Gratitude is ultimately about our view of God and ourselves. When we are satisfied and our needs are met, we either forget our dependency on God or respond with a heart of thanks. We can assume the good things in our lives are the result of our own strengths or we can remember that God is the giver of all we have. An ungrateful heart is at best confused and at worse corrupt.
Jesus didn’t have much to work with – a few fish and a few pieces of bread. A pittance in light of the crowd of 5,000 hungry people. Yet he was grateful.
What does gratitude look like? And what does gratitude do?
I grew up in a Christian home and in a Baptist church. I learned how to pray; every head bowed every eye closed – that’s how it is done. But Mark records this account of Jesus’ prayer of gratitude. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. (Mark 6:41)
Jesus, with eyes wide open and head raised, he looked toward heaven. What an odd posture for prayer, but what a powerful posture for gratitude.
Gratitude starts with dependency, our recognition that we are needy and must rely on God’s provision to survive physically or spiritually.
Once we are aware of our neediness, gratitude quickly refocuses our attention on the provider. Jesus could have looked at the fish and bread and been demoralized. With the disciples he could have asked, “How far will they go among so many?” Instead of looking down, focusing on the meager resources available to him, he looked up to the One who could supply all he ever needed.
Camp ministry never has enough stuff – limited money, limited space, limited equipment, limited staff, limited ____ (you fill in the blank). We serve in a context where needs outstrip our resources every time. But we also serve a big God. We have a choice, we can look down at the fish and bread or we can look up to God.
Not only did Jesus look to his Father to provide all he needed, he gave thanks. I think he thanked God for two things; first the lunch that a little boy had sacrificed, and second for having a Father who could multiply the little to do much.
As Christian camping leaders, we must never fall prey to the lie that we don’t have enough. A few cabins, a few acres of open land, an ill-equipped kitchen, volunteer staff and out of date technology – that’s enough. God can multiply our faithful availability, sacrificial contributions, and willing service.
Comparing yourself to the big camp down the road means that your eyes are focused on your limits and not our limitless God. Take your fish and bread, recognize that they may not be much, but make them available to God. Thank Him for what you have; thank Him for who He is, and thank Him for what He can do. And then with a heart full of gratitude, run camp; see how He will multiply the little you provide to make a huge impact for eternity.