You Give Them Something To Eat

Title: You Give Them Something to Eat!
Text: Matthew 14:13-21
Time: January 12, 2014

 

I recently got for Christmas from my parents a little electronic box called a Roku Media Streamer. They’re sold in Wal-Mart, Kmart, Radio Shack and other electronic stores for the purpose of receiving cable and Internet TV programs without being hooked up to cable or satellite. It works by using your Internet signal and plays Internet videos on your TV. So for the past week or so I’ve been playing around with it in order to see what kind of TV programs I could find on it. I found it had Discovery Channel programs on it, so I started watching a series on climbing Mount Everest, you know, the world’s tallest mountain. I started watching the 1st Season and got hooked, so I watched the 2nd Season and finally the 3rd Season. It was really interesting because it showed all the different climbers trying to reach the summit of the mountain and all the trials and tribulations they went through in their attempts. One of the things I noticed was that climbers either fell into one of two categories – they were either too confident or they lacked enough confidence in challenging the mountain. But both attitudes, either too much or not enough confidence, were harmful. Only those who had just the right balance of confidence and humility were able to scale the mountain. So the tour guide director usually had to work on each person individually in order to get them to the right place in their attitude towards climbing. Some climbers he had to put them in their place in order to humble them so that they respected the mountain enough to pay attention to the dangers of climbing. Some climbers had to be encouraged and given confidence that they could conquer the mountain if they followed directions and gave it their best effort. When I watched this TV series on Mount Everest I thought of how Jesus had to work with the disciples in much the same way. Sometimes they got a little too confident, but other times Jesus had to encourage them that with God’s help they could do a lot more than they imagined. In Matthew 14:13-21 we read about a situation in the life of the disciples where Jesus reminded them that they could indeed help a crowd full of people when that looked impossible for them, naturally speaking. Let me read the passage (read). Like the disciples, we too limit ourselves in what we can do based on a natural evaluation of things. We need to, like the disciples, consider the power of God in the equation, and attempt great things for God. That not only applies to each of us individually, but also to churches too. This church might be small, low on resources, limited in ability, but with God it can make a big difference in the community here if it looks to God for power and strength. Jesus taught his disciples that they shouldn’t be discouraged because of the natural circumstances, but instead look to God for the power to get the job done. That’s a lesson for us all to hear today. Let’s look at the passage a little closer.

First, it’s tempting to conclude something can’t be done. Matthew 14:13-15, “When Jesus heard what had happed, he withdrew by boat to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can got to the villages and buy themselves food.’” The safest way to go is to make a logical, natural evaluation of a situation, and then act upon it. That’s what the disciples did. There was a huge crowd of some five thousand men, not counting the women and children, so double or triple the number. We’re talking a huge crowd. The disciples’ suggestion to release the crowd to head back home made a lot of sense. The people could buy food in the nearby villages on their way home. That’s the logical thing to do. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek on TV you remember Spock the Vulcan. He would have said, “That’s logical,” to the disciples and their suggestion. And that’s the big temptation in life – to only do what seems logical, to play it safe, to look only at the natural and not consider the supernatural. What about your life today? Are you faced with decisions that are clearly logical, rational, natural? Do you always choose what is naturally logical? If you do, you’re going to miss out on God’s supernatural best for your life. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying, neither is the passage teaching, that we should always ignore logic and never consider the natural situation. But on the other hand, as we’ll see in a minute, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the natural or the logical. As a small church, you might be tempted to conclude that God can’t use you very much in the community because you lack money, people, resources, and so forth. It’s tempting to think that God only uses the mega-churches with hundreds or thousands of people. With big budges and vast resources. That’s the logical, rational and natural thing to conclude. But as we’ll see shortly, that would be wrong. I’m sure the disciples were not expecting any dispute from Jesus about their suggestion to send the crowds away. After all, it only made sense. I know from my own perspective, I’m often tempted to live life solely on the natural level, the reasonable level, the logical level. How about you? Oh, it’s safe to do that, it makes sense, no one would fault you for it. But it also limits us in life, especially in how God can use us in life, because it rules out the supernatural. When I look at churches I never am impressed by big mega-churches on size alone. Why? Because I know that God delights in using seemingly insignificant things, and sometimes confounds the big guys in the process. The question is not, “Is this logical?” The question is, “Is God in it?” Because if God is in it, then it’s supernatural, and anything is possible. Do you believe that? That’s what the Bible teaches, and it applies to our individual lives and it applies to churches too. So let’s keep that in mind as we face the challenges of life. The disciples learned this very important lesson, and let’s learn it today as well. Let’s go on.

Second, with God all things are possible. Matthew 14:16-17, “Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’ ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.” So the disciples make a perfectly logical, very practical and naturally wise suggestion – send the people home to buy food on the way before it’s too late. But Jesus has something else in mind, something better. He says, “You give them something to eat.” What? How could the disciples give them something to eat, when the disciples didn’t even have enough to eat? Now in examining this passage I can’t help but wonder if the suggestion to send the people away to get something to eat for themselves wasn’t as much concerned about the people as maybe the disciples themselves were getting hungry. In other words, here’s what they might have really have said to Jesus, “We’re getting hungry, it’s getting late, send the people away so that we can get some food for ourselves and eat.” I don’t know if that’s the case, but it might have been the real situation. Or as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.” But whatever the case, Jesus wasn’t buying it. He told them to feed the people. How? With what? That’s what the disciples replied, “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.” And even that was a stretch. We know from a parallel account in the Gospel of John that the five loaves and two fish weren’t even theirs – this was actually the food carried by a little boy, his food, John 6:8-9. So again, here the disciples make perfectly good sense from the natural perspective. And to be honest, at this point, Jesus isn’t sounding very reasonable. But Jesus wasn’t thinking only on the natural, logical level. He was thinking in terms of the supernatural and the unlimited supply of God the Father in heaven. This brings to mind one of my favorite verses, Philippians 4:19, “My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in heaven by Christ Jesus.” That’s what’s called including the resources of God in our thinking and decision-making process. Jesus was including the riches of God in heaven, but the disciples were only considering the human, earthly, natural resources. But if we want to live up to our full potential as children of God we need to include the unlimited supernatural power of God in all our thinking. The disciples needed to learn this, and so do we today. Sometimes that means standing on the promises of God found in the Bible, even when the situation seems contrary to reason. It means opening our minds up to a Higher Power and endless possibilities. The disciples suffered from limited thinking, and so do we often. In the natural, our nation and world seems to be beyond hope as far as converting to Christ and discipling people for the Kingdom of God. In my short time on earth I have to say the direction this nation is going is down, not up. Morality is on the slide. Christian faith is fading in our culture. The Bible is less and less known. Naturally speaking there isn’t much hope. But supernaturally, God can intervene and send a mighty revival that can turn things around. Souls can be saved; lives can be changed. Churches can grow and make a huge impact in their community. We just have to be open to it. Do you have the faith to believe God can do now what he’s done before? Jesus challenges us to believe.

Third, we need to listen for and hear God’s plan for something better. Matthew 14:18-21, “’Bring them here to me,’ he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand, besides the women and children.” Wow, that was a first class miracle. Do you believe in miracles? You better, because God is in the miracle business! It’s a miracle of God that our planet is here, that our world is inhabitable. The odds are against there being any life, anywhere at all. Yet here we are by the direct hand of God in creation. And it’s a miracle that you are alive, that I’m alive. I was thinking about this the other day. From my experience with automobiles, it’s natural and normal for them to break down and stop running. I went outdoors just this last week when it was ten degrees below zero to start my car, just to make sure I could start it, that it wasn’t frozen for good. Well, it wouldn’t start. My battery died, so I had to recharge my battery. But the engine wouldn’t start even after the batter was recharged. Finally, using starting fluid, it started. But it got me to thinking, what would happen if my heart decided to start one morning when I got up from sleep? I mean, cars don’t start sometimes, what about hearts? But by the grace of God our hearts have to keep working all the time, 24/7 – that’s a miracle. Yes, I know people have heart attacks, and they are serious. Eventually our heart does where out and we die, but usually after a lifetime of service, years and decades. That’s a miracle that our hearts are so durable. Unless someone has a heart defect, their heart will last them a lifetime. That defies belief, because you’d think that just as engines fail to run, so would the heart, but usually that’s not the case. So we are literally walking miracles. But God wants us to fully appreciate his supernatural power and order our lives accordingly. I’m sure it’s frustrating for God to see us limit ourselves here on earth with the natural and logical. Only in heaven will we fully realize how much more potential we had, but how we limited ourselves to what our finite minds could comprehend. Jesus had a miracle in mind, but not only that, he organized for the miracle too. He had a plan to bring it about. The first thing he did was pray, “Looking up to heaven” – that’s what it means, he prayed. If you want to see the supernatural power of God more in your life, you’re going to have to pray more, and so am I going to have to pray more. We live in a very rational, logical, scientific age. We try to think our way through everything, instead of pray our way through things. But if we would experience more of the supernatural power of God we’re going to have to learn to pray more. As Christians we are facing a lot of challenges in this world today. Like I said before, morals are in decline, commitments to Christ are down, churches are compromising and losing influence in society. Without God’s power we aren’t going to make it individually or collectively. We need to start and end in prayer. It’s the only way.

Notice also it says that Jesus gave thanks. Now in this case, Jesus gave thanks before the miracle happened. That’s a part of faith, strong faith. But there’s also the point that we give thanks no matter what happens. Some people pray prayers and then only give thanks if they get what they prayed for. But as Christians, we need to thank God for answering our prayers no matter how God answers them. In America, we are more or less spoiled because we’ve got so much, we’ve been given so many blessings that we take them for granted. We tend to focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have. We forget to thank God for what he’s given us because we might not have gotten everything we’ve prayed for. But that’s silly. If we pray for something, for God to meet our needs, then whatever God gives us, we need to thank him for. God knows better than we do what we really need in life, right? We need to trust that he will supply us what we need, even if it isn’t exactly what we had in mind. “My ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts,” says the Lord. I’m sure the disciples must have been scratching their heads when Jesus told them to feed the crowd. It didn’t make any sense. But after the miracle of God it made perfect sense. Are you facing issues in your life right now that you need a supernatural solution from God? Are you tempted to give up and resign yourself to whatever happens? Don’t lose hope, God is here, he will supply whatever you need, even if it takes a miracle. Now the disciples learned a big lesson that day. They learned that they couldn’t limit themselves to the natural, the logical, what makes sense rationally. They learned that they needed to include the limitless resources of God in to the equation. Do you limit God in your life? Are you open minded enough to stretch your thinking to include God? Your situation might seem hopeless today, in whatever issue you are facing. But remember, with God all things are possible. When I consider this little church in this big state of New York it may seem a little overwhelming to imagine God using it. How can a small church make any difference in a rebellious, sinful society? How can souls be saved today in the midst of the moral breakdown we see all around us? With families breaking up, divorce, teenage rebellion, suicides and other social ills, how can we expect to make a difference? Rationally, naturally, logically it might appear overwhelming, even hopeless. But we need to remember that with God all things are possible. Supernatural miracles are possible. If we listen to God and stand on his promises, he will work his will through us. He will use us big time not because of our ability but because of our availability. Are you willing to make yourself available to God today to use you in his kingdom? Have you surrendered your will completely to Jesus? Why not tell the Lord again, today, that you are willing to do anything he wants. Hold nothing back from God, put your totally trust in the Savior this morning. Let’s pray.

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