June 21 1998

  Succesfully using your leftovers
  Scripture: Mark 6:30-44

DON'T YOU JUST LOVE seeing the results of clever hands on the craft stalls at Wesley Mission? Our Spring Fair is the remarkable miracle of how industrious people take scraps of material and turn them into works of hand-craft, of how remnant pieces can be turned into remarkable profit, and of leftovers that are turned into articles of usefulness.

I have watched some handymen at Frank Vickery Village, using scraps of wood and off-cuts from a joinery works, to make childrens tables and chairs and delightful wooden toys. I have watched my wife bring a stack of unwanted linen fabric samples into her sewing room, and over the succession of days came pillows, table cloths and bed-spreads that will bring good prices on our stalls. Spring Fair is the story of people who bake and make, sew and saw, paint and paper and from leftovers create the finance that enables thousands of people to be helped to successful living.

Clever housewives know how to create an appetising meal when unexpected guests arrive by using the leftovers from previous meals that are in the refrigerator. It is remarkable what good cooks can do with leftovers! Did you have a grandmother who had a soup pot on the kitchen stove? Into it went the meatbones and left-over vegetables, and out of it came delicious thick, home-made soup? In one of the first sermons I ever preached as a teenager I said that: "The major distinction between cooks is their ability to use the leftovers to provide an appetising meal. Last week you may have notice in "The Sun News Pictorial" a picture of "Mrs America 1958". This lady won with her cooking ability.

The contestants were given a poor selection of leftovers and they had to make a meal from them. She was given salami sausage, parsley, whipped cream. tomato sauce, cabbage and a can of cherries and from this she made a meal fit for a diplomat."

God also is a worker with remnants. Just as the word "remnant" means the remaining piece of cloth, so in the Bible it means God's special care for the remnant people - those few who are faithful in trusting Him and upon whom the continuance of the community of the faithful depend. In the Old Testament the concept is used most often with reference to Israel. It means the community is so great that when an insignificant remnant survives, it becomes the basis for renewed community life.

It is a motif in Genesis. The flood story tells of divine judgment on human wickedness. But the destruction is not total. Noah, along with his household, is preserved and became the agents for the repopulation of the earth. Noah and his family were the faithful remnant saved from the flood. In the Joseph story, the catastrophe is a famine. In it the descendants of Abraham are threatened. But Joseph is appointed as preserver. When he reveals himself to them, he tells them why God has saved them: "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors" 45:7. Lot and his family were the faithful remnant saved in the destruction of Sodom. Elijah knew there was a faithful remnant of 7000 who had refused to bow the knee to the false god Baal. As the centuries rolled on, God saw within the nation Israel only a faithful few obedient to Him. Other prophets like Amos pointed to the faithful few.

The doctrine of the remnant is best seen in Romans Chapters 9-11. Paul quotes many Old Testament passages as he struggles with the fact that most of his fellow-Jews have not accepted his gospel. He observes that 9:6-9 "not all who are descended from Abraham (Israel) are Israel... it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring." That means Jews who accept his gospel and you who believe in Jesus constitute God's faithful remnant. God will benefit the whole world through the faithful remnant. That small group, or remnant through whom the whole world will be blessed are the believers in Jesus Christ. They have been chosen, not by their own will or exertion, but in divine sovereignty and mercy, as was Israel's first ancestors to whom the promise was given.

John the Baptist warned of a judgment coming upon the descendants of Abraham that will leave only the trees that bear good fruit, and will gather the wheat into the granary while the chaff will be burned. Matt 3:7-10 The Lord Jesus speaks of a wide gate and an easy way that leads many to destruction, while only a few find the narrow gate and take the hard way that leads to life. Matt 7:13-14 He taught "many are called, but few are chosen". Matt 22:14. John in The Book of Revelation describes the churches in which there is only a faithful remnant. 2:24; 3:4 The destruction of the world will see the faithful remnant survive. 11:13; 12:17

In a simple fashion Jesus took remnants of food and used them to feed over 5000 men and women had travelled the long distance of 20 miles round the northern end of the Sea of Galilee.

It was then late. The disciples could not feed the people. Andrew said, John 6:9 "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" Jesus took the boy's meal, and continued to break it and hand it to the disciples to distribute to the people. When all had eaten he asked the disciples to collect all the scraps, remnants, leftovers, 6:12-13 "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten."

Throughout His ministry, Jesus had a concern for the human leftovers of life: for the epileptic boy who was constantly taking fits causing worry to his father; for the lepers whom no-one else would touch or heal; for the little daughter of Jairus lying on her death-bed; for all those blind, paralysed, sick, diseased people for whom no-one cared - He cared for human leftovers. Jesus still cares for the leftovers of society. He can help anyone who feels rejected, a scrap of humanity, not fully part of society, short on capacity or ability or intellect or health - He can help those who are the remnant. Make a success of your life by using your leftovers offered to Him! Jesus helps those in need to make their lives successful by using their leftovers.


In those years when I few every week to speak in a different part of Australia I despaired at the amount of time spent waiting in air terminals and on the place itself. I purchased a portable, silent electric typewriter which sat on my knees. I used it to type articles, sermons and book chapters.

These days, a lap-top computer is used for the same reason by thousands of air travellers. Another man, waiting for a bus and wanting to keep some loose sheets of notepaper together, picked up a piece of wire, bent it and created the most common item on a secretary's desk: a paper clip. Johann Strauss was waiting in a restaurant overlooking the river when he hummed a tune, wrote it on a menu and gave to us "The Blue Danube". Every moment can be productive to a creative person. Jesus expects an accounting of our use of time. Jesus wants us to fill our thoughts, do more, think deeper and be more creative in our use of time.


One Canadian winter, a man took some scrap timber, a saw, some cans of paint, and made some small tiles of wood with painted letters. He called this new game "Scrabble". Soon this game was popular worldwide earning it's inventor millions. At Wesley Mission, our Wesley Clothing factory and shops each year handle a million garments that people have given to us because they no longer wear them. Those garments take on a new life with new owners, and many of the poor and those on limited budgets are grateful to make do with the leftovers. We have a need to use our possessions with care, wasting nothing while others may be blessed by them. Our problem is not having enough, but in possessing too much. We live in an era of plenty. The danger is that many of us get caught up in the trap of wanting to possess what we do not need, using money we do not have to satisfy a desire for things. We must learn to use our leftovers so others are helped and we are freed from the trap of possessions.

Successful people use whatever is in their hand right now. There is no waiting for a more opportune time. Moses used his staff and a rod to help his people before Pharaoh. Joshua used a ram's horn to trumpet when they marched round Jericho. Gideon used a lamp and a pitcher in his hand to defeat an army. David used a sling and stones in his hand to overwhelm Goliath. As Jesus used a boy's meal to feed the five thousand, so He takes the leftovers of our possessions and uses them. Even the most deprived person here can be significant when you offer what is in your hand to Jesus to use in His service. When you placed your offering before the Lord, He accepted it and will multiply it to help others. By your giving you have become a successful person helping others by your leftovers.


Few of us possess good health. Some are limited by sickness, others disabled. Suffering is a constant companion for some. When God gave the gift of good health, they missed out except for the leftovers. But Jesus can help you be a successful person using only the leftovers of your health. Fanny Crosby, was blind, but a great hymn writer. George Frederick Handel wrote "The Messiah" after he had a stroke. Henry Martin, the famous missionary to India had lungs full of TB. Father Damien was accepted by the lepers because he too was a leper. Helen Keller could neither hear, speak nor see. Joni Eareckson Tada cannot move but she is an internationally famous evangelist, painter and film star. Terry Wiles here spoke of his faith and he possessed neither arms nor legs and had only one eye. All had only the leftovers of health but God enabled them to be successful people.

You, too, can be a successful person in spite of disability or disease if you allow Him to show you how to use the leftovers of your health. You do not have to be a perfect physical specimen to enter the kingdom of God. You can say: "Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind, O Lamb of God I come."


God accepts you even at the point of the limitations of your faith. You do not have to know everything to be accepted by Him. What matters is not your belief in Him but His belief in you! A father begged Jesus to heal his epileptic son: Mark 9:22 "If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." 23 "'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes." 24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Jesus, moved by the father's limited faith, perhaps only the leftovers of his belief from childhood days, healed the lad.

Even the leftovers of your faith can bring you spiritual life. You need say only to Him "I believe. I have faith. But I also need help to believe more. Help my unbelief." Jesus can make you a successful person by helping you use the leftovers of your faith. The doctrine of the remnant is of significant relevance to you. God accepts whatever is offered and then uses it to His glory. Your life, however limited and injured, can be remade and remodelled in His hands. People of creative skills can take the remnants of food, clothing, wood, material and make something wonderful from them. Is it any wonder that the almighty God can take your life in whatever state it now is, and remake you as a brand new person? Offer Him your left-overs now.

  GOD'S PEOPLE AND THE REMNANT J C Campbell Scottish Journal of Theology, Edinburgh 3:1950 p78-85.

Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes - gkmoyes@wesleymission.org.au

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