Do you feel like you always fail spiritual tests? This message will help you pass the next one.
I Flunked Faith 101
Well, in John's gospel, chpater 6 we have the testing of the disciples faith - it is tested to the very limit - and all the disciples fail the test of faith.
John 6:1. After these things Jesus went away to theother side of the Sea of Galilee for Tiberias.
stop here - Mark's gospel informs us that Jesus actually told his disciples to "come away by yourselves to a quiet place and rest a while; for there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. And they went away in the boat to a quiet place by themselves. And the people saw them going, and many recognized them, and they ran there together on foot from all the cities and got there ahead of them."
Imagine that - they're going away for a quiet time of rest and relaxation - and the crowd wees the direction the boat is sailing and they run around the shore line some 9 miles and actually beat the disciples to their place of retreat.
Now Matthew let's us know that the disciples wanted to send them away - Jesus however responded differently.
Two Different Reactions:
!The disciples reaction was irritation - Imagine, your vacation is interrupted by 25,000 people pressing you on every side...
Lord, send them away...we just want to be left to myself for a little while, without any interruptions.
!The reaction of Jesus was compassion
Here is this massive mob of some 20,000 people.
Verse 5 of John 6 says: "Jesus therefore lifting up His eyes, and seeing that a great multitude was coming to Him...
Now Mark's gospel fills in the gap by adding, "And he felt compassion for them becuase they were like sheep without a shepherd.
What are sheep like without a shepherd?
!they are leaderless !they are defenseless
!they are hungry !they wander about and are lost
And so we have Two Different Perspectives:
Jesus saw an illustration:
This would be a wonderful time to teach that He is the bread of life - that He is the eternal food that produce everlasting life.
We're going to look at that illustration in detail in another session.
But the Disciples saw: an interruption.
Serving people is rarely convenient. It is most often spontaneous.
Like a lady in our church who was visited by an unsaved friend who said, "You know, my life just hasn't turned out the way I wanted..." Boom - there it was, an opportunity - do I really want to hear her frustrations. . .do I really want to be brought into her pain? This woman did, and she listened...
One of the marks of maturing disciples is that they are able to see illustrations instead of interruptions and reveal compassion instead of irritation.
let's look on verse 5. 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? 6. And this He was saying to test him (this is a pop quiz); for He himself knew what He was
intending to do.
Why ask Philip? Becuase he was the disciple that came from this region - he knew where the bakery was! He knew where the flour was stored; he knew the resources of the closest village.
Jesus is asking the expert in physical facts, "Is it physically possible to find the food to feed these people?"
So Philip gets out his calculator and pencil - let's see, 20,000 people will eat so much bread...that costs so much... His answer is in verse 7 paraphrased - "Oh, Lord, we'd need two hundred denarii just to give everyone a little bite!"
How much is that...well, one denari was a days wage. If you 200 days by the minimum hourly income of contemporary society you're looking at $7,600 just to buy enough to give everyone a little bite. It's absolutely inconcievable!
About that time, Andrew shows up...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?
Get the picture - Andrew arrives out of breath - he's scoped out the crowd and discovered a little boy with a lunch;
barley loaves - this by the way was the bread of the poor person. Barley bread was rough and coarse; these loaves were flat pancake like bread, baked in round small pieces about the size of a silver dollar.
and what about the two fish? These were opsaria - they were the size of small sardines. Fresh fish was an unheard of luxury since there was no means of transporting and refrigeration. So these small sardine like opsaria,...were caught and pickled. They served somthing like a small but tasty relish. So this little boy had his little pickled fish to help the dry barley bread go down.
Here comes Andrew with the boy - perhaps in his mind he's thinking the possiblity of some miracle?
Well, he comes up to the other disciples and says to the Lord - "Hey I've got this boy with his lunch - and the other disciples bend over in hilarious laughter - that's in between the lines
It strikes me as funny though how Andrew suggests something and then he adds in verse 9 - "But what are these among so many."
So here in this story we two different faiths - they both fail to reach their conclusion in the power of Christ however.
Two different faiths:
Philip - faith that was obscured by physical circumstances
not enough money - nowhere to buy bread...send them away
Andrew - faith that was threatened by the pysical magnitude
We would have to add that the rest of the other disciples agreed.
If you combine all four gospel accounts together you come up with 5 terrific obstacles to Christ's miracle:
!Luke 9:12 - This is not the right place - "For we are here in a desert place"
!Luke 9 - There is not enough bread - "We have no more than five loaves and two fish"
!John 6:7 - There is not enough money - "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient"
!Matthew 14 - There is not enough manpower. - "Send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages and buy for themselves food."
!Mark 6 - There is not enough time - "The hour is now late"
The opinion among the 12 disciples was unanimous - the situation was impossible; send them away!
Not one of them stopped to think - maybe Jesus could do something miraculous; why he'd turned ordinary water into wine;
Now admit something - we are problably thinking - how ridiculous - if I had been there I would have immediately thought to ask Jesus to feed the crowd. How obvious! I mean, what could a little food problem be to the one who's raised the dead, cast out demons, healed every sort of disease, turned water into wine.
Okay Lord - show 'em.
Well, how then are you handling your problems today?! Are you acting as if God isn't big enough for your situation right now?!
This is getting a little too convicting, so lets move on? Jesus responds in verse 10. Have the peope sit down. Now there was much grass in the place, So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11. Jesus therfore took the loaves; and having given thanks, he distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.
What an incredible miracle - "Jesus just kept breaking those two pickled fish - and he created the substance as he broke it; He took the break and created bread as He broke it.
Now the liberals have a problem with this - so they have come up with a couple of suggestions to explain away the miracle:
1) What Jesus was doing was passing out communion - so every one just got a crumb of bread and a teensy weensy bit of pickled fish.
Look at verse 11 - the last phrase - "they took as much as they wanted...Matthew 14 tells us that they ate until they were all satisfied.
The greek word kortazo - satisfied - could be translated "stuffed".
2) second suggestion is that this little boy so humbled the people with his graciousness that everyone pulled out their own lunches and shared with each other what they had brought along.
Well look at the result of this feeding - verse 13. 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 peopoe saw the sign which He had performed, they said, "This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world. 15. 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."
Why the big deal if all that happened was everybody shared their lunches with each other - what kind of sign is that?
I'll tell you - The Rabbis of Jesus' day were teaching, based on an obscure text in the Pentateuch that when the Messiah came he would reproduce the miracle of the wilderness - that is the miracle of the Manna from heaven."
So here is Jesus feedig the multitude in a grassy wilderness, reproducing the miracle of the manna in his own hands.
Well, what did the disciples learn from failing to look to Christ for the solution? Lessons learned from failing:
!Our resource for ministry is in Christ, not ourselves
You say, I don't have much to offer him - Well, what do you have? "A couple of sardines, some barley bread..."
Paul explained "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Cor. 4:7
And God uses common clay jars like us so that there will be no mistake as to where the power comes from. We so often think that God wants and needs our strengths, and He does use them when they are committed to Him. But what about our barley loaves, our ordinariness, our weaknesses?
The truth is - these are harder to give to God! If you are eloquent, it is easy to say, "God, here is my eloquence, Take and use it." If you are a good business persons, it is simple to say, "God you can have my administrative ability." But it is another thing entierely to give God your weaknesses.
Elizabeth Elliott wrote, "If the only thing you have to offer God is a broken heart, then offer him your broken heart." God can use that too!
That leads me to the second lesson:
!Our effectiveness in ministry is through cooperative effort, not singular.
Have you ever considered that the miracle of this day involved two things: it took the power of Christ to create the bread - it took the willingness of the disciples to distribute the bread. It was Christ who provided the meal - the disciples merely passed it out.
He could have created a meal in front of each person! No - he took the food he was given - produced miraculously more bread and then used the disciples to hand it out.
This episode is immediately followed by a swim in the lake - at least for one disciple.
To get the amplified gospel account turn back to Matthew 14:22. And immediately He made the disciples get into the boat, and go ahead of Him to theother side, while He sent the multitudes away.
23. And after He had sent the multitudes away, He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.
24. But the boat was already many stadia or furlongs (1/8 of a mile) away from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. (Marks gospel says they were straining at the oars - lit. "They were terrified in their rowing"
25. And in the fourth watch of the night (4am), He came to them, walking on the sea. 26. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. 27. But immediately Jesus spoke to them saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." 28. And Peter answered Himand said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."
29. And He said, "Come!". And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30. But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out saying, "Lord save me!" 31. And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said tohim, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
32. And when they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, "You are certainly God's Son!"
Peter failed to follow through in faith with what he began by faith!
Quickly allow me to point out several things about Peter's failure. But let me say first, while we will look at Peter's failure, let's not forget he was the only disciple who got out of the boat. The others were hanging on for dear life.
PETER FAILED THE TEST:
1) in familiar territory
He knew the Sea of Galilee, he knew water - the Lord took him to the place where Peter, as a fisherman and a sailor, had greatest confidence!
Sometimes our biggest failures occur in areas where we just knew we had it all together.
2) after extensive training
For two years he's been trained by the Master...
You never say, "i've conquered the Christian life...I've mastered the ministry; I can give out the four spiritual laws in my sleep...
3) in the process of obeyeing God's will
What an interesting place to fail the Lord...
Here you are, smack in the middle of God's will and suddenly you're filled with pride, envy, fear -
Lessons learned from this failure:
Obedience to Christ does not remove the obstacles
I happen to believe that storm, and that 3/4 hour period of terrified rowing was the necessary preparation so that the men would be forever impacted by the sight of Jesus walking on top of the raging waters.
I don't believe the calm of the storm was as great a lesson to the men as the sight of Jesus walking on top of the crashing breakers.
Why? Well, that which they struggled in fear against, was that over which Jesus Christ had perfect control.
What a lesson: God doesn't gaurentee the absence of storms; he does gaurantee his presence in them and He does reveal, if we will by faith look to Him, that he is in perfect control...that the storms are no match for His divine power.
Deep waters are not intended to drown us but develop us.
Jesus Christ wants to develop your faith and he doesn't develop it in the normalities of life but in the interupptions; not when things are settled but when things are stormy.
Has it ever ocurred to you that the creator of your storm could be God? Created so that He could reveal His power in and over the storm.
Here you are, facing some difficulty - are you look every where but up? The good news is that God doesn't send the angels down with baseball bats to hit you over the head - and say, "Sorry, you just flunked faith 101, God's kicking you out of the class; you're off the team.
You see, it's possible to fail without becoming a failure!
The question is, are you willing to be developed as a disciple or are you constantly asking the Lord to get rid of the inconveniences, the storms, the hurdles of life.
A young black girl lived in the poverty section of philadelphia. One of her most enjoyable activities was singing in her Union Baptist church choir. The adults noticed latent talent in her voice and so they began a fund. It was called the "The fund for Marion Anderson's future". They raised 126 dollars, in penney's nickles and dimes. She began her lessons. When she was 18 she had an audition with a very famous instructor - she had her audition but was rejected. Those sho believed in her planned a concert in the town hall in New York City - the critics tore her up. While she was well recievedin a European concert tour, becuase of her race, she was not allowed to sing in Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. For many years Marian Anderson wallowed in self pity. Her mother finally came to her on one ocassion and said, "Marian I want you to think about your troubles and your failures a little and pray a lot..." Then her mother said something Marian never forgot - She said, "Marian, you must learn that grace comes before greatness."
Listen to an older apostle Peter write, the one who failed an awful lot - "Humble yourselves therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time "when He's ready".
Peter is saying, humility comes before honor; grace comes before greatness. . .how do you learn grace - same way you develop faith...by the storms and the famines of life.
Marian Anderson went on to become a well known singer - she was once asked by a reporter, "Marian what was the most incredible experience of your career." She had a lot of possible choices - private concerts for the King and Queen of England, the Eisenhowers; awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom; she was appointed a delegate to the UN; Her answer? "The day I went home and told my mother she wouldn't have to take in washing anymore."
Hey Peter, what's your greatest moment - what a selection he could have had - walking on the water, healing the sick, preaching the very first sermon and seeing three thousand people come to faith in Christ. . .well, the very last recorded words of Peter point elswhere - 2 Peter 3:17. "You therefore beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest you fall from your own steadfastness (keep at it - continue to pursue the Lord's instruction; you might flunk a test, but stay in class) 18. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Chrsit, "To him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."
The greatest thing in my life, Peter says, was to get back in the boat - to faithfully follow through repeated failures - so that ultimately Jesus Christ would recieve the glory and honr due unto Him!
Grace comes before greatness...humility comes before honor
Learning to fail, yet follow on, comes as we learn to live the life of faith.