Today's Sermon - "Master Over Hunger"
Intro - We come to our last of 4 miracles from Luke that lead us to answering the question of “Who IS this Jesus?” He is master over the storms, voices, illness and today hunger. Today the feeding of the 5,000. Rather than focus on the end result of the miracle itself, today let’s learn the lessons from the process, from what led up to the miracle.
5 Lessons From The Feeding Of The 5 Thousand
#1 - Ministry is not always go go go. We must _________ .
“When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida.” Luke 9:10 NIV
Imagine the victory that the disciples must have experienced. They went into the ministry two by two and had low expectations for themselves. Surprised themselves at how well it went. Saw great results. Wanted to celebrate. Even Jesus was excited.
What is our first reaction when we’ve done something well and we’re pleased with how well it turned out? Let’s do it again! Confidence! I can do this! We are usually a little too full of ourselves and are headed for problems.
Jesus knew this. A human condition. True then and true now. What did Jesus want to do? Let’s get away. Let’s withdraw. This was Jesus’ standard operating procedure. Work hard in ministry in great crowds. Then withdraw. Get alone with God. Get refreshed.
We need to learn to do the same thing. Ministry is not always go go go. We don’t measure our success by our activity. We measure our success by our faithfulness to what God has called upon us to do. To be faithful to God’s calling always requires God’s power. That means we have to be constantly filling up with Him. Pouring out in ministry. Repeat.
#2 - Our _________ solutions may not be ________ solutions .
We love order. Love checks and balances. Love preparation. Love planning. Love thinking things through. There’s a good word for that - pragmatism. Reasonableness. Practicalities. The twelve disciples were like that. Pragmatists. It’s late in the day. We’re way out here in the wilderness. We have very little food. We should dismiss the crowd…
“Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away…’ He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’” Luke 9:12-13NIV
There’s nothing wrong with having a good head on your shoulders. Nothing wrong with evaluation and planning. Sometimes Jesus will ask us to make faith decisions rather than pragmatic decisions. Choices based on believing that God will come through for us and not on our own ability to solve the problem for ourselves.
Especially in ministry leadership roles, we have to constantly be asking ourselves whether our solutions to problems are based upon our own experiences and resources (which may be limiting our reach) OR whether our solutions are based upon the belief that if we take a first step of faith, then God will meet us with His miracle - our next step!
How can we know the difference? If we have developed the habit of listening well, then we will know. How does Jesus let the disciples know? Is he quiet on the topic? Does he let them figure it out? Or does he speak pretty clearly? “You give them something to eat!”
When it comes to pragmatic solutions or faith solutions, the issue is not typically that we haven’t heard Jesus clearly, but that we are struggling with the risk of the proposition…
“We have only five loaves of bread and two fish - unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” Luke 9:13b NIV
These are the two things that we do all the time in ministry leadership - we underestimate our resources and we overestimate the problem.
Underestimate - Here are the resources we have. This is how much we have in the bank. These are the limitations we find ourselves in. 5 loaves/ two fishes. Can’t do much with that.
Overestimate the problem. “Unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” There are 5,000 men - which means 20,000 people altogether. We define just how HUGE the problem is and then we simply give up. Too big for us.
We know the truth that the problem is NOT to big for God, but how do we start to gain faith that God has a plan, that God has a solution, and that his plan and solution involve us?
#3 - Solving problems starts with_________ problems.
“(About five thousand men were there.) But he said to his disciples, ‘Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’” Luke 9:14 NIV
Have you ever wondered WHY Jesus gave them this instruction to sit down into groups of 50? Here’s a hint. It wasn’t because feeding the 5,000 was too big for God and He needed to start smaller. No - this was all about us.
The truth is that faith always starts small and moves to the bigger. It’s why Jesus said if we have faith just the size of a mustard seed, the smallest seed, that God can work with that. What He can’t (or won’t) work with is NO FAITH at all. But small faith, God can grow.
How do we apply this truth to ourselves? When we come across a problem that seems to be just too big for us to solve on our own, a truly God-sized problem - Hunger, human trafficking, Addiction, Group Hatred, Abortion legislation, terrorism - we don’t punt the ball, saying there’s nothing that we can do about it. That’s simply not true. We may never be able to solve the entire problem on our own, but sure there is SOMETHING we can do about even the largest problems…
… if we will divide the problem into a small enough problem that we CAN do something about it.
What Jesus will never allow us to do? Shrug our shoulders and believe there is nothing we can do about it. “You give them something to eat!”
Two last lessons about miracles…
#4 - Miracles always involve _____________ .
“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks…” Luke 9:16a NIV
Giving thanks helps us to focus on what we do have and not on what we don’t have. The Twelve saw only the great needs and their own lack of resources. Jesus was thankful for what he did have - the five & the two.
Giving thanks acknowledges God’s sovereignty. Which helps us to take our eyes off of our weakness and put them where they belong - upon God’s strength. Miracles happen because of God’s abundant grace.
Giving thanks helps us to remember that it is God’s plan to use us - Christ followers - to minister in His name. He could accomplish His will in many other ways. He chooses to let us in on it. (1 Tim. 1:12)
Finally we give thanks and remember that we are receiving the Kingdom of God and it cannot and will not be shaken (Heb. 12:28) We are in a battle now, but the war has already been won. We are on winning side!
And yet we acknowledge our own present brokenness…
#5 - Miracles always involve _______________ .
“He broke them… They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” Luke 9:16b-17 NIV
How appropriate that the food was broken and blessed - then distributed. And then there were 12 basketfuls of “broken pieces” left over. Everybody ate all they wanted, yet 12 basketfuls were left over… of broken pieces.
Ministry is like that too. Christians - like others in our culture - struggle to get to the top. Struggle for accomplishment. It’s as if we want to be able to say - “See what I have done (or could do) for you.”
God never accepts us on the basis of what we’ve done. Rather He receives us because of what Christ has done for us on the cross. This is why He tells us to stop depending on ourselves on start relying on Him. This is true not just for our salvation, but also for the rest of life. For the rest of ministry.
We are broken pieces. Alone we really can do very little. But together with Christ’s forgiveness and restoration, through His church, the broken pieces of our lives can be fit together through God’s Spirit to do the most miraculous things.
Conclusion - For the last 4 weeks of June we have been looking at Jesus as the Master over storms, voices, illness and hunger. These 4 stories caused the Twelve to say “Who is this Jesus?” This is not just a historical story. It’s current. Jesus is still doing this miracles each and every day through His Spirit and through His church. If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we will also ask, “Who is this Jesus.” With Peter and other Christians we will answer, “Jesus is the Messiah!”