with the Savior. We experience more clearly the effects that service can have on us.

The “why” of our service

Sister Joy D. Jones shared a story in general conference that describes the change that can occur as we shift our focus to serving for Jesus Christ. She said:

As a young couple, my husband and I were called by our bishop to visit and minister to a family who hadn’t been to church in many years. We willingly accepted the assignment and went to their home a few days later. It was immediately clear to us that they did not want visitors from the Church.

So on our next visit, we approached them with a plate of cookies, confident that chocolate chips would melt their hearts. They didn’t. The couple spoke to us through the screen door, making it even clearer that we weren’t welcome.

Our lack of spiritual vision made additional failed attempts frustrating. Rejection is never comfortable. Over time we began to ask ourselves, “Why are we doing this? What is our purpose?”

After much sincere prayer and study, we received the answer to the why of our service. We had a change in our understanding, a change of heart, actually a revelatory experience. As we sought direction from the scriptures, the Lord taught us how to make the process of serving others easier and more meaningful. Here is the verse we read that changed both our hearts and our approach: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.” Though this verse was so familiar, it seemed to speak to us in a new and important way.

We realized that we were sincerely striving to serve this family and to serve our bishop, but we had to ask ourselves if we were really serving out of love for the Lord. Knowing the who and the why in serving others helps us understand that the highest manifestation of love is devotion to God.

As our focus gradually changed, so did our prayers. We began looking forward to our visits with this dear family because of our love for the Lord. We were doing it for [Jesus Christ]. He made the struggle no longer a struggle. After many months of our standing on the doorstep, the family began letting us in. Eventually, we had regular prayer and tender gospel discussions together. A long-lasting friendship developed. We were worshipping and loving Him by loving His children.8

Called to the high council

This story had an impact on me earlier this year when I was called to the high council. When I first received the call, I didn’t feel a lot of excitement about it. I felt feelings like:

  • “I don’t want to be away from my own ward that much, all of my friends are in the 4th ward!”
  • “I already know how to be a clerk and would rather just keep doing that because it’s easy now.”
  • “I don’t want to have to go to all the meetings a high councilor goes to.”
  • “I am way too young to be a high councilor, high councilors are a bunch of old guys!”

Pretty soon after, the Lord told me I needed to change my attitude. I was listening to conference and listened to the talk I quoted earlier, and it shifted my focus away from myself and towards the “why” of my service. Instead of thinking so much about all of the things I didn’t want, I chose to focus on Jesus Christ.

So when I have to get up on a Sunday morning for a 6:30am meeting, I think “I am not doing this for the stake president, I am doing this for Jesus Christ”. When I need to go to the congregation I am called to support (the Clinton branch) instead of my own ward, I think “I am not doing this for the Clinton branch, I am doing this for Jesus Christ”.

Shifting my focus to serving for Jesus Christ has made an enormous difference about how I feel about my calling. I find myself more willing to go the extra mile and magnify my calling more than I previously would. It has brought a greater amount of joy into the time that I spend serving in my calling.

Do I occasionally wish I could change the time of the early morning high council meeting? Yes...every single time! But focusing my service on Jesus Christ has brought greater power and greater peace than I have experienced through serving in any other calling.

Remember Him

So how do we make Jesus the focus of our offering? We can deliberately choose to remember Him. We remember Him by giving Him our time, our talents, and our hearts.

We can remember Him by spending time with Him each day through diligent scripture study and prayer. We have been invited by our leaders to seek the character of Christ as we read the words of ancient and modern prophets. I testify that as we follow that invitation, we will come to know Christ in a deeper, more personal way. It will become easier for us to remember Him because we know Him!

We can remember Him by lending our talents to his work. Whatever capacity we serve in, the Lord has a place for each of us and needs us to participate in this work with Him.

We can remember Him by giving Him our hearts. We live in a world filled with chaos and confusion, distraction and disappointment. It is easy to have our hearts be filled with things of the world. However, we can choose to give our hearts to the Savior by pushing out the animosity and negativity of the world so that He can fill our hearts with his peace and love. By giving Him our hearts, we remember Him.

Conclusion

Make a determination of how will you remember Him. Whether you choose to give Him your time, your talents, your heart, or something else–I know that as you choose to remember Him, he will take your offering and magnify it to something so much greater.

Footnotes

  1. Mark 6:33-36

  2. Matthew 14:16

  3. John 6:7 (NIV)

  4. John 6:8-9

  5. The Imperfect Harvest, Elder Vern P. Stanfill

  6. Mark 6:41-43

  7. Mosiah 2:16-17

  8. For Him, Joy D. Jones

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