Multiplying by Faith
1After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?" 6This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little." 8One 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?" 10Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. 12When they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost." 13So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."
15So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.
- John 6:1-15
In this narrative we have 3 people who witness a great miracle and have an opportunity to learn an important spiritual lesson:
- The Crowd - they learned nothing. They wanted to make Jesus king because He filled their belly. The mother of all welfare programs (a leader who could miraculously meet all their needs without any effort from them).
- The Apostles - they also learned nothing. A little while after seeing this miracle they were in a boat with Jesus and during a storm they were afraid and lost all confidence in Him - fearing for their lives.
- The Boy - He learned something important. He saw a tremendous need (feeding 5,000). He realized that what he had wasn't sufficient to fulfill the need. So with a childlike trust, he put the little he had into the Lord's hands and let Jesus fill the need. His small act of faith was multiplied into a great miracle. He learned what the crowd and the Apostles missed - that just a little bit of faith is multiplied when placed in Jesus.
The lesson for us
We, like the crowd in the story, have all kinds of needs:
- They were hungry because they had been with Jesus for several days.
- In the same way, all humans have physical, emotional and spiritual needs that require attention each day.
The question is, "How do we respond to these needs?"
There are different ways to respond to need and this story illustrates that how we respond to our needs determines the quality of our lives and our ultimate success. Types of responses:
1. The crowd response to need
The crowd mentality is to follow anyone or anything who has a quick and easy answer. For example:
- Lose weight but eat all you want and never exercise, just a small pill, cream.
- Give in and go with whatever is convenient, whatever is easy.
The "crowd response" leads a person to rationalizing their poor behavior - so long as there is no pain, no restriction to self-will or pleasure. The crowd response is well described by Jesus in Mattew 7:13 when He said:
Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many (meaning the crowd) are those who enter by it.
And so one response to the pressures and needs of life is to go along with the crowd and do what everyone else is doing, go the easy way.
2. The analytical response to need
This is the response given by the Apostles. The analytical response is the response of human wisdom. In this case Philip carefully figured out how much it would cost to provide basic minimum food for everyone. Had Jesus allowed it they might have tried to achieve this with what they had.
This response is well represented in our modern high tech world of human achievement and the new world of artificial intelligence. Today, man believes that he can figure out the answers to political, ecological, social and economic problems with science and technology.
Many buy into the doctrine of "progress through achievement" and its two main ideas:
- You can achieve anything if you try hard enough and long enough.
- Your value as a human being is based on how much you achieve.
Some Christians have been seduced by this doctrine and have added a "spin" in order to spiritualize it. They say: "You ask God to bless you in helping you achieve your goals."
The analytical response to need is to apply the wisdom of the world to the problem, and the conventional wisdom today says - try harder, try longer, work harder, more, more, more. Of course this approach does not understand that mere human wisdom and human strength is never quite up to the task of solving human problems.
The Olympic games celebrates human achievement but really doesn't solve any of man's basic problems. In other words we are always less than the sum of ourselves. Solomon said:
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
- Proverbs 14:12
3. The response of faith to need
Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.
- Matthew 18:3
The child gave the response of faith in that he put what he had in Jesus' hands and let the Lord fulfill the needs by multiplying what the boy had originally given Him. Everyone here has talents, abilities, resources and when we use them with human wisdom or for our own needs or profit they will only provide a limited return. When, however, we put these same abilities and resources into the hands of the Lord - we learn the lesson of faith multiplication. For example:
- What I have X the Lord = I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
- What I have X the Lord = he can do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
When we put our talents, resources in His hands Jesus multiplies them beyond our greatest expectations. The Bible is filled with examples of such people:
- Abraham put his son into God's hands - and his descendants became like the stars of heaven the sand by the sea.
- David put his life into God's hands - and he became the king of Israel.
- Mary put her reputation in God's hands - and she became forever blessed as the mother of the Messiah.
- Peter put his future into God's hands - he went from fishing for fish to fishing for souls and found a greater treasure.
- Paul put his talents into God's hands - he became the greatest missionary and epistle writer.
- Jesus put His human life into God's hands - He provided eternal life for all those who followed after Him.
- We've put our few dollars into God's hands - who knows what He will do in the future?
The lesson is simple and sure - our talents yield a greater return when we put them into Jesus' hands.
How do we know
This is a fairly basic principle of Christianity and most people understand this idea, the problem or question that we have is knowing when our lives are truly in His hands. In other words how do we know that we truly have given over our talents and abilities to God (it's not always as simple or evident as handing over some bread and fish.) There are signs that indicate that we are responding to need not with the crowd mentality nor with human wisdom, but with true childlike faith and trust:
1. Our pride is broken
You see the source of our ineffectiveness is not the lack of skill, training, or opportunity - it's usually pride. We are too proud to change, to learn, to try, to repent, and that pride is usually the cause of most of our problems. God will glorify Himself through us only when our pride is broken, not when we become more skilled, or more wealthy - these are gifts He gives to us, not the other way around. Having talent doesn't glorify God, using talent to serve Him, this glorifies God.
When our pride is broken, the opportunities to grow, to serve, to be profitable for the Lord is greatly multiplied. The little boy knew he didn't have the answer but he gave his lunch to Jesus with the hope that He had the answer. What gives glory to God is when you are able to say
- I'm sorry
- Let me help
- Will you study the Bible with me?
It's only possible to say these things if your pride is broken, but when you can say these things the blessings in your life are multiplied greatly. Another sign of true childlike response:
2. Peace with God
Peace does not come with meditation, medication, being by yourself, having money in your savings account or your house paid off. These things create false security not peace with God. Peace with God comes only when we submit to God.
We submit to God when we finally abandon our desire for personal accomplishments, personal self-sufficiency. We have no peace because the desire for glory and self-justification is incessant. This desire is mastered only when we realize and accept that without Jesus Christ, we can do nothing, but with Him even our smallest efforts can yield tremendous results. We have peace with God when we understand that nothing we do without Christ will last beyond our lifetime - no matter how great it is. Gold medals will vanish and be meaningless one day.
We have peace with God when we realize that everything we do, in the name of Jesus (even giving a cup of cold water) has eternal consequences and benefits. When we abandon the desire to accomplish by ourselves and for ourselves and begin using the principle of multiplying by faith - one of the first benefits (and signs) is that we experience true peace with God.
3. The power of God will be evident
If they had collected money to buy food, how would God have been glorified? If the boy had shared his lunch with just 2 or 3 Apostles, even Jesus, how would God have been glorified? But in giving his resources to Jesus and expecting Him to solve the problem, the stage was set for God to be glorified.
When the principle of multiplied faith is working in our lives because we are putting our talents, resources - our very lives in Jesus' hands - the power of God will be evident. God doesn't want to be kept secret, His glory is not to be kept under wraps - He wants to be glorified but the channel of His light, His glory is you and me. And God's power is evident in our lives:
- When our pride is replace with submission and obedience
- When our slavery to sin is overcome
- When good is done in Jesus' name and only for God's honor and not our own
- When trials are endured with patience
- When lies are overturned with truth
- When hatred and jealousy and selfishness are conquered with brotherly kindness and love
- When the world hears the gospel of Jesus Christ from your own lips
God is glorified, Jesus is exalted, the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is manifested through these things. This power, this glory is evident when, like the little boy we confidently turn over to God whatever we have in order for Him to bless and multiply by faith.
The question this story poses to us is, "How do we respond to life's needs and challenges?"
- Do we go with the flow / path of least resistance / whatever feels good?
- Do we try to do it on our own? (when the going gets tough, the tough get going) (My Way?)
- Do we realistically assess what we do have (no matter how small) and allow God to multiply it in order to meet all the needs and challenges in our lives?
If you've been going along with the crowd or going it alone I encourage you to respond like the child and put your entire life into God's hands and let Him multiply His blessings in your life through faith - God bless you.