- Sermon Notes
Growing in Faith
In John chapter 6, we find Jesus in the northern part of Israel in the Sea of Galilee region. At this point His popularity is growing immensely. Great crowds are beginning to follow after Him; though not everyone is following for the right reasons.
Many were amazed because of the miracles they were seeing and the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. They didn’t understand who He is, but they are amazed and follow Him to see what He will do next.
In verse 4 John tells us that the Passover was at hand and a great multitude was following Him. Jesus was just in Jerusalem for the Passover as was a vast multitude of Jews from the Galilee region. No doubt they had seen and heard many of the things Jesus did in Jerusalem and were following Him to see what He might do there.
What follows next is the famous feeding of the 5,000, the only miracle which is found in all four of the Gospels. Actually, there were many more than 5,000 there because the scripture tells us that they were not counting the women and children in that number.
There is a lot for us to understand in this story because it applies to so many of us personally. Jesus had compassion on this crowd and healed their sick and taught them many things. He ministered to them all day and when it was evening, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowd away, that they may go and find lodging and get something to eat; for we are in a desolate place.”
They must’ve had a little committee meeting and decided Jesus needed their advice. Instead of taking their advice, however, Jesus turns to them and tests their faith. “You give them something to eat,” Jesus said to them. And then he specifically turns to Philip and said, “Where are we to buy bread; that these may eat?” But then we read that He said this to test Philip.
There is a lot for us to unpack from these verses and apply to our lives.
I. Faith Must be Tested
- One of the principals from scripture we need to understand is that faith must be tested for it to increase in our lives.
James 1:2-4, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
- But who likes taking tests? Not me. For years after I left college I used to have nightmares about taking math tests; probably because I didn’t study.
Illus – There are some other interesting stories of people taking tests. Like the police recruit who was asked during an exam, “What would you do if you had to arrest your own mother?” Or the two basketball players that had to take a test to avoid academic probation…
- The testing of our faith is about making faith greater. God wants us to trust Him more and so the testing of our faith is not about passing or failing, it’s about having an opportunity to learn that we can trust God with our concerns, needs and the trials of our lives.
A. Do not despise the day of small beginnings
- One of the themes that come out of these verses is the significance of the insignificant when it’s in God’s hand.
- Philip answers first. His answer gives us the sense that he had the classic admin personality. He must’ve done some calculations and said, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient.”
- Andrew spoke up next, “There is a lad here with five barley loaves and two fish.” It would have been a good answer if he would’ve stopped right there, but then he adds, “But what are these for so many?”
- And then you have the boy. It’s safe to conclude he came from poverty. Barley loaves were extremely low quality that only the poorest would eat. And then two small fish; something like two sardines.
- Little did his mother know that when she packed that lunch it would be used of the Lord in such a significant way.
- The point is that the boy gave his lunch to Andrew who then gave it to Jesus. An insignificant boy with an insignificant lunch was used to feed more than 10,000 people.
- People often have a lack of faith because they see themselves as insignificant, especially in comparison to a mountain of trouble or difficulty.
Illus – When Israel returned to Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon they found the city as a mountain of rubble. They only had a few hands to help and became discouraged. God responded to strengthen their faith.
Zechariah 4:9-10, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it… Who has despised the day of small beginnings?”
Zechariah 4:6-7, This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,”’ says the Lord of hosts. “What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!””
- This is one of the hardest lessons for us to learn because we’re so discouraged by our own insignificance that we don’t lift up our eyes and look upon Him who is the answer.
- But not only does insignificance keep us from trusting God; thinking too much of ourselves is also a lack of faith.
B. Use what He’s given you
- One of the ways that people despise the day of small beginnings is by getting frustrated because what they have is not enough for them.
- They are not content; they won’t give thanks for what they have. Although that was the first thing Jesus did. He gave thanks to God for that small lunch and then broke it in His hands to make it sufficient for everyone’s need.
- Notice it didn’t immediately become a mountain of bread and a pile of fish. He took what he had and used it and it became more. He just kept giving it and more was provided as it was being given.
Illus - Many people want the whole thing immediately. They immediately want the top position, or great success, or to win the lottery, or immediately master guitar.
- Be thankful for what you have, use it for God’s glory, and He will give you more. Many people don’t want to do the homework, they want God to do everything for them and have it done immediately.
- Notice that the disciples had to carry the bread and fish to these groups. Can you imagine them saying, “Lord, why do have to carry this bread? Why couldn’t you have made baskets appear to each group so we don’t have to carry all of this?”
App - Many people don’t want to do the “insignificant” things. They don’t want to do the dishes, or take out the garbage, or put away the folding, or carry the baskets of bread. Really? In that case you limit what God will do.
Illus – Naaman was captain of the Aramean army, but he was a leper…
Illus – I taught a class where I asked everyone to memorize the order of the books of the bible. Someone said to me, “I can do this; I don’t have the ability to memorize anything.” My response, “Use what you have and God will give you more.”
Philippians 2:13, It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure - pressed down, shaken together, and running over.”
II. Tested Faith will Grow
- Remember the verse we read earlier in James 1 that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
- Faith that is tested is faith that will grow.
- Jesus is training the disciples, He is strengthening their faith. How? By giving them the principles from God’s Word. By having them see the wonderful things that God can do; and by giving them opportunities to trust God in their lives.
A. Principles are to be applied
- When the multitude had been satisfied, He said to the disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.” Exactly 12 baskets were left over.
- Are there lessons and principles to be applied here? Absolutely.
- The whole story is about the sufficiency of what God will do when we bring what little we have and use it for His glory.
Psalm 127:2, It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for it is He who gives to His beloved even while he sleeps.
Hebrews 11:6, Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
- The multitude was completely filled, completely satisfied. There are so many places in God’s Word that speaks of the significance of being satisfied in Him. The bread of life; the manna for the soul, these are given of God to satisfy the empty soul we were born with.
- And then God gives the opportunity for us to apply the principles He gives us in His Word.
- At one point Jesus said to the disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” They then said among themselves, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.” Jesus responded, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not understand or remember the five loaves of the 5,000 and how many baskets you picked up?” In other words, this is a principle to be applied!
- There is another occasion when Jesus sent the disciples out to spread the gospel to the villages and towns in Israel. It was an opportunity to apply the principles they were learning. That’s how faith grows.
Luke 22:35-36, He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.”
- God always gives the answer first. In other words, God gives us the principles we need for life in His Word and then we have the opportunity to apply them.
Illus - How do we learn math? You’re given the answer over and over and then asked to apply it. Notice how teaching math has changed over the years? The emphasis now is on story problems. Why is that? Because we learn more when we apply the principles we’re learning.
B. God’s plan is always better
- When the people saw the sign which Jesus had performed, they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king. But Jesus withdrew from them.
- They wanted to use Jesus to serve their purpose; they didn’t want Jesus to use them for His purpose and glory.
- Our plan usually comes in the form of using God to accomplish our purpose, but God’s plan is always better. Notice that Jesus withdrew from them.
Illus – Do people use God for their purpose? Sure, what about the salesman who knows you’re a Christian or the guy who is interested in you and suddenly has a “revival”?
- God’s plan is to allow situations in our lives where we need to respond spiritually and truly apply what we’re learning so we’ll grow in our faith.
- How will you respond to the financial challenges you face? How will you respond to a marriage that is broken? What about when your children begin to take on the attitude of the world? How will you handle the difficult people at work?
- Many people come up with their own plan, but I can absolutely assure you, God’s plan is better. The question is straightforward; will you trust Him?
Psalm 138:7-8, Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me, and Your right hand will save me. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting.
John 6:1-15 NASB