September heralds a return to school and a recommencement of our extra ministries. We have known a year of special blessing in so many areas of ministry and we look with anticipation to what God will do in these coming months. As a church we hold firmly to the great teaching of the Sovereignty of God, believing that God is able to do all that He plans to do and is in no way hindered by the events of this world. That said, however, it is important that we do all that we can to cooperate with God.
In this letter I want to look at John’s record of the feeding of the 5,000 and see what lessons we can learn. John begins by saying that Jesus had crossed the Sea of Galilee after some event had happened. He does not give the details provided by the other Gospel writers, but does show that Jesus responds to the circumstance of His life. There was a crowd following Jesus, because they saw the signs (miracles) that He had been doing. Whatever their motive, they wanted to see and know more about Jesus. Jesus remained focussed. At the beginning of His ministry He had promised His disciples that He would make them “fishers of men”, and in this pressing crowd He chooses to focus on the development of His disciples. That said, He does not ignore the crowd, but recognises their need of food and asks His disciples how they might meet the physical needs of those following. We are told that “He said this to test him, (v.6)” Philip is the first to respond to the test and says that 6 months average pay would not be enough to buy sufficient food. It would seem that the second response by Andrew has a slight measure of faith, in that he brings the boy to Jesus, “but asks, what are they for so many?” What Jesus did at this point is so important, in that it gives us a model response when faced with seemingly impossible tasks.
We should not be afraid of adjusting our plans or timetables when circumstances demand. Similarly we should encourage anyone who has a genuine interest to know more about Jesus or even the events of the church. In a world with increasing needs, we must accept our own limitations, being prepared to focus on certain people or needs, while recognising our own inability to ‘fix everything’. Even the Lord Jesus Christ, the one true God/Man could only be in one place at one time. Philip’s response is totally limited by human understanding. Is Andrew’s faith any greater? I believe it is, because he shows Jesus what is available. Now, however, we need to see the principles that come from Jesus’ response. He called for order, by requiring everyone to be seated. It gave him a clearer picture of how many were present. At this point Jesus took what was available. In Christian work too much time is wasted by longing for what is not yet available. Jesus then did something that we sadly lack at our peril, He gave thanks or put another way, he prayed. Although the Son of God, He openly declared His need of God. Ps 127 warns of the futility of human effort without the direct help of God. We may feel limited in our human resources or even financial resources, but this miracle declares the Truth of Phil 4:19.
My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philipians 4 verse 19
The crowd was fed against seemingly impossible odds, and as a result Jesus was recognised afresh for who He was, “… the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (v.14)
Notice, also that although Jesus displayed His glory He did not let the crowd set His agenda, and in fact withdrew when they attempted to make Him king. We live in a culture where it seems impossible to create any reasonable effect against the prevailing opposition, but be encouraged. We have seen ministries strengthened and expanded in recent months. Let us believe that God is able to do even greater work than these as we make an accurate assessment of the needs and opportunities as well as living in faith and obedience towards our Lord Jesus Christ.
Trusting only Him,