Jack Graham - When Your Faith is Tested
It's time to DARE TO BELIEVE. We've seen great things, we've seen God do amazing, incredible things in times past, but we want to see it again. We want to see God move in grace and power upon our lives, our homes, our families. We want to be a part of revival in our generation. Our nation, our world desperately needs Jesus. God has called us to take steps of faith, even to dare taking leaps of faith in order to accomplish His plan, His purpose until He comes again. So over the next several weeks in this series DARE TO BELIEVE, these will be messages that will help you have a bold, unshakeable faith in times like these. We are believers! And because we are believers, we are to live in faith. We are "saved by grace through faith", and "The just shall live by faith". We are to know our faith, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by God's word"; we are to grow our faith. And the way we grow our faith is to exercise our faith and use the faith that we've been given, and to stretch and to dare to believe God to do more in our lives.
Now in John chapter 6 we have the story once again of a big dinner or a massive lunch when Jesus miraculously fed the multitude. And, yes, I believe in miracles! Our God is a God of miracles! And the miracles that Jesus performed drew people to Himself. The crowds were gathering at an unprecedented pace. Everyone wanted to hear and see Jesus because of His majesty, the very magnetism of His presence, the irresistible presence of Christ, the power of Jesus and His miracles, the message of Jesus as He delivered messages regarding the kingdom of God. So common people heard Him gladly; children heard Him gladly, crawled up into His lap. Characters of all kinds, sinners of all kind listened to Jesus as He spoke. It was His magnetism, His majesty, His message of life and the miracles that came from His hands, that ministered to people's needs, that drew these great crowds to Jesus.
And as a result one day the crowd had swelled to a multitude, numbered at 5000 men, no doubt plus women and children. The crowd could have been ten upwards to 15,000 people that day, on a hillside around the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent so much of His earthly ministry. And something happened on that hillside that was so significant that all four Gospel writers tell this story. Outside of the resurrection itself, it is the one miracle that Jesus performed that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all recorded. So we're going to look at John's description of what happened, beginning at verse 5, chapter 6 of John: "Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, 'Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?' He said this to test him".
And there's the title of our message today: When Your Faith is Tested Dare to Believe. "He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, 'Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.' And one of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 'There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?' Jesus said, 'Have the people sit down.' Now there was much grass in this place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish as much as they wanted". Jesus is enough, and more than enough. Jesus supplies our every need.
It's a very wonderful story. A story that many of us have known since we were children: the story of this little boy, this little lad and his lunch, and how Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish and blessed them, multiplied them, and fed this massive crowd. Again the crowd showed up to see Jesus. Literally what is happening here, the crowds are rushing to meet Jesus! They're coming so fast. Jesus had tried to get a little rest and a break. He was physically, humanly exhausted, and yet He always had time for people, didn't He? He was always willing to be interrupted. And so the crowds gathered. As far as I'm concerned that's a really good thing, when great numbers of people come to meet Jesus, when crowds of people are drawn to know Him and to experience His presence. He himself said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all unto Myself".
And so when we lift up Christ in our lives, lift up Christ in our church, there is a magnetism there, there's a charisma there, a connection there in the power and the presence of Christ. But for Jesus and for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ it's never about the crowd; it's always about the one person who needs Christ, the one family that will come to Jesus, the one person whose life filled with bondage and addiction is set free by the power of Christ. And it's always about the one! And Jesus cared so deeply about the crowds, but not just as a multitude or a mass of faces, but people, one by one. He had a heart and a love for each person. And we are to see people through the eyes of Christ.
The disciples said, "What we need to do is send everybody home. Just send them home"! But Jesus said, and this is in Matthew's account, chapter 14:16, "You give them something to eat". That's an emphatic "you". You, you, you, you, "You give them something to eat". And, of course, they didn't know what to do or how to do it. They should have. Jesus was standing right in front of them. So Jesus turns to Philip as John notes here, and says, "Philip, where are we going to get the food to feed all these people"? Now Philip, who was ever practical, a mathematician of sorts, maybe the administrator of the disciples, Philip had it figured out already.
In fact, if you'll look again at the Scripture in John chapter 6, Philip answered Him in verse 7: "Two hundred denarii won't buy enough food for all of them to get a little". Two hundred denarii may not sound much to you, but that was a working man's wage for almost a year. So he had it figured out. He calculated it and he knew, "Lord, if a man worked all year long and we bought food, it wouldn't be enough for people to have a single bite. We can't do this"! And, of course, Philip was calculating without Christ, so Philip failed this test. And that's when Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, always referenced as Simon Peter's brother, but also always bringing people to Jesus.
When we meet Andrew in the Bible, he's always bringing someone to Jesus. He found his brother Peter; he brought him to Jesus. He found some Greeks who were inquiring as to how to meet Jesus and he brought them to Jesus. He brought this little boy. Somehow he met him in the crowd, this little young man, perhaps a young teenager, an older child, and he's there. His mom had packed him a lunch. We don't know his name. We know he was perhaps a poor child because he had barley bread which was the food of the poor; really the food of animals. And he came with these five loaves and two fishes. Don't think of big loaves of French bread under his arm, but loaves were more like biscuits or a little cracker.
And the fish, we see them swimming in the Galilee even today. Little small minnow-like, they're almost like sardines. You can get bigger fish there, but these were probably little sardines. So it was basically sardines and crackers. And the little boy gave up his lunch, and Andrew brought it to Jesus. He said, "But what are these among so many"? Andrew almost got it right. Andrew almost passed the faith test. The fact is both of them fell short, because standing in front of them was the One who would do miracles in their presence, they had already experienced His power, His presence, and feeding the people. What Andrew should have said was, "Look, Jesus, we can't, but You can. You're God, we're not! You do, Lord, what only You can do"! And when Jesus took the meal and blessed it, and transformed it, the miracle took place.
Now wouldn't you have loved to have seen this miracle? I mean, I don't even think the people knew what was happening. No one could figure it out. This was a miracle. Don't try to short-change the miracles of God. Someone looks at that and says, "Oh this was a miracle of generosity. When the people saw the little boy give his lunch, they all felt bad and shared their lunch as well". Really? Is that your faith? No. Jesus performed this miracle in His hands. It wasn't a miracle of poof! and there were stacks of bread and fish, but something miraculous happened in His hand. Because Christ is the Creator! Don't you know if Christ can create the cosmos, the universe and this world, He can make bread to multiply and fish to pass to many! And so out of His hands and out of the blessing and prayer came provision and the multitudes were fed.
Now what are the faith lessons we learn in this? You might even call these the lessons of the loaf. Number one, we're to show compassion to those in need. I see that clearly in the life of Jesus and certainly here. Thank God for Christians throughout the generations who have been on the forefront of meeting people's physical needs, whether it is medical or education, whether it is feeding the poor or ministering to the hurting in a crisis. And always, in relief work, in rescuing people from human trafficking. We all see through the years, through the generations, Christian people, God's people, the Jesus people leading the way in ministering because of compassion. Jesus had compassion for the crowds and for the people. And that word compassion, it means to care deeply. It's more than pity, more than sympathy. It's a strong word. It's pity plus passion. It means to churn within.
Jesus felt very deeply the pain of the people! He knew they were hurting. They were like sheep without a shepherd, He said. And so when Jesus showed compassion, He teaches us to show that same compassion with others. We overcome evil with good! That's been the call of Christ upon our lives. And so all over the world we see this today, whether it is Syrian refugees or a hurricane or a tornado in Oklahoma, it's God's people that show up first and when the cameras are off and so many people leave, God's people are still there, serving! Why? Because of our compassionate Savior! Because of the Lord Jesus Christ who taught us to show compassion to those in need because we are representatives of Christ.
Lesson number two, God meets our needs when we face impossible situations. I wish I had more time to talk to you about this. I told you that Philip calculated, but he calculated without Christ. What he should have said is, "Lord, you can make as much food as you want". And sometimes we face overwhelming obstacles, situations in our lives that seem impossible. We're over our heads, beyond our pay grade, beyond our ability. And when this happens, these are tests for our faith so that we won't be satisfied where we are but that our faith can grow, so that we can reach for more. God may put you in the middle of a test. Christian, James told us this, we saw this in our James series, right? That God uses crisis, that the Lord uses crisis and tests and trials of all kinds to develop our faith, to grow our faith!
And when we face situations, some of you are facing perhaps a domestic crisis, an impossible situation in your marriage where it seems it's never going to work. You may be facing something with your children; you don't know the answers, you don't know how to handle it. It's way above. But what we have learned, in times of testing what we have learned is to trust God, to believe God has an answer! And whether it is a mountain or a mole hill. You know Jesus is interested in big things and little things.
Sometimes I think we have the attitude that, "Well, the big things I'll bring to Jesus, but the little things, I'll handle myself". No, everything big and small, whether it is a bend in the road, a bump in the road or the end of the road, we are to bring to Him! For whom all things are possible. Jesus does the impossible when we bring the impossible to Him! When something natural that we can't handle, we can't see, we don't see to believe; we believe to see! That's faith, is to trust in a God who can do anything but fail! But we, like Philip, we want to figure things out and fix it ourselves.
When I was a boy growing up in a little house in east Fort Worth, and I mean, you know, a very small house, the other day several of the ministers and I were over there. I was giving them a little roots tour, and we went by my little house there on the east side of Fort Worth, and we actually knocked on the door and I invited myself in. I had to explain to a man who spoke only Spanish that I used to live there, that I was a padre, that I wasn't some bad person, but I wanted to come in and see my old house. On just a whim. Well, he let us in. We finally communicated.
David Shivers knew enough Spanish to get us through there. And I went back to the little room. And I can't, it's a room about the size of where I'm standing now on the little platform in front of me, very small room. And just a flood of emotions came over me. And I remembered a bulletin board that I had on the wall and I could still see a little bookmark that I kept there, I put up there as a young teenager. It was a young man steering a ship and Jesus, His hand... Maybe you've seen this picture, some of the great pictures we saw in Sunday school growing up, Jesus had His hand on the shoulder of this young man, and I'm visioning myself, he was a strong, vibrant young man. He's holding the steering, and Jesus has His hand on his shoulder, and underneath are these words: Proverbs 3:5 and 6, a scripture which became the script of my life: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path".
And when you face impossible situations and when you don't know the way in, the way out or the way through, that's when you trust in a God who does know, who will make a way when there is no way. And through the years as this scripture became the script of my life along with others, I've seen God come through in ways that only He could do. Trust God; you must, you must! He will meet your needs. How? They all had more than enough! "My God shall supply all of you need according to His riches in glory in Jesus Christ"! All of your needs! The script of this church, the scripture that we have claimed for years, Ephesians 3:20 and 21: "God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think according to the power that works in us". God works in impossible situations in your life!
Number three, quickly, it's more than a cliché, you've heard it many times: Little is much when God is in it. God took this little lad's lunch. Jesus multiplied it and He fed the multitude. Don't say God can't use me. God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. The weak are made strong. And when we give what we have, be it large or small, when He takes it, He transforms it and transfers it to the hearts and lives of people. Listen to what missionary Hudson Taylor said about little things. "A little thing is a little thing. But faithfulness in a little thing is a big thing". I like that. "Faithfulness in a little thing is a big thing".
And when you bring what you have to the Lord, like this boy, whatever it is. We all have gifts and talents and abilities and resources, and when we say, "Lord, I takes hands off; I give it to You. What I have is Yours to use to Your glory", when we experience then the power of God on it, He gives it back to us with even a greater glory for Himself, our faith is fortified and strengthened! When you bring what you have to Jesus, He will use it. So what do you have? What do you hold in your hand? Moses had just a rod! Just a shepherd's staff, living in the desert, eking out a living. He saw the power and the presence of God in a burning bush. The great I AM met him there in just straggly bush!
Ian Thomas said, "Any old bush will do when it is ignited with the power and the presence of God". And that shepherd's staff in Moses' hand, God said throw it down, give it to Me. And when he took it up the rod in the hand of a man became the rod of God in a man's hand. A little shepherd boy experienced this when he went against the great giant. Everyone was fearful and running, but David knew the power of God! "I come to you in the name of the Lord My God"!
And with a stone and a slingshot, the giant went down and a great victory was won for the people of God. Little things like a mite, just a few pennies offered by a widow, and Jesus said, "What she has given is more than everyone else here put together". God uses little things and little people who recognize that with God all things are possible. We don't know this little boy's name, but when we meet him in heaven, we'll shake his hand and thank him because we're still talking about it 2000 years later. What he did encourages us to no end, to do exactly what we've been talking about, and that is to see with compassion the needs of people around us, to experience His power and His presence in our lives every day and in every way, and then to give what we have to Him.
And there's one final, the most important point of all and that is this: Jesus is all you need. He is! That's why in John chapter 6 in verse 35, beyond the bread that was multiplied and the fish that was passed, Jesus said, "I am the Bread of life. And whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty". Later in verses 48 and following, look at that with me. "Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread (speaking of Himself) that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. And if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh".
The bread is His body, His life laid out for us, dying on a cross for our sins. The bread that came from heaven. And He is the bread that satisfies. He is the one and the only one who will satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. Earthly bread brings emptiness, and we will hunger again. But Jesus said if you believe in Me and trust in Me and receive Me, the living bread into your life, My very presence will be in you, and My provision, I will be your portion forever. He is the bread that strengthens us and satisfies us and He is enough and more than enough for our every need. There is not a need in your life but that the Bread of heaven, Jesus Christ will meet by His grace and His love and His power. That's why we want to tell people about Jesus. That's why we go in His name and do what we do.
We need to remember that people in the crowd, sometimes the very people that God has called us to reach, we see them as enemies. They're not our enemies. People who don't know Jesus do what people who don't know Jesus do. It's our job to love them! Satan's the enemy! And so many people are bound by Satan and victims of the power of death in Satan. It's our goal not to make the world our enemy, but in Jesus' name to love people to Him by sharing and showing up. Would you dare to take a step of faith, to engage in people's lives that you don't know? Maybe people you would never even meet apart from the work of Jesus in you and through you.