How to Fill Your Empty Baskets, part 2 - God Loves to Use Small Things

Gospel According to Mark, Volume 3

God loves to use small things to accomplish His purposes for man. As we learn from the examples of Moses, Samson, and David, God always supports those willing to give everything - though they may feel they have little or nothing to offer - for His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Todd WagnerNov 26, 2000Mark 6:30-44
Mark 6:30-44

In This Series (10)
Jesus: You've Met the Lamb, Meet the Lion
Todd WagnerSep 23, 2001Mark 8:34-38
Who is Jesus? Indifference is Not an Option
Todd WagnerSep 9, 2001Mark 8:27-33
Dealing With Blindness Then & Now: His Patience With Our Problem
Todd WagnerSep 2, 2001Mark 8:22-26
4000+ Satisfied Customers, 12 Still-Confused Disciples
Todd WagnerAug 26, 2001Mark 8:1-21
Why a Jewish Baby Is the Best Gift Possible for a Ravenous Dog
Todd WagnerDec 17, 2000Mark 7:24-37
If You Ask Jesus That, Stand Back! Because 'Pop Goes the Weasel'
Todd WagnerDec 10, 2000Mark 7:1-23
Toiling in the Storm? Learn as Jesus Passes By
Todd WagnerDec 2, 2000Mark 6:45-56
How to Fill Your Empty Baskets, part 2 - God Loves to Use Small Things
Todd WagnerNov 26, 2000Mark 6:30-44
How to Fill Your Empty Baskets, part 1 - What You Need for Them, You Get From Him
Todd WagnerNov 19, 2000Mark 6:14-44
Got a Problem? Get a Plan.
Todd WagnerNov 12, 2000Mark 6:6-13

Let's pray together. What we're looking at this morning is how good it is to know the Lord. You might go, "Well, great, Todd. That's a fine thing to be excited about." Well, it's something we want to be reminded of again today and not lose the mystery of our access to our King, who can do amazing things with those whose hearts are completely his.

We're driving that idea home this morning, and we will continue to do that with one last song as we get ready for the message. What a privilege it is to know him. The song we're going to sing, "God, I want to know you…" Even if you're far from God this morning and you don't know him intimately and personally, we just want to tell you to make this song a prayer.

Say, "Lord, if you're out there, if you're real, I should want to know you. Reveal yourself to me, whatever way you do that. Soften my heart to truth." You can sing that song with integrity as well, but for those of us who do know him, we want to go deeper still.

Lord, I thank you for my friends. I really do thank you for the privilege of getting to be here week in and week out. We, during this service, don't want to see that as an obligation but as a privilege. We're not going through some pretty packaged event right now, but in response to what you've said in the Scriptures, we're responding, which is our spiritual service of worship as folks who, in light of who you are… All we know to do is to sing about you, to talk about how great you are.

I know, Lord, there are some people here this morning who maybe have struggled with the reality of the fact that we don't need to fear when we pass through the waters, and when the fire surrounds us, that we should not be afraid. "We will not be scorched," as your Word said earlier. We want to be reminded of that again this morning. We need to see you again for who you really are. We want to know you so we can have confidence, so we can be a people of light, a people who know the way, a people who can declare the truth and be ministers of reconciliation to a lost and hurting and often hopeless world.

I thank you, Father, for whatever happened in our lives this week that allowed us to be here this morning so we can be reminded of the greatness of Jesus Christ, of the greatness of God, our Creator, who loves us and who broke through a barrier of indifference, looked at a sinful, rebellious, hateful world, and said, "I love you." You drew us to you.

Now, Lord, I pray that God…the God of the Scriptures, the God who you are…would be declared here, that people would see you as awesome in this place because you're awesome in the heavens, and that they, by grace, would be drawn, as I am, to want to know you more. Amen.

There's a section from Isaiah 40 where it says, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable." What's going on right there is Isaiah is exhorting people who love the Lord. "Don't claim that God has forgotten you. He is always."

I don't doubt there are some of you who are in here this morning who want to go, "Where is this God that is always? Where was he this week when I was hurting, when I was lonely and needed to be comforted, when I don't have anybody to share Thanksgiving with and maybe never have had the kind of family Thanksgiving I always looked at in Norman Rockwell paintings? Where is the God of always then?"

It's a fair question. I'm not going to give you a nickel answer to that million-dollar question, but I know he's there. I know one of the ways he expresses himself is through the community of faith. I am certain of this: If you make an effort to intentionally know this God… One of the ways you do that is by connecting with his people.

If you were in town this week and you had relationship with others in this body because you have made an effort to say, "I have to get connected with folks who can love with a supernatural love as they depend on the Father," you wouldn't have had a Thanksgiving by yourself because of people who are here who care.

I know of homes that were opened up specifically for folks who don't have family. They said, "Come be a part of ours," if they were in town. It should not surprise you if you sat at home and just dared God to have someone knock on your door to say, "Hey, you must be lonely. Come have Thanksgiving with us," that knock probably didn't happen.

You've heard the old joke about a guy who was on top of a roof. Flood waters were coming, and he said, "God, save me." All of a sudden, a boat kinda came by and said, "Get in." He said, "No, I'm waiting for the Lord to save me." On and on it went. A helicopter came by. "Grab on." "No, I'm waiting for the Lord to save me."

Finally, the waters got up to his neck, and he was going under. He said, "God, where were you?" He said, "Well, I came by in the person of a guy in a boat, and I came by in the person of a helicopter. I gave you means through which you might be saved, and you wanted it not."

This can be a big city and a cold city and a lonely place. This can be a tough life. God does not want you to go through it alone. One of the reasons we have that Discovery class is to give you a place to connect, to get involved with some other people, and to start to share life. Don't do it alone. Come. Hear about what we're trying to do as followers of Christ.

If this isn't the place for you to do it, we will encourage you with every option in this city, with biblically-based Christ-centered churches. Don't sit out there and wonder why God isn't more real and alive to you if you're taking half the pill. All right? Come on. Get connected.

I want to take a moment as we talk about this God who is always, and as we get ready to go back and look at this little miracle we started on last week. I had a little fun. There are lots of different ways you find out about different things. Some of the ways God declares himself is through creation, through the Scriptures, through his people.

One of the ways states declare themselves is with a little motto they have on the bottom of their license plates. Every state has one. It's fun when you're traveling to kind of read about the different state mottos that are out there. I came across this. These are some new state mottos somebody has recommended for this third millennium. There's a little method to my madness here.

Let's take them alphabetically, and we'll work through. Here's one. "Alabama. At least we're not Mississippi." That's the new motto they're considering right now. "Arizona. Dehydrific!" is what they want to put down. "Arkansas. Literacy ain't everything." That's what they're thinking about putting on their plates. "Connecticut. Like Massachusetts, only dirtier and with less character."

"Illinois. Gateway to Iowa." "Indiana. Two billion years tidal-wave free." Now there's something to be proud of right there. "Kansas. First of the rectangle states." "Kentucky. Five million people, 15 last names." I'm not even sure what that means. This is for my partner, Skin. You didn't read this one this morning. "Louisiana. We're not all drunk Cajun wackos, but that's our tourism campaign."

"Mississippi. Come feel better about your state." "Montana. Land of the big sky, the Unabomber, and very little else." "Nebraska. Ask about our state motto contest." "Oklahoma. Like the play, only no singing." "Oregon. Spotted Owl. It's what's for dinner." "South Dakota. It's closer than North Dakota." "Utah. Our Jesus is better than your Jesus." No, he's not. No, he is not. The one that was on this sheet I got for Florida was, "Ask us about our grandkids."

As fate would have it, guess what? I have some new slogans for Florida right here. "Florida. If you think we can't vote, wait till you see us drive." "Florida. If you don't like the way we count, then take I-95 and go visit one of the other 56 states." "Florida. Relax, retire, revote." "Florida. We don't just cheat in football." "Florida. We're number two… Wait. Recount. Recount." There's one here specifically for Palm Beach County: "We put the duh in Florida, right here."

Man, is it a mess? Is it a mess out there? There is all kinds of confusion and craziness going on right now as they try and sort out this thing called our election, and there are lots of people who are just overwhelmed and stressed by the events of the day.

Can you imagine (segue) being one of 12 guys who are following this character that you're starting to see is different than the rest of us? He has 5,000 men, which we said can extrapolate very easily to 10-, 12-, 15-, 17,000 folks. He picks on you, in the midst of this day of ministry when you were supposed to have a retreat to get away.

Lo and behold, folks follow you because you're with this Jesus who is doing such amazing things, who speaks such powerful words, and is causing the world to stand on its head and take notice of him. They follow you, and they get where you are. They hear this man teach because he has compassion for them.

Then he turns to you late in the day and says, "I want you to feed them because it's getting late." You don't have any food. You go, "Well, I can't… This is a little crazy. I can't make a lot of sense of this. What do you mean you want us to feed them?" Jesus takes them through a process.

I think the reason this miracle appears in all four gospel accounts, as we said last week, the reason God saw this miracle…which, except for the resurrection miracle, is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels…the reason it's said again and again and again is there is some central truth in there he wants us to connect with and he wants us to get.

If we don't get this, we don't get anything. His disciples were in the midst of learning this lesson. You're going to find out over the next chapter and a half of Mark, as we work our way through, that this same lesson continues to be re-taught. The primary lesson here is…What you need for them you're going to get from me.

If you weren't here last week, we talked about that one point exclusively. We talked about how it's overwhelming when you're just a fisherman not long out of the boat, and all of a sudden you're being called to be a minister and to take a hungry, massive people and to provide for them when you think you have nothing.

Jesus says, "You bring me what you have, what you can find, and you give me all your resources. I will teach you this one specific lesson: what you need for them, you get from me." Last week we were reminded that these guys… Again and again, these men would fill up their baskets with what they had given to Jesus, and they would go and distribute it to the group that sat in fifties and in hundreds. Then their baskets would be empty, and they would have to go back.

Again and again they learned this lesson. "When I am spent, when I have given all I have, in faith, taking what the Lord gave me, then what I need for them, I get from him." How many times would 12 people have to walk back and forth with that much of a multitude? A whole lot of times, to distribute that food. It was pounded into their heads again and again. Jesus didn't send them away. We said compassion is a necessary characteristic for ministry.

Jesus pounded into their heads this simple truth. "What you need for them, you get from me." I want to say to you that we as a group of folks have to remember that as we're going to be effective in ministry, we cannot do it with a reliance upon our own giftedness and our own strength.

We need to remember that what we need for this world, what we need even for each other…husbands, what you need for your wives this week; dads, what you need for your children, to be patient and loving and focused on them; employees, what you need for your employers to be an effective, diligent worker pursuing excellence as an act of worship in everything you do; what you need for your employer; what you need for your roommate; what you need for your Lord…you get from him.

As you walk by faith, you depend upon him to give you the means through which you can experience the abundant life, the faithful life, the loving, patient life. It's not just full of emotion and full of energy, in our flesh we go out to do it, but we go in surrender, trusting him with what we have.

A guy named A.W. Tozer, who was a great communicator for the first part of the last century, used to say, "If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference." It wasn't a complement. It wasn't a complement. What he was saying is it's just done so much in the flesh, so much in reliance upon giftedness and our own resources, and even our own sometimes positive, encouraged, purposed will.

The Scriptures say, "…apart from me, you can do nothing," without a faith relationship, without learning what it means to walk by faith in the light, to be filled with the knowledge of his will, to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Unless you do it there, it says, in that way, it's impossible to please the Lord.

Before we go and make a difference out there, we have to make sure that daily, moment by moment, we pray without ceasing, we stay in constant contact with the Savior. What you need for them, you get from him. One guy said it this way… Walter Henrichsen wrote a book called Disciples Are Made, Not Born. He said, "If your output exceeds your intake, then your upkeep becomes your downfall."

When your output outweighs your intake, then your upkeep, or lack thereof, will be your downfall. Have you had a hard time loving your wife this week, men? Have you had a hard time, women, serving your husbands? Did you have a hard time being patient with all those dysfunctional family members this week? Chances are…

I want to tell you, I sat there around our Thanksgiving table at Luby's in San Antonio… All right? I sat there, and I thought about this truth. I said, "What I need for them right now, I get not because I'm a good guy, not because I'm a pastor. What I need for them right now, I get from him. Lord, would you let him experience your patience right now? Would you let this person experience your love right now?"

That's what it means, very simply, to walk with Christ. Not, "How do I feel?" but, "What's the Spirit of Christ want from me?" What you need for them, you get from him. That's where we were last week. Here's where we're headed this week.

This little passage of Scripture that highlights the miracle of five loaves of bread and two little fish to feed a multitude of men and women tells me, as I look at it, and reminds me and encourages me because God is not looking for Mrs. Baird's Bakery to be near in order to feed the multitudes. What he's looking for is whatever we have to be given to him. If you will, consecrated is the word. To give with all sanctity, with all purposefulness, just to lay it before him and say, "This is all I have. What can you do with it?"

I want to tell you, as I read this passage again and again, it's one of my favorite passages because it reminds me of this simple point. That is this: nothing is too small if God is in it or if he wants to use it. I'm going to just take you through. Without any effort this week, I sat down and thought, "What are some small things God has used in Scripture to hammer this point home?"

Here we have, of course, the most immediate example. Five loaves and two fish. It doesn't seem like much, and yet it fed a multitude. Twelve guys who were scared to death, overwhelmed, trying to send the people away, but he got their attention. They by faith turned to him. He took those 12 empty-pocketed men, and he fed a multitude. Nothing is too small if God is in it or if he wants to use it.

You have a blind guy. Jesus doesn't have any magic potion, so he spits in his hand. He takes spit, and he gives a blind man sight. Nothing is too small if God is in it or wants to use it. All he has is a stuttering kid who was put in a little flotation device and sent down the Nile River, scooped up by a woman who loved him, took him as her own, and raised him in Pharaoh's court.

His anger got the best of him, and it caused him to be separated from the folks in Egypt. He was sent away for 40 years in the desert to learn God didn't need all his excellent training and education he got as one of Pharaoh's own sons. What he needed was a man who would learn to walk with him and trust in him. He took a stuttering murderer, and he gave him a stick. With a stick, God led 2 million slaves out of bondage. Nothing is too small if God is in it or wants to use it.

He takes a shepherd by the name of Shamgar, and all he has is a big long stick called an oxgoad, which is used to drive the cattle. All it says in the Scripture is that Shamgar took his oxgoad,, and he delivered Israel from his enemies. He takes a guy with a withered right hand, a disabled man, Ehud, and he uses a cripple to slay an enemy king. He delivers Israel with a cripple.

He takes the greatest and strongest man in the history of the world, a guy who could do stuff that blows our minds… He takes this great, strong Samson, and until Samson is blinded and weakened and taken captive himself, in Samson's weakness not in Samson's strength, God does something great with him. It says he defeated more Philistines in his moment of weakness and dependence upon God than he did in all his flesh and strength throughout the days of his prosperity. Nothing is too small if God is in it or if he wants to use it.

The classic illustration of this, too, is what? A little shepherd boy, David. Here's this great warrior, this fantastic soldier for the enemy. He's coming. He's intimidating an entire army of God's people. Then David, the little shepherd boy, says, "Who is this man who dares taunt the army of the living God?" His brothers try and shut him up.

The king tries to give him all kinds of armor to go and do battle, but David says, "Hey, listen. God has protected me when I was out caring for my flock. He's delivered me from bears. He's delivered me from lions. He'll deliver from this guy because there's something more important at stake here than my daddy's sheep. It's the sheep of God, the flock of Israel. God will deliver me."

David walks out there with five smooth stones, just in case Goliath's brothers would come out behind him, as was the standard of the day. He takes one in a sling. He takes down Goliath. Nothing is too small. I want to tell, this point is not just taught in John 6, in Mark 6, in Matthew 14, in Luke. It is taught all through the Scriptures. Nothing is too small if God is in it or wants to use it. One guy said it this way: "Anyone who believes this isn't so has rocks in their heads. Sometimes literally (see Goliath)."

I read a little story today (that's obviously a joke) about a guy, an archaeologist, a scientist, digging over in the Negev Valley of Israel. He came across a cadaver. He called a curator of a local museum. He said, "Hey, I just found this mummified carcass, and I want to send it to you. It's 3,000 years old, and he died of a heart attack." The guy said, "Well, send it over here. We'll check it out."

He called him back a couple weeks later. He said, "You were absolutely right. How did you diagnose in the field that thing was 3,000 years old and died of a heart attack?" He said, "Well, it was easy. He had a little slip of paper in his hand that said, 'Ten thousand shekels on Goliath.'" That's where I would have bet. I imagine there were a lot of folks who were heartsick on that side when they saw what God can do with something small, when he purposes to use it.

Are you out there today and are you overwhelmed at the task and the ministry God has assigned you? Do you come from a lineage of dysfunction? Are you just one person in a whole family of heretics? Do you wonder how you…? I mean, you barely made it through Thanksgiving. You got barked down and talked down and criticized.

You have just 24 days before you have to go back in that ring. You're going, "How in the world am I ever going to be a source of light to my family? How am I ever going to be somebody God might use to give them the hope I found in Jesus Christ?" I want to tell you something. I want to give some good news this morning.

I don't care how overwhelming the foe is against you. God wants to take a message of love and of grace and of transformation to your family. I don't want to hear your pity stories about how long you've known the Lord. I don't want to hear your stories about how overwhelming and how dysfunctional and how angry your family is.

I do know this. God loves your family. I know God loves your neighbor. I know God loves to use small things because he gets all the glory and there's no confusion. You may think you just have a real little bit of patience. Well, great because God doesn't want to use your patience. He wants to use his patience, and what he needs is willing, faithful people.

Hey, husbands, are you spent with your wife? I mean, are you done? Have you've got nothing left to love her? Are you ready to check out? Wives, has that guy been so detached, such a non-leader in your life so consistently that you are doing all you can to hang on just through the holidays? You're going to consult that attorney because you have given it all you can, and you're done? You have no more love; maybe just a little bit. Your emotional bank account is empty.

Well, I have news for you. God loves women whose emotional bank accounts are almost empty because he wants to fill them up with the power of his Spirit. I have to tell you something. He is always. He is faithful. He is love, and he never fails. From the beginning it's never been about you.

I see my friends John and Wendy right out here. You're on week, what? Week two? Is that where we are? Fresh back from Kauai. I tell you, every time I do a wedding, I stand there and covet where they're headed, without fail. Welcome back. You know, John and Wendy are in love, right? They're right through that honeymoon. They're sailing on. From the very beginning I said, "John, it ain't about your love for this woman. Wendy, it's not about your love for John. It is about Christ's love in you, through you, to them. God loves to use small things for his glory."

There's a great story (I don't know if it's true) of Robert the Bruce. We know him because Mel Gibson made a movie called Braveheart. Remember that? Robert the Bruce was one of the lords who William Wallace called to serve with him, to follow him, and to deliver Scotland from an oppressive king in England, to give them freedom.

There's a story in tradition that Robert the Bruce and his young forces were fighting on one front, and they were being overwhelmed. They decided to retreat and run away. In the midst of running away, Robert the Bruce was separated from most of his comrades. He knew it wouldn't be long before he was overtaken and killed.

As he was running in the hillside he saw a small cave, so he crawled in that small cave. His heart is just pumping because he knew his enemies were surely coming right behind him, and it wouldn't be long before he faced a certain death. He laid there in his brokenness, and he cried out. The story says he prayed to God. He said, "Help me."

As he sat there, he looked up, and a spider starts to come down where he just crawled in. He sat there, and in the bitterness of his heart, he said, "This is great. This is why I never was a religious man. I ask God for protection, and all he sends me is a spider." A few short minutes later, here comes the army behind him, and they're looking.

By this time the spider had made his little web across that entire small opening he had crawled into. He was getting ready as best he could to hide, hoping that as one man came in, he could challenge him and do all he could to defend his life at least through one wave. He heard the voices on the other side as they came, and they were looking in all the rocks and crevices.

They came to this one, and a guy said, "Don't waste your time there. We know he's not there because he'd have to break the spiderweb to get in that cave. Let's move on." On they moved. Robert the Bruce was spared and was a part of the great revolution, or so the story is told. Later in this man's recollection of that, he had a great statement that can be a comfort to you and a comfort to me.

Robert the Bruce, legend has it, was known to say often, "Where God is, a spiderweb is as a stone wall, but where God is not, a stone wall is as a spider's web." God doesn't need a stone wall to protect you. When you pass through the waters, he just says, "I will be with you. Where I am, a spiderweb is as a stone wall. Where I am not, a stone wall is as a spider's web."

You might feel like you're just a spiderweb in your marriage, but that's all God needs if God is in it. God loves to use small things because he gets all the glory. There was nobody saying, "Well, what fortuitous luck that Jesus was preaching next to Mrs. Baird's! Of course he can feed us." All they said that day was, "Who is this man who takes a kid's lunch and feeds a multitude?"

Look what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2. He said, "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling." Does that sound like a stone wall or a spider's web?

"And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." Can I encourage you that if you have friends who you love, you don't need Billy Graham? You don't need Lee Strobel. You don't need whoever your favorite communicator is (plug him in). You don't need a degree in apologetics.

He needs somebody who is going to profess "…to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified." You lay that little gospel out. You sow that seed. You pray for that heart. Then you just watch what God might grow. Paul said it this way. "If men want to consider us, just let them see us as servants of Christ and as stewards of the mysteries of God."

That's all you need to be. That's all I need to be. God loves to use small things for his glory. He doesn't need impressive, huge, magnanimous people. He needs faithful, humble, dependent people who will go to him to get what they need for them.

You guys know Joni Eareckson Tada, the quadriplegic, the woman who was diving into the surf as a young teenage girl, snapped her neck, and was paralyzed from the neck down? When the walls of communism fell not many years ago, Billy Graham was one of the first who went in with the great crusades that happened there and the many effective folks who were there for a long while. I see a man over there right now, who was part of a lot of teams who went in when the Iron Curtain was still very strong, and served people very covertly.

When the wall finally came down, Joni Eareckson Tada was one of the folks who went in with this Billy Graham Crusade. There was, uniquely, a man who was rather old in his age, this woman who was clearly limited physically, and the translator for Billy Graham, who was a blind Russian man.

Joni Eareckson Tada said, "It should not surprise us that after 70 years of atheistic oppression, God uses an old man with Parkinson's disease, a woman who is a quadriplegic, and a blind man to deliver a nation." See, he loves to use small things. I don't need to hear that you only have a little left in your heart. All God needs is a little.

One of the greatest heresies out there amongst folks who don't yet know Christ is they think they have to get their life in order and they have to have all their questions answered before they can come to him. If you are out there today, and you have just a little faith…let's just say the faith of a mustard seed…that's all God needs, if that faith is placed in the right thing.

Nothing is too small if God is in it or wants to use it. God wants to use, by his grace, the gift of faith that he can give you to draw you into an absolute transformed relationship with him. Have you just a little faith to take just a little step to ask one question with integrity to see if you can get an answer so you can take the next step? Don't wait to get your life all cleaned up. It'll never happen. Come where you are with what you have, lay it at his feet, and see what he'll do with it.

He loves to use small things.

Let me just throw up some verses here that are important for us to see. God, in fact, said "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD." In other words, if you trust in your own effort, your own works, your own provision, that offends God. It never pleases him.

It doesn't matter if you're Samson or if you're Ehud. It doesn't matter if you're a converted athlete, or if you're Joni Eareckson Tada. You both have to depend upon him. It doesn't matter what your gift is. If you use that gift in your flesh, God sees nothing in that that encourages him. He says, "Cursed is the man who makes flesh his strength."

I am so grateful for the gifted and talented people we have here, for folks who are genuinely kind and who are genuinely gifted musically, but one of the dangers of having gifted musicians and genuinely kind people as your greeters is you could just let them do it in their giftedness and not in their brokenness as a vessel through which God might encourage others. God never wants us to trust in gifted musicians, gifted communicators, gifted greeters, gifted teachers. He wants us to trust in him, and in him alone.

The nation of Israel, as it would go to war, would often turn and count its horses. God never wanted them to count on the horses to deliver them. Look what it says in Psalm 33. "A horse is a false hope for victory; nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness."

Napoleon used to mock the opposing armies as he would go into battle by turning to his own troops and saying, "Whose side is God on today?" He had taught his troops to respond by saying, "God is on the side of those who have the most artillery." They would laugh, and they would go and destroy their foes.

Until one day his powerful force of artillery pulled up into a little town called Waterloo. The same mocking happened, but on that day, in his sovereignty, God said, "Enough." Napoleon learned that even where there is a stone wall, if God is not in it, it is as a spiderweb. Nothing is too small if God is in it or wants to use it. I hope that encourages you.

It ought to encourage us. We're just a young church, a small church, don't even have our own facilities. I have a staff we're trying to add to so that staff can facilitate ministry for you, but God doesn't need a great staff. He doesn't even need a multitude of people. He doesn't need a facility. Nothing wrong with any of those things, and we'll pursue them as they're appropriate.

When we get a facility, when our staff grows, as more gifted guys come and serve you in different ways here, if we begin to trust in that, we've got a problem. We purpose to put the best folks we can before you, but don't ever trust in those men. Trust in the Lord. Cursed is the body that doesn't. There's a corollary to this that's worth talking about.

It's simply this thing: you will always struggle if you focus on what you have as opposed to what he has to offer you. They were looking at what they had, and they weren't focusing on who he is. One of the reasons I think this is such a significant miracle is because he was trying to drive this point home. You will always be discouraged, you will always struggle, if you focus on what you have as opposed to what he has called you to do.

One man has said it this way. "The greatest confidence we have that we can do something is that God has asked us to do it." He's not going to mock us. He's not going to ask us to go, to take a message to a people who are hopeless, and to give them hope if we can't take that message and give them hope.

If we just go, "We have to be eloquent. We have to be persuasive. We have to make it happen…" Listen, we work long hours, and we purpose to do everything we can to make every time we gather publicly excellent. We are, in our own opinion, on the short end of that scale of excellence, but we're doing all we can with what we have today in faith.

When we have more and we can prepare with more excellence or do more things we think are helpful, if we ever start to trust in the tool and not in the giver of the tool, we are done. Our goose is cooked. We will always struggle if we focus on what we have as opposed to what he's called us to do.

Now listen, that doesn't mean you need to make an effort to not learn, to make an effort to not grow, and to not improve with what you can get. That doesn't mean that at all. It just means whatever you have, you make sure you trust it to him. You prepare, but you trust. As I thought about this…

The way you'll struggle is one of two ways. You'll either be desperate and confused, or you'll be deceived because you're too content. Let me explain that. If you are told to feed 5,000 with just your little five loaves and two fish, and you realize you don't have that much because it's all you have, you're going to be desperate and confused. You're going to focus on what you have and not on who he is and what he's called you to do. You'll want to quit. You'll want to not even get started.

If, on the other hand, you have a Mrs. Baird's Bakery right there, and you don't go to him because you think you have every provision necessary, you will be deceived that you are competent and that you are content without going to him. What you need for them you always get from him. Whether you have much or whether you have little, it needs to be laid at his feet and used in the way he tells you to use it.

The disciples were discouraged because they focused on what they had and not on who he was. Left to ourselves, we need to be always reminded we cannot help the masses. This is one of the things I love about Solomon. Early in his career as a king of God's great people, he had it right. He lost this a little bit later.

In response to the prayer we're about to read, you're going to find out God gave him what he asked for. Then Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, given that wisdom by the Lord, began to trust in his own wisdom and not walk with the Lord. You can be the wisest owl in the forest, but if you don't walk with the Lord, your wisdom will be perverted. You will rationalize and be consistently taking folks astray. This is what Solomon said:

"Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?"

Solomon, early on, had great success because he just said, "Lord, I need what you have to lead them the way you want me to lead." Husbands, are you frustrated because you don't even have a clue how to spiritually lead your family? Are you struggling at your workplace as a leader about how you can encourage those who work for you? Just humble yourself and realize you don't need a seminary degree to be a great spiritual leader. You just need to know where you need to go. Wisdom is not having all the answers. It's knowing, at times, where to go to get those answers.

My favorite story my dad taught me when I was a young kid was the story of a guy who had a butler. He was the smartest man in the world, he told me, and this butler drove him around everywhere. He had heard this man give speeches so many times and answer so many questions that he finally thought one day that he could do what his boss did, the smartest man in the world.

He told his boss that one day. His boss said, "Okay. Let's put your money where your mouth is, big boy. I'm going to speak somewhere today. You put on my tux. I'll put on your chauffer's outfit. We'll go in there, and we'll see how you can do." So, they switched clothes and switched places. The chauffer stood up to handle the questions from the audience.

The very first question that was asked was way over the chauffer's head. He didn't know what to say. What he did is he goes, "Let me tell you something, that question is so easy even my chauffer can answer it." My dad taught me, "Son, let me just tell you something. Part of wisdom is knowing where to go when you don't have the answers."

As a young man he was trying to convince me that often that place was to him. That question is so easy even my out-of-touch old man can answer it. I know we have the junior high folks in here today, and I know you think your parents are out of touch and don't know what it's like to live in the third millennium. Can I give you some advice today?

When you get overwhelmed with how to handle peer pressure, you need to know something. They know what it's like to be in junior high and high school, to deal with insecurity, and to have all the friends look like they're getting the attention and you're not. They've been there. They've had their little hearts stepped on. They've not made cheerleading squads. They've made it and found out it was empty. They've been there.

Can I just recommend to you that maybe you consider that one of the gifts God has given you is loving parents, and that question is so easy even they can answer it? Solomon knew where to go for wisdom. He wasn't, at that time, the brightest guy on the face of the earth, but he got what he needed because he went to the Lord.

I have to tell you something. There are times I get discouraged. I sit here on a Monday… This afternoon I'll start thinking about next Sunday for you all. It'll obsess me Monday, Tuesday. I'll get a little cloud on Wednesday. I won't have very clear conversations with you at lunch because I'll be thinking about it. By Thursday or Friday, I'm overwhelmed and trying to figure out if I can get Tommy Nelson to come down to speak to you.

I promise you, I get calls sometimes and people… I'll have just read something someone else wrote or listened to somebody else's tape or something sometimes; I try and grow. I'll get a call. "Hey, would you come speak here and encourage us?" I'll say, "If I can play this guy's tape and lip-sync it, I'll be there." I mean that, genuinely.

You know why? Because sometimes I look at how much bread somebody else can carry. I go, "What use is it for me to carry my little bag of one loaf over here and give that when this guy, this guy can bring the goods?" You know what my problem is? I'm not looking at who wants me to go. I'm looking at what I have. There are times I get depressed, and there are times I get discouraged because I'm looking at me.

I have to tell you something else. There are other times when somebody says, "Hey, can you come speak at this?" I go, "Yeah, I can handle that." I go there all full of myself, all sure I have a couple of cute little anecdotes and stories and know how to take them here, then Boom! get them there. I struggle just as much because I'm looking at me. Whether I'm looking at me on the high side or the low side, that's a problem, and it's going to be for you.

We're about to enter the Christmas season, and this Christmas season is packed with an illustration that God loves to use small things to do great things. If you're a member of his family in Israel, and you're looking for a deliverer and you hear about some teenage girl who has an unwanted pregnancy in a stable in Bethlehem, and I tell you that's your Messiah, I tell you that's your mighty God, that's your Eternal Father, that's your Prince of Peace, it doesn't look like it, but God loves to use small things.

There's a reason Jesus came the way he came, and that's to illustrate to you that you don't need to be from a string of nobility in a position of power, you just need to be a faithful man, fully surrendered and available to him. Jesus, fully God, never stopped being God. Even as a babe, the child was God, but he completely identified with you and me.

He was dependent on a mother's breast for milk. He was dependent upon the scrolls to be instructed. He was dependent upon time alone in the hills with the Father so that what the multitudes needed he got from the Holy Spirit and from the Father, just like you and me. It's a strange way to save the world, but it's the way God chose. This miracle drives it home. Let's pray.

Father, as we enter the Christmas season, we're about to hear a bunch of times about this child in a manger. It seems strange to us that's the way you chose to save the world. It even seems strange to us the way you chose to feed the multitude was by taking some boy's lunch, five loaves and two fish. It's a strange way to feed a multitude, but you were in it. Not only was everybody fed, but there was an abundance left over.

It's a strange way, Lord, to save the world, with a man you say is a lamb, the Lamb of God, who was sacrificed. It's a strange way to save the world, to put a hero on a cross. It doesn't make much sense, but you were in that cross. You purposed to use it for my good, for your glory, and for the world's grace.

I pray we would profess to know nothing among that world except that Jesus and him crucified and resurrected. I pray as the world looks at Watermark and as followers of Christ in the years to come, that they would speak, not of all our resources, not of all our talent, but they would speak of a people who are holy and consecrated to you.

I pray they would know our stories, that they would know some of our leaders were folks who were drunks, were lost, were broken, were hateful people, but who met Jesus Christ. May they go, "Now that guy is a clear communicator of the gospel." They'll shake their head and go, "That's a strange way to save the world, that he would redeem a terrorist like Saul and make him Paul, a writer of most of the New Testament."

Father, I pray in my life, that I never get over the grace in it, that people who know me well always marvel at what you've done with me, and that they shake their heads and say, "It's a strange way to save the world, that he'd use Todd Wagner." I pray they would see me and see my friends here as humble folks who take what we have, lay it at your feet, and in obedience go forward.

We thank you, Lord, that we don't need to look to ourselves but always to you, so you might receive the glory and they might receive the goods. Would you use us to feed them? In Christ's name.

D.L. Moody was a guy who did what Billy Graham does long before Billy Graham did it, in the 1800s. One day he had a guy approach him and say, "This must be a work of God because I see absolutely no connection between what is happening here and you." Rather than be offended, D.L. Moody looked that guy in the eye and said, "I should be very unhappy if it were otherwise."

D.L. Moody understood what we talked about today. He said, "It's a strange thing, isn't it, that he would use a shoe clerk from New England to deliver a city like Chicago?" and then to become well-known throughout North America and even in England, to be a part of what is called the Great Awakening.

It's a strange way to save the world to use a shoe clerk. It's a strange way to save the city of Dallas to use you and to use me, but that's the way he has determined that it should be done. The question is not, "Does God use shoe clerks?" The question is, "Will we be willing to let him use us?"

If we are, I want to tell you something. The eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout this world today, and he's looking for shoe clerks. He's looking for discouraged hearts. He's looking for any heart that is completely his, that he might strongly support that spiderweb and make it a stone wall. He wants to do it. What he needs is us to participate with him because he has chosen to use us and to limit himself toward that end.

It's going to get done, but let's let him use us. Let's be a part of the glory for his glory and their good. Go and do all you can this week. Be encouraged, for you are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which he prepared beforehand that you should walk in them. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we're even able to ask or even consider or think, if we'll just let him. Let's spin our webs and watch God build a wall. Have a great week.

About 'Gospel According to Mark, Volume 3'

The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 6:6 through Mark 8:38.