How do we make sure that we are not spreading ourselves too thinly?

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

The morning, I preached on the feeding of the Five Thousand and I asked two questions.

  1. Do you trust God to satisfy and provide for you?
  2. Do you trust God to use you in his service.

One important, practical question that came out of the sermon application was

 “How do we know when to keep going with things and/or to take new things on and when to say no? Can we end up spreading ourselves too thinly?”

The thing about preaching, is that you rarely have enough time to pick up on every aspect of application you could make. This is partly why I appreciate our church’s approach of using midweek life groups to go back over the Bible passage from Sunday. It’s also one of the original reasons for starting Faithroots so that I could cover things here that we couldn’t cover on Sunday. This is a point I would have liked to have spent a bit of time on.

I think there are two clues available about how we should answer the question.  The first is in the passage itself (Luke 9:10-17). The other can be found in Mark 9:29.

The clue in the passage relates to the second question I asked in the sermon “Do you trust God to use you?”  What we see in Luke 9:10-17, is that even when the disciples have fluffed it and bottled it when Jesus has called them to feed the people, he doesn’t go off and do the miracle on his own. He gets the disciples to sit the people down and he distributes the food through them.

The second clue comes when Jesus has returned from the transfiguration to see his disciples attempting and failing to cast out a demon.  When they ask Jesus why they failed, he says:

“This kind only comes out with prayer (and fasting).”

When he says “this kind”, I don’t think he means that they were dealing with an uber powerful type of demon. Rather, he was saying that “this kind” -demons in general- only come out with prayer.  The reason the disciples failed to cast out the demon is the very same reason that they bottled it when they were asked to feed the people. They forgot that they only did anything in full, prayerful dependence on Jesus. 

This is the point. Trusting God to use me does not mean that I expect him to send me off to do things for him in my own strength independent of him. Just as the people were fed as Jesus did a miracle and them served them through the hands of his disciples, so too, when he uses us, it means that he is working through us.

How do we make sure that we are not spreading ourselves too thinly? Well I think that if we are spreading ourselves too thinly then that’s the problem. It’s not me that’s mean to be spread.  I will always be a thin spread. No! It is the love, compassion and grace of God in Christ Jesus that is meant to be ladled on in abundant, rich thickness.

So I can only say yes to those things where I know that I am completely dependent on Christ through prayer. If I’ve not got the time and energy to pray about the thing then I’ve not got the time or energy to do it. And if I’ve not got time/energy to pray then that means I need to stop doing something so that I can pray.

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