Multiplying followers of Jesus – Part 1

“Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.’ ” John 6:7

The Lord Jesus commands His church in Matthew 28:19 to “Make disciples of all the nations.”  We are to multiply disciples of Jesus’s grace and truth whereby believers lead others to Christ and then train them to do the same. Instead of going overseas, we can now go across the street to reach other nations. We are going look at three principles of multiplication in John 6:1-13. If the Lord is going to multiply disciplers of His grace and truth, we must first… 

ADMIT THAT WE HAVE A NEED (John 6:1-7). I have been watching people for a few years now, and I’ve discovered that there are three kinds of people in the world: those who make things happen; those who watch things happen; and those who have no idea what is happening! Which person do you tend to be? All three types of people were in the crowd that day listening to Jesus. The scene is a grassy meadow near the northeastern side of the Sea of Galilee. “After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.” (John 6:1). Six months after the events of chapter five when Jesus healed the lame man on the Sabbath and the religious leaders sought to kill Christ, Jesus retreats to get some rest and recharge His emotional and physical batteries.

After finding a place to rest, Jesus looks up and sees that the crowds have followed Him. 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.” (John 6:2-4). John tells us there were “about five thousand” men there (John 6:10b). Matthew 14:21 says there were also “women and children” present.

Jesus turns to Philip, because this is Philip’s old stomping grounds – 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’ 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.” (John 6:5-6). Christ had been training His disciples for about two years now to carry on His work. It was now time for a mid-term examination! Our Lord wanted to test Philip to see if he had learned anything from the previous miracles Jesus had performed.

“Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.’ ” (John 6:7). Philip is the analytical type. He gets out his calculator, makes a few quick calculations and says, “Lord, don’t you understand that it would take more than six months of wages to buy bread for all these people?” According to his analytical mind the situation is hopeless. Phillip had obviously forgotten who was with them! This is the One who had the power to turn water into wine and heal the lame. He’s standing right there in front of them in their hour of need, and Philip is looking over Jesus’s shoulder for Colonel Sanders or Ronald McDonald. 

God forgive us for the Philip in all of us! How many times do we look at impossible situations and try to work them out with our own resources!?! Maybe the stack of bills at home keeps growing and growing and you have no way of paying them off. Perhaps you are waiting to hear from the doctor’s office to learn about some test results. Maybe you feel stuck in a relationship. Or you have frustration about your job – or not having a job. Where will you cast your gaze when you face these types of difficulties?

What about the challenges you face in your life? God wants you to boldly share the gospel with the unreached people in your life and beyond so that hundreds or even thousands will trust in Christ alone for the free gift of eternal life. Then you will need disciplers to train those new believers and you will need resources to do all of this. Will you look to your pastor or other church leaders or your family and expect them to supply these needs? Or will you look to Jesus who is right here with you to provide what you need? Multiplication starts when we admit to Christ that we have a need.

When Philip shared his analysis of the situation with the Lord, what kind of look do you think Jesus gave to him? I can picture the Lord Jesus smiling at Philip, as if to say, “Philip, I am about to show You something that you will probably want to sit down to behold. I think you will be more than pleased with the outcome.” A verse that comes to my mind as I picture the look on Jesus’s face is Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” If the Lord can create the universe with His great power and outstretched arm, surely feeding several thousand people will not be too hard for Him! And certainly whatever we are facing will not be beyond His power to provide. The key is to admit our need and believe that He is able.

Prayer: Lord, this has been a harder day for me. I have so many feelings bouncing around inside of me. Thank You for reminding me that You are with me and You are very much aware of how I am feeling and what I am facing. Instead of trying harder to deal with difficulties in my life or turning to someone or something else to help me, I want to hand all my burdens over to You. You promise to supply all my needs and I am ready to trust You to do that. I am so grateful that I do not have to face life alone. You are with me to strengthen me and to help me; to uphold me with Your righteous right hand. Thank You for enabling me to see my circumstances more from Your perspective rather than from my own limited point of view. Please provide what is needed to see more people exposed to Your gospel message and trained in discipleship. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.  

When the Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want for provision

“My cup runs over.” Psalm 23:4b

When David says, “My cup runs over,” he is not picturing someone spilling water in his lap. He was thinking of the care and consideration that a faithful shepherd has for his sheep. Sometimes a shepherd found a very deep well from which to draw water for his flock. Many wells were one hundred feet down to the water. To draw water, the shepherd used a long rope with a leather bucket at the end. The bucket held only three quarts. It had to be let down and drawn up hand over hand, and then the water poured into large stone cups beside the well. It was a long laborious process.

If a shepherd had a hundred sheep and the well was deep, he might have to draw water for two hours if he allowed the sheep to drink all they wanted. Sheep do not like to get wet, and it was a mark of special kindness to keep the cups filled to the brim so they could drink with ease.

The Shepherd of this Psalm drew and drew and drew, and filled the cups to overflowing! He is untiring in His efforts to satisfy His thirsty sheep. Our God is a great Giver! With Him the robe is the “best” robe (Luke 15:22); the calf is the “fatted” calf (Luke 15:23); the joy is “exceeding” (Psalm 43:4); the power “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20); and the peace “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). God does not measure His goodness by drops like a pharmacist filling a prescription. It comes to us in floods.

If only we appreciated the lavish abundance of His gifts. Perhaps there has been a time in our lives when we did not know where the next meal was coming from. At the last moment God provided a bowl of rice or a loaf of bread for us. And we were thankful – very thankful! But when He supplies food for us so that we have to count calories to keep from eating too much, we sit down at the table and utter an unthinking word of thanks and then complain about how difficult the day was. It can be a great challenge for us to live in the light of God’s goodness.

God not only provides an abundance of goods for us, He also provides an abundance of spiritual blessings to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. You can read about them in Ephesians 1:3-14. Our cups overflow because of Who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us.  

Before closing in prayer, I want to share a poem I read this morning whose author I do not know.  

He directs your day.

He helps you carry out His plan.

He makes your life a green pasture, not a barren, rock-strewn field.

He refreshes you in the dreary grind of life.

He puts you at rest regarding your eternal destiny.

He restores your soul in spite of the way you have pushed Him out of your life.

He takes away the fear of your own death.

He comforts you with His presence and power.

He protects you from the dangers of life and provides for your daily needs.

Prayer: Lord God, I must first confess my sin of ingratitude to You. There are people in the world today who do not get to enjoy three meals a day, yet I complain about the food I have to eat. There are people who are isolated from others because they have COVID-19, but I whine about not being able to meet with other Christians face-to-face at church. Forgive me my gracious Shepherd for failing to live in the light of Your abundance goodness to me. Lord, Your goodness is beyond measure. You are the greatest Giver in the universe! I praise You because my cup overflows with Your goodness and mercy. Thank You for providing for all of my needs in Christ Jesus my Lord. Thank You, Father, for planning Your relationship with me. Thank You for Jesus’ redeeming blood which saved me from an eternity separated from You. Thank You for Your gift of everlasting life. Thank You for the Holy Spirit Who comforts, empowers, guides, seals, and teaches me.  Please open doors for me to share Your abundant goodness with those who are longing to be blessed by You through Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.