This paper will show from the Scripture that God takes what we willingly offer Him (no matter how inadequate) and multiplies it to be more than adequate (superabundant).
There are some stories that are repeated in one form or another many times through the Bible. For example, in the Old Testament there is the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath with the miraculous pot of oil and the bowl of flour that never ran out.1 Similarly, there is the story of Elisha who told another widow to borrow as many containers as she could and they were all filled before her pot ran out of oil.2 Elisha also fed one hundred men using twenty barley loaves and a few ears of corn.3
In the New Testament there are several similar stories. Jesus fed five thousand men (plus women and children) using only five loaves and two fish.4 This same story is repeated in the book Mark,5 the book of Luke6 and the book of John.7 It must be important to be put in all four gospels.
On another occasion, Jesus fed four thousand men using seven loaves and a few fish.8
In each case, God used the little that we had and multiplied it to become super-abundant, exceeding the need, and even resulting in left-overs.
Since these stories are told so many times (including all four gospels) and Jesus reminded the disciples about them, therefore they must be of extreme importance.
Why are those stories in the Bible? Although they impress us with God’s power, they have a far deeper meaning. In each case, the Lord took some things (a jar of oil, some loaves of bread, a few fishes, some barley loaves) that were hopelessly inadequate and multiplied them to be super-abundant to meet the needs of many people.
What I see is that this is a general spiritual principle. If we ask Him, He will take whatever we willingly offer (no matter how inadequate) and multiply it to be more than meets the need.
If we ask Him, He will take our little bit of faith and multiply it to be great faith; if we ask Him, He will take our little bit of love and multiply it to be great love; if we ask Him, He will take our little bit of forgiveness and multiply it to be great forgiveness.
He can multiply my willingness, courage, understanding, boldness, insight, energy, humility, etc, etc. In fact, everything I willingly give to Him, He can multiply.
We have not because we do not ask. But if we ask, He is more than willing to answer far more than we can imagine. He tells us specifically to ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us.11 If we ask in faith, He will answer.
I think this also explains the “irresolvable” conflict between the free will of man and the sovereignty of God—the tension between the so-called Arminian position and the so-called Calvinist position. As far as I am concerned, they are both 100% true. They do not contradict each other. God takes our little bit of faith and multiplies it to make it adequate (remember the parable about the mustard seed?). If we have no faith, He has nothing to multiply, and without His multiplication, our faith is inadequate. Therefore, both our free will and God’s sovereignty are necessary—both are true.
Remember also the statement in Mark 4:25, “For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” Also Matt 25:29-30, “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” Likewise Luke 8:16, “So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” Ditto Luke 19:26, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” This must be important since He said it four times.
Another verse that reinforces this concept is Rev 8:3, “Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.” He takes our feeble prayers, adds to them, and makes them adequate.
Additional related verses
Mark 9:24, “Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’”
Luke 17:5-6, ‘The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.”’
Eph 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Eph 3:14-19, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
2 Thess 1:3, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater.”
2 Thess 1:11-12, “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Heb 12:2, “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…”
Luke 2:40, “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”
Luke 2:52, “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
2 Peter 3:18, “…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Ps 115:14, “May the Lord give you increase, you and your children.”
Isa 9:3, “You shall multiply the nation; You shall increase their gladness.”
Isa 29:19, “The afflicted also will increase their gladness in the Lord…”
Job 42:10, “The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold.”
Acts 9:22, “But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”
2 Cor 9:8, ”And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”
2 Cor 9:10-11, “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.”
Col 1:9-12, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”
1 Thess 3:12, “…and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you.”
Deut 28:11, “The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you.”
Rom 8:26, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness…”
Rom 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Gen 17:2, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.”
Gen 17:20, “I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly.”
2 Peter 1:2-3, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”
Jude 2, “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”
Ps 36:7-9, “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
8 They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house;
And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.
9 For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.”
Jer 31:14, ‘”I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance,
And My people will be satisfied with My goodness,” declares the Lord.’
Matt 13:12 & Mt 25:29, “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”
Heb 4:15-16, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Photo Attribution: Nathalia Rosa – Unsplash.com
- 1 Kings 17:8-16, ‘Then the word of the Lord came to him [Elijah], saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” 12 But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 13 Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.'” 15 So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.’
- 2 Kings 4:1-7, Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” 2 Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” 3 Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few. 4 “And you shall go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour out into all these vessels, and you shall set aside what is full.” 5 So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they were bringing the vessels to her and she poured. 6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not one vessel more.” And the oil stopped. 7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”
- 2 Kings 4:42-44, “Now a man came from Baal-shalishah, and brought the man of God [Elisha] bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.‘” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.”
- Matt 14:15-21, ‘When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” 17 They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” 18 And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” 19 Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, 20 and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21 There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.’
- Mark 6:33-44, “The people saw them going, and many recognized them and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. 35 When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and it is already quite late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?” 38 And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish. 44 There were five thousand men who ate the loaves.”
- Luke 9:12-17, “Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.” 13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 (For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each.” 15 They did so, and had them all sit down. 16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.”
- John 6:4-14, ‘Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. 12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”‘
- Matt 15:32-38, “And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” 33 The disciples said to Him, “Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; 36 and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. 38 And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.”
- Matt 16:5-12, ‘And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 9 “Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? 10 “Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? 11 “How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’
- Mark 8:14-21, ‘And they had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 15 And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? 18 “HAVING EYES, DO YOU NOT SEE? AND HAVING EARS, DO YOU NOT HEAR? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” 20 “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they said to Him, “Seven.” 21 And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”‘
- Luke 11:13-14, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
- 2 Cor 3:5-6, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
- 2 Cor 4:7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.”