”I Don't See How It's Going to Work, But I'll Give It All I
Two of the terms used to describe God in the Scriptures are “Almighty” and “All powerful.” Sometimes, we use the term “omnipotent” which means the same thing. But do we believe it? To what degree? Are we willing to put our trust in the One who cannot be defeated?
The title of this article is a paraphrase of the attitude expressed by Andrew, the apostle and brother of Peter, on one occasion during the ministry of Jesus. I would like for us to notice this event and draw some lessons from it to our own discipleship today.
“After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). And a great multitude was following Him, because they were seeing the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Jesus therefore lifting up His eyes, and seeing that a great multitude was coming to Him, said to Philip, 'Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?' And this He was saying to test him; for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. Philip answered Him, 'Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.' One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, 'There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?' 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. Jesus therefore took the loaves; and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, 'Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.' And 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. When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, 'This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.'" (John 6:1-14).
“And this He was saying to test him; for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” (John 6:6). Jesus was testing Philip when He had asked him where they were going to find food to purchase for the great multitude of people. Philip's reply was essentially that even if enough food could be found they did not have nearly enough funds to purchase the amount it would take to feed everybody. Philip evidently did not think the “Almighty” was “mighty” enough to handle this situation. Philip's problem is quite common.
Philip could not figure out how the Lord was going to accomplish the task. But this does not mean He won't. We must be careful not to limit our estimates of success in anything which has to do with the Lord's work and will. The God who can, after all, part the Red Sea, will do what He determines to do in the way He determines to do it. If He says, “Baptism now saves you.” (1 Peter 3:20,21) then it does.
Andrew is more flexible than Philip. In verse 9, he advises that there is a little food around. He says, 'There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” That's much better. Andrew offers the Lord all he can find, and though he admits he doesn't know how it's going to work, at least he offers whatever he can to help. Jesus then told His apostles to have the people sit down and the rest is history. The people were fed and the miracle had it's intended effect, that being to give evidence that Jesus was really from God. “When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, 'This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.'" (John 6:14; cf. John 20:30,31).
It is sad that many of these same people later get sidetracked from the importance of Jesus' true mission and the true significance of the miracle He had done. The significance was that Jesus had “the words of life” and they needed to find redemption from sins. They were more focused on the food.
They decided that they would like Jesus to be their king. “Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” (John 6:15). While one can certainly understand the value of having such a king, that is not the kind of king Jesus came to be. He came to establish a spiritual kingdom, which He did; not a physical kingdom like they wanted (John 18:36; Colossian 1:13).
When Jesus sought to further adjust the crowds thinking,
encouraging them to be more interested in spiritual food for their souls, they
objected (John 6:22-27; 41-45). Sadly, when Jesus refuses to appeal to their
desires, many of them withdraw. They had been so close to eternal life, and yet
so far away (John 6:66-68).
Application of the Principle
We have noticed several important points in looking at this event in the life of Christ. Consider the following application for our discipleship today. There are many more that could be made, but we will just note a few that relate to our evangelism.
First, it is going to take faith and commitment on our parts. We can either sit and do nothing, and, like Philip, only think in terms of why we cannot or will not be involved and have success or we can be like Andrew and say ”I don't see how it's going to work, but I'll give it all I got!” Now, which of these approaches do you think will find success and be pleasing to the Lord?
Secondly, we need to understand that God can accomplish wonders with anyone! If we allow the Lord's will to become ours, and seek to accomplish His work as we allow Him to direct our lives, then good success will result in some form or another, even if it only be in hearing His words “Well done!” at the judgment.
Finally, notice how Jesus would not change His mission from
spiritual food to physical food even though it would have been popular for Him
to do so. Nor should we alter the nature of the gospel. We should not change the
church's tasks and missions as assigned by the Lord. We should never be
satisfied with only halfway commitment on our parts to His work. The most
wonderful significance of the feeding of the five thousand was, and is, Jesus is
the Son of God.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 15.11; November 2008