“He Himself knew what He would do”
10 And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. 11 But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and healed those who had need of healing. 12 When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” 15 And they did so and made them all sit down. 16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. 17 So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.
When NASA began the launch of astronauts into space, they found out that the pens wouldn’t work at zero gravity (Ink won’t flow down to the writing surface). In order to solve this problem, they hired Andersen Consulting. It took them one decade and $12 million. They developed a pen that worked at zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on practically any surface including crystal and a temperature range from below freezing to over 300 degrees C.
And what did the Russians do? The Russians used a pencil!
Too often we focus on problems and fail to see opportunities right in front of us.
Winston Churchill once said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; while an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Likewise, the Lord tells us to be very careful, then, how we live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is.
In other words, “If we want to understand the Lord’s will, let’s be wise by looking for the opportunities He sets before us, especially in difficult circumstances.”
Now for many of us this is a mind shift. If you’re like me… If a problem presents itself, the wheels in my head naturally start to spin and I immediately go into “fix it” mode, what do I need to do, who do I need to talk to and how do I go about fixing the problem. Sound familiar!
Now more often than not, my problem is not with the problem, but with how I go about finding the solution. I have a natural tendency to exhaust all of my resources, all of my strength and all of my ideas before I come to the Lord for His response.
However, the Lord has been teaching me to think supernaturally, instead of naturally. He’s been teaching me to see things from His Kingdom’s perspective rather than my worldly perspective. He’s teaching me to see the opportunities He is placing before me. Perhaps He’s leading you along that learning curve as well. And why not, He did that with His disciples.
Our passage today tells us that Jesus and His disciples withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but a crowd in excess of 5,000 learned about it and followed them. As it got late in the day, the disciples came to Jesus with a problem. There are too many people to feed. But rather than seeing this as an opportunity for the Lord to work, they saw it as a problem, that they needed to fix.
Notice how they approach this problem with doubt and worry. From the book of Mark….
37 But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?”
Same story here. But from our text, the disciples told Jesus to send them away. “the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” But I both passages, Jesus told them the same thing, “You give them something to eat.” So, that was the plan of the disciples, “send them away”.
Now church, that’s a reasonable… logical… level-headed… natural approach to the problem. Identify it, assess it, weigh the options and then…act on it. It was a great plan! Except for the fact that they were not making the most of the opportunity… by first understanding what the Lord’s will was. As mentioned in (Eph. 5:15-17)
They dove right into “fix-it” mode and not once asked the Lord… who was standing right there, what His thoughts were about it. So, Jesus looked them right in the eye and said to them, Fella’s, "You give them something to eat." v.13
Now you can almost feel the tightening in their chest, that tingling sensation that creeps up your spine, grabs your neck and sends your brain into panic mode. “You want us to do what?”
However, the Lord wanted to teach them something. He wanted them to start thinking differently. He wanted them to get out of the “fix-it” mode and begin to think in an “opportunity” mode. He wanted them to change the way they think and the way they approached life with its joys and its dilemmas.
23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Jesus wanted His disciples to stop looking at problems from their natural perspective and start looking at solutions from His (Jesus) super-natural powers. Jesus is after all the creator of all things!
How can I say that so definitively? I can say it, because Jesus Himself said it. In John’s account, it says that Jesus asked (them this question) to test them, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. John 6:6 (Same story)
6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
Now church, why in the world would Jesus ask the disciples a question that He already had the answer for? Why would He put them through this exercise when He had already predetermined the outcome? Well, the answer is not as difficult as you might think, so let’s look at it.
Jesus wants all of His disciples to be engaging in His ministry of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. That’s why He sent out the 12 in Luke 9:1 and why he will send out 72 in Luke 10 to couple good deeds with the good news. The Lord invites us to join Him in His work and that is exactly what He wanted them to do and what he wants us to learn and do as well. Why?
Because once we come to believe in Christ as Savior, we can’t stay there, we need to move on in making Him Lord of our lives. It would be like being born and staying an infant our entire life. That’s not God’s plan! His plan is for us to join Him in His work, as we come under His direction, authority and leadership.
However, as disciples that come under the Lordship of Christ, we need to start looking at the world and the problems we face from His perspective. The disciples on the other hand were looking at this dilemma from their perspective. In fact, they left the Lord almost entirely out of the equation or in many of our cases we first exhaust all our resources before we come to Him.
How in the world we’re the disciple going to feed all these people? They needed to change their mindset of making the most of every opportunity by seeing that….
Remember, John says that Jesus asked this only to test them, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. John 6:6
Was Jesus testing them? You bet He was! He wanted them to engage in “hands-on” ministry, rather than to just sit by as spectators and watch Him. However, more importantly, He wanted to change the way they thought, the way they process information and the way they dealt with problems. He wanted them to start looking at the world from His perspective.
He wanted them to see the many dilemmas they were facing were really opportunities for Jesus to reveal Himself to people who know Him… and to the people who don’t yet know Him. Jesus wanted His disciples to use this problem as a blessing for people and there lies the problem.
The Lord was asking the disciples to do something they were incapable of doing. There was absolutely no way they could feed all these people without either buying them bread or sending them into town. Jesus was creating for His disciples what Henry Blackaby in His book "Experiencing God" calls: A Crisis of belief. (Just giving you a preview of our next study.)
Now there is no question that this was a God-sized assignment. This was way beyond their capability to accomplish and if the Lord did not intervene, they would fail and fall flat on their faces.
Please understand that this is the place where many followers bail out. The Lord lays a God-sized assignment before them and they say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t”, which leads to what Blackaby calls a “crisis of belief”. If you recall, the word “crisis” comes from a word that means “decision.”
The crisis of belief then is a turning point, a fork in the road that demands a decision. You must decide what you believe about God and how you respond to Him. How you respond when you reach this turning point will determine whether you go on to be involved with Him in something God-sized that only He can do or whether you will continue to go your own way and miss the opportunity He has placed before you.
This is crucial because when we aren’t looking for those opportunities God is placing before us, we don’t experience His presence and power in our life and circumstance. It is vitally important that…
I had to remind myself of this very clear lesson. When God invites, to join Him in His work, we have to trust Him… open the door and let Him lead. By only looking at the problem instead of God’s provision the disciples thought only about how to accomplish this assignment of feeding the 5,000 in their own power and with their own resources. What they said was, ‘how can we fix this, we have only five loaves of bread and two fish v.13.
13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.”
You see…they saw the problem, and they came up with their own solution and not Gods.
They were thinking, “We can’t do this, it’s impossible! There is no way to feed that many people with what we have.” That’s true! Among themselves, this was impossible. But… this was an opportunity for them to see what Jesus can do!
Their problem was not with the dilemma, but with the way they were thinking. They had not yet grabbed onto the fact that Jesus was inviting them to join Him in His work. They thought they had to accomplish this task in their own power and with their current resources. They were thinking, “We can’t do this, it’s impossible!” But remember, Jesus already had in mind what HE was going to do. (John 6:6)
We often forget that when God speaks, He always reveals what He is going to do…not what He wants us to do. We join Him so He can work through us. That’s why Jesus said in…
27 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”
The disciples had already seen Jesus heal the lame man, the blind man and the man with leprosy. They had seen Him calm the storm, heal the woman who was hemorrhaging and raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead, all in super-natural ways. But now, when opportunity knocked, it didn’t even enter into their minds that maybe… just maybe God wanted to do something miraculously super-natural through them.
You see…the Lord isn’t interested in just feeding people’s bellies for a day, He wants to feed their souls and spirits for all eternity. The only way that those people knew that God was at work in and through the disciples was to solve this dilemma in a super-natural way that far exceeded the disciple’s power or resources.
Some people say, “God will never ask me to do something I can’t do.” But, we’re learning that God desires to give us tasks and assignments that are far beyond our abilities and power… in order to not only reveal Himself to us, but to demonstrate His nature, His strength, His kindness and His provision to a watching world. People today need to see the super-natural, visible hand of God working in and through His disciples, so that when something happens there is no question that God had done it.
God told Abraham to father a nation when he and Sarah were well beyond child-bearing years, why? To reveal Himself!
God told Moses to deliver the children of Israel through the Red Sea, why? To show Himself!
God had Gideon defeat the Midianite army of 120,000 with 300 men, why! To make Himself known!
A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they were drawing. She walked around to look at the artwork. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, "I’m drawing God." The teacher paused and said, "But no one knows what God looks like. Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing the girl replied, "They will in a minute."
Jesus told the disciples to feed 5,000 and to make disciples of all nations. None of these things were or are humanly possible. But when God’s people and the world see something happen that only God can do, they come to know God.
Church…God wants people to come to know Him. That is why He chooses to work through us. People know us. They know what we can accomplish. But when they see things happen that can only be explained by God’s intervention, they will come to know Him.
Our passage tells us that Jesus had the disciples have the people sit in groups of 50 and then…
14 For there were about five thousand men. Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” 15 And they did so and made them all sit down. 16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. 17 So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.
Amazingly, there was more left over than what they began with.
The Lord’s hand was all over this. He told them to do something and then He showed them how to do it. When God gives us a directive, we can count on the fact that God has already considered every factor that must be considered. Doesn’t Scripture say, “He already had in mind what He was going to do”. John 6:6
So, as we seek to know and to do God’s will, it is imperative that we clearly know His will and His directions for carrying it out. In Fact, He tells us…
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
Like the disciples, our wisdom and knowledge will not be enough to perform a God size task, but God’s wisdom and knowledge are always enough. Why, because He is always able to accomplish all He calls us to do. Ironically, it was Albert Einstein who said…
"when the solution is simple, God is answering."
( POWERPOINT )
So…Let us open our eyes to the opportunities the Lord sets before us. And never doubt the Great Creator!!!
Pastor Richard Santos
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