During His ministry, Jesus performed many miracles and healed many people of their diseases. News of Him spread everywhere, and soon people were following Him wherever He went. These people had different reasons for following Jesus. Many thought that if they followed Him, they would get something in return.
Once there was a group of five thousand men following Jesus, and when they didn't have anything to eat, He fed them all with five loaves and two fish. During this miraculous event, Jesus commanded the disciples to gather up the leftover fragments of food:
So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost." Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. (Jn 6:12-13)
Sometimes, having leftovers is like having a penny in our pocketâ€”we don't think it's very important. To some people, leftovers are worthless, while to others, they are very important. Jesus told His disciples to gather up the leftover fragments because He viewed the leftovers as important.
There was a very famous man who, when he was a child, was very different from other children. He would often stare out the windows, daydreaming about other things. His classmates thought he was strange, and they liked to make fun of him. They would tease him, offering him the choice between a nickel and a penny, and he would always pick the penny. If they gave him the choice between a dime and a nickel, he would pick the nickel. This child would always smilingly take the lesser amount. His teacher told his parents about this, and they began to worry, wondering if he had some kind of mental problem. One day, careful not to hurt his feelings, they asked him cautiously, "Why do you always take the lesser amount?" Their son replied, "This way the other kids will keep on playing with me, and I can earn my pocket money."
So we shouldn't look lightly on small fragments, because they can add up to something greater. Even leftover fragments, like the ones Jesus had His disciples gather, can give us new insight into God.
The people following Jesus had many different motives. "Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased" (Jn 6:2). These people didn't want to listen to God's word; they just wanted to watch Jesus perform miracles for their entertainment or to fulfill their curiosity. But no matter why they followed Him, Jesus loved them, taught them, and healed them. When they were hungry, He fed them.
After the great miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude, the people wanted to make Him king. No one asked why He performed this miracle; they only saw that He could do great things and that He could provide for them. As a result, they wanted to make Him king (Jn 6:15).
The purpose of Jesus' miracles was to convey the truth of the gospel, so that people would return to God. But these people didn't understand the truth. That's why Jesus had to withdraw. When Jesus performed great miracles, people often reacted with the wrong motives. They couldn't see that Jesus truly is king alreadyâ€”not of a physical kingdom, but of a spiritual one.
So Jesus used this opportunity to teach His disciples about the spiritual kingdom. He wanted them to gather up the fragments so that nothing would be lost. The multitude did not think the fragments were important. But Jesus had the disciples pick up every single one.
Gathering Up the Fragments of God's Grace
Jesus turned five loaves of bread and two fish into a huge amount of food, enough to feed the five thousand. In fact, this number probably only included the men in the crowd; if we include the women and children, the crowd was probably about ten thousand people.
The multitude threw away the leftovers once their stomachs were full. But these fragments were part of God's grace. That's why Jesus told the disciples to gather up the leftover fragments. They were evidence of God's blessings and miracles. Jesus did not want them to be considered worthless.
Let's think about the mindset of the disciples as they picked up the fragments. In the beginning, they saw that there were only five loaves and two fish. But Jesus used this small amount of food to feed ten thousand people. As the disciples moved around the crowd picking up the leftover fragments, filling their baskets, they began to understand the work of God. The disciples had to take time to gather up the fragments, and in doing so, they experienced and became witnesses of the grace of Jesus Christ.
When we think about our own lives, we can probably remember the "big" blessings that God has given us. But sometimes we forget about the small ones. Sometimes we're too lazy to gather up these fragments of blessing. This leads us to underestimate the grace of God in our lives.
Yet we are here today because of these many small fragments of grace. There's a hymn that reminds us, "Count Your Blessings." It is our duty to keep these small fragments in our basket. God performs miracles and gives us blessings and grace, but it is our duty to gather up the fragments.
We often complain, wondering why God seems to give more blessings to others than He gives to us. This is because we don't pick up all of the small fragments of God's grace. If we gather up all the fragments and put them in our baskets, we will see the abundance of grace inside. We will understand God's blessings for us, and this will give us comfort and encouragement. Through these experiences, we can understand the love of God, and our faith will become rooted in the truth. Then we will see that God is with us in our hearts.
Sometimes we encounter difficult situations, and sometimes we have success and prosperity. Perhaps our business goes bankrupt, or perhaps we are promoted. But no matter what kind of situation we encounter, there are always small fragments of God's grace all around us. If we are wise, we will gather them up.
This is the secret of how we can rejoice all the time. Those who do not know God cannot rejoice, because when they encounter problems, they complain or discourage themselves. But as Christians we are different, because God is always around us and within our hearts. God has given us enough grace and blessings; all we have to do is find them. Although physically we may be suffering or in tribulation, we can experience true joy when we pick up these fragments.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Th 5:16-18). This verse can truly work in our lives. When we know how to rejoice always, we will be able to pray at all times and give thanks in all circumstances. If we can do this, the kingdom of God is already established in our hearts. A true Christian is not affected by outward circumstances, for if we wholeheartedly rely on God, He will be with us and bless us.
Giving Back to God
Once we've gathered everything, we need to give it back to God. When Jesus healed the ten lepers, only one came back to Jesus and thanked Him. Nine of them rejoiced because their illness was healed, but only one knew how to give thanks. This is wisdom.
We should have the same attitude toward God. He knows we have busy lives, and He doesn't expect us to dedicate all of our time to His work. His expectations are always reasonable and can be accomplished. And any work, no matter how small it seems, is important. Even picking up a piece of trash is a great work.
There are some people who work very hard in church, but they stop if they feel that they don't receive any recognition from other people. But God's eyes are always on us. He wants to see if we can find the small fragments in church to pay Him back. If we know how to pay Him back with these small fragments, He will bless us even more.
God often works with those who are not well known or acknowledged by many people. Joseph was a slave in the land of Egypt; no one expected that he would become a prime minister. But he knew how to collect the small fragments. Under such suffering and tribulation, he still knew how to hold on to God. He never complained, so God continued to bless him abundantly.
God also chose the Israelites, who were a very small tribe. He could have chosen the Babylonians, a great empire, so that His name could be spread throughout the known world. Instead, God chose to glorify His name through this small, weak group of people.
God also chose twelve disciples who weren't famous or powerful. He chose the "leftovers" of this world to glorify His name. In the same way, we may view ourselves as small or weak. But in the eyes of God, we have His truth. Therefore, it is our duty to gather the "leftovers" of the world and bring them back to God (Lk 14:15-24).
How can we do this? We need to change our lifestyles, to focus on God rather than on the things of this world. Our goal is to glorify God. We should remember the story of the widow's two mites. From the worldly point of view, this woman was poor, and her two mites were worthless. But in God's eyes, these two mites were worth everything, for the widow gave Him all she had.
We often underestimate the good of attending church services. But this fragment is also important in God's eyes. Sometimes when we go to church, our expectations are not fulfilled. But even if our hearts are not moved by the sermon, we should not be discouraged. As long as we come to church with the right heart, God will give us blessings. We don't know when these fragments will change our lives, but they are part of the miracles of God. They will be gathered on the last day, and they will bring us joy. Perhaps we have given only five loaves and two fish, but we will have twelve baskets at the end.
This principle also applies to prayer. We shouldn't pray only at church, for we can pray anytime: in class, at work, or in the car. Each time our heart connects with God, these small fragments reinforce our faith and create a more blissful life in the Lord.
The same principle also applies to reading the Bible. We don't have to read ten chapters a day; perhaps we only have time for a few verses. But if we have the heart, these words of God will become fragments of spiritual food. If we gather up these small fragments every day, we will glorify God.
Jesus commanded the disciples to "gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost" (Jn 6:12).
If we wanted to transfer water from one cup to another, we wouldn't care if we spilled a few drops. But if the cup was filled with gold powder or diamonds, we would be sure to transfer every bit. God's blessings are even more precious than gold or diamonds. We shouldn't overlook even one small piece of this grace; instead, we should gather all of His grace and blessings into our baskets. And then we will understand and experience the abundance of God's grace and love.