“Can’t” Can’t Be, Anymore (Part 2)

By DeLano Sheffield

February 1, 2024

Scripture — John 6:1-9 (NET)

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (also called the Sea of Tiberias). A large crowd was following him because they were observing the miraculous signs he was performing on the sick. So Jesus went on up the mountainside and sat down there with his disciples. (Now the Jewish Feast of the Passover was near.) Then Jesus, when he looked up and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread so that these people may eat?” (Now Jesus said this to test him, for he knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, “200 silver coins worth of bread would not be enough for them, for each one to get a little.” One of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “Here is a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what good are these for so many people?”


How do we get to a redemptive imagination, a view of life that sees Christ involved in the life of the lost? Involved in poverty? Involved in homelessness? In brokenness and wholeness? We have to look at three things: who we worship, who we love, and what we decide to do.


In part one we learned that while the disciples were far from perfect in the process of learning, the kingdom changes perspective. The apostle Andrew’s life and his experiences demonstrated why “it can’t”, “I can’t”, and “that can’t” should not be our attitude when it comes to God.

Instead of uncertainty and doubt, a spirit of fear, a closed-set mentality, we have to have a redemptive imagination. Mark Roberts says it this way:

In this way, our imaginations can be redemptive. We can share in God’s work of redeeming all things through Christ. We can see injustice and imagine justice. We can see poverty and imagine plenty. We can see war and imagine peace. We can see brokenness and imagine wholeness. But truly redemptive imaginations don’t just sit there and see better things. Rather, they motivate and equip us to invest our lives in God’s redemptive mission.

How do we get to a redemptive imagination, a view of life that sees Christ involved in the life of the lost? Involved in poverty? Involved in homelessness? In brokenness and wholeness? We have to look at three things: who we worship, who we love, and what we decide to do.

We worship something all the time, and as disciples we are learning to turn that worship toward God. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we were fully convinced that God is fully spirit, eternal, unchanging, and good in every way and the source of all existence? It would look like the accounts of Jesus and his inexhaustible grace throughout the scriptures.

The disciples were not at that point yet in worship. But they are close to Jesus. If there were, when he asked them “How do we feed over 5,000 people?” they would have responded, “We are going to probably have an extra twelve baskets because you always provide more than enough.” When Jesus is close, he begins to change our love. Of all the untitled, un-degreed, least valued, fringes of society, Andrew notices a young boy with a few morsels. When you love God, you begin to love people who don’t look like you. (I am not certain whether you love people that don’t look like you, or you realize through God’s love that you are really not much different than anyone else you put on the fringe.) Andrew was learning practical love toward others in the same way Jesus loved him. It was not “can’t” anymore but “perhaps” or “is it possible?” And he began to ask: what can God do with a few meaningless fish and loaves? His perspective changed and his questions changed.

We worship God, we love him and others, but we also have to choose to do something. Something specific. Andrew was beginning this lifelong learning to worship God and love his neighbor. Worship and faith are necessary, and love will be the result. And that love will result in action. Matthew’s version of this story tells us that Jesus said to bring the boy’s lunch to him (Matthew 14:18). It is good to worship God. It is good to trust him and love him and our neighbor. But this story would be incomplete if Andrew had only looked at the boy and his lunch. His imagination motivated and equipped him “to invest [his life] in God’s redemptive mission.”

“Can’t” can’t be, anymore. While it is easier to write off the brokenness of the world, to speak of frail human beings in the past tense, to build service toward others with embedded “can’t do thats”, if we excommunicate mystery and wonder we will inevitably excommunicate the clay that might be the answer we need.

This is not how we learned to look at broken things. That’s just not the cross that we learned as disciples. This is not how Jesus looked at you. We should always be looking at opportunities and problems and uncertainties… as possibilities if we understand what Jesus did. God is indeed God. God’s work sustains, and informs your work. And God teaches us to say yes to the Gospel and its implications. “Can’t” isn’t the default anymore. Jesus has done too much to live like “it’s impossible” is a disciple’s language or the lens through which we look at anyone.


How many times of Jesus breaking and passing bread do you think it took before the apostles realized there was going to be enough for everyone?

What do you think the apostles thought about every time they saw a basket?


Go find something in your life that was a “can’t” until God showed you what is possible when he said, “Bring it to me.” Go find someone who has the same thing in their life with the same “can’t.” Ask God who you worship to help you love them and tell you what you should do next.


God help me to look at the cross, the death and burial, the resurrection, and the reigning of your son deeply. Help me to compare what is broken to what Jesus has done before I draw conclusions about the past, present, and future. Amen.

Banner image by Yeh Xintong on Unsplash.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Bread of Life.

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DeLano Sheffield

Author & Business Resource Specialist

DeLano J. Sheffield is the Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan where he connects to people on the fringes, training them to reach their full potential through learning and the power of work; he also is on the frontlines of the advances of the fourth industrial revolution and coa...

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