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Pragmatism

July 6, 2019

Last Sunday, Woodville had the privilege of hosting the Carmeans, a missionary family serving in Cameroon that we support. Jason brought the word to us, and I found his message especially compelling. He took us through the well-known passage where Jesus feeds 5000 (men . . . it's safe to assume there were far more than this) with only 5 loaves and 2 fish. His main point was that Jesus was asking something of his disciples that, on the surface, appeared impossible. Phillip tells Jesus that "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little" (John 6:7). Andrew, on the other hand, brings what he has, 5 loaves and 2 fish that a boy brought with him. He probably felt a little silly bringing what he knew was not enough, but they'd seen Jesus do miracles before, and so he was leaving it to Him to decide if it was enough. Jason went on to parallel this to something in His own life that seemed impossible and challenged us to let God do the impossible, to take the little that we have and bring it to Jesus so that we can watch Him do something special with it.

 

Sometimes sermons resonate with you because there's a particular and specific application in your life that jumps to mind immediately. It's as if God were speaking to you directly through the preacher. This wasn't that kind of experience for me. This was a more generic thing because this sermon resonated with me primarily because I see myself so clearly in Phillip's place. Not necessary as a doubter, but as a pragmatist. Phillip was being realistic. Certainly no one present could blame him for thinking the task impossible. Were it not for Jesus, the task was impossible! I tend to be pragmatic as well. It's not that I don't believe God can do miracles. I just tend to look at situations as they are and not as I want them to be. My life is measured and reasonable and, let's be honest, safe. As an elder at Woodville, there are many times when ideas and opportunities come up that require money that we just don't have. And I wonder "Is pragmatism a sin?" God also called us to be good stewards of what He's given us. So when the money isn't there, are we to invest anyway, trusting that God will make something of our nothing? Or are we to keep back for the right thing at the right time?

 

Obviously, the answer here is prayer. We must pray earnestly for wisdom and for God to make clear His plan for us. And we do pray as an elder board, believe me. The point of this isn't to question God's plan in our church. I found the sermon compelling because it challenged me to be not safe. Pragmatism is safe, but it's a form of control. I'm pragmatic because then I get to be in control. I get to look at my budget and decide how much to give to the church. I get to look at my schedule and decide whether I have to time to talk to a stranger. I get to look at my skillset and decide if I should invest in a new ministry. But we need to be more like Andrew (of the disciples), who simply said, "Here's what we've got." He was surrendering his control of the situation, acknowledging that what he had was not enough, but trusting that God being in control was better than him being in control.

 

There's a well-known saying, "If God is your copilot, switch seats." Which is to say that a lot of us think we're doing God's will, but we've never let Him guide the rudder of our lives. We love to be in control. We have real trouble letting go. We want all the benefits of having God in the plane with us, without having to let Him set the course. That's just not the way God operates. He wants all or nothing. And when we insist on being in control, God doesn't have the opportunity to feed a multitude with 5 loaves and 2 fish. We need to stop being safe and pragmatic and yield to the Spirit working within us. Maybe this week, do something that scares you. I mean, obviously, pray about it first. Don't sell your house and donate the proceeds to the church on a whim. Seek to understand God's will, and then don't assume it's not God's will just because it's impractical or because it intimidates you. Let Him prove Matthew 19:26 in your life: "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

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