Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anticipating Andrew, Pessimistic Philip

Today's passage:  John 6:1-27
     "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."  Ephesians 3:20-21
     God must have really wanted us to learn something from the feeding of the five thousand.  He wants us to learn something from everything He has put in His Word, but this is one of the miracles that appears in all four gospels.  Since this is one of the few that carries that distinction, I'm thinking that there is something particular that He wants us to know. 
     I think God shows us two types of people in this passage.  Most of us fall into one of these two categories.  Sometimes in life, we are one, then the other.  Sometimes we waver in between.  The disciples are faced with a crowd (probably bigger than any gathered up to this point) of tired and hungry people.  They had gathered on a hillside not so much to hear Jesus preach, but to see Him perform miracles.  The passage says that it is near Passover time, so I can guess that the weather was already warm.  Maybe the breeze blowing off the sea of Galilee was a help, but with so many people in close proximity, it would have been perfect fainting weather.  Even if there had been a market close by (and what an opportunity for a food vendor) how would they ever transport enough food to this large crowd?
     Jesus asks Philip what they should do about this problem?  Philip says that even if they worked two hundred days, that would not be enough money to purchase food for all these people.  Ever meet a Philip?  A that-can't-be-done, nothing-will-work, might-as-well-give-up Philip?  I'm sure you have, because to be truthful, I think we have all been Philips from time to time.  I know I have.  Philip could only see the problems, he couldn't see the solutions.  He could not see the Solution Giver.  Philips do not have enough faith to get the task done. A Philip does not trust himself on the task, and he rarely trusts anyone else.
     Then there is Andrew.  Andrew sees the problem and he comes up with a solution.  He is hesitant about presenting this solution because how can it help, but it is a solution all the same.  Ever meet an Andrew?  A get-it-done, that-might-work, go-to-it Andrew?  I have.  People enjoy being around Andrews.  Except for the pessimist who is always bothered with Andrew's silver lining, rose-colored glasses view of the world.  His sunny disposition grates on a Philip's nerves.  Andrew did not know he had a solution to a problem, he just trusted Jesus with the solution he presents.  Andrews have faith in people.  An Andrew trusts himself as well as other people.  I wish I was more like Andrew.  I try to be like Andrew.  I want to have faith.  I want to believe.  I want to anticipate the great things God can do in my life.

The Disciples Distributed the Loaves and Fish--Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Two
By Lillie A. Faris,  Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1925
      I think there is a further lesson in this passage.  Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fishes and the disciples have distributed this food (can you imagine how long that must have taken?)  After everyone has had his fill, Jesus has the disciples collect up any leftovers (the disciples would have been worn out after this day, but God's work can be exhausting).  Jesus says, "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost."  This is the only account of this miracle that records these words.  The obvious lesson is that God wants us to be good stewards, He does not want us to be wasteful.  But there is so much more in these words.  When the disciples collect all the remaining food, it is enough to fill twelve baskets.  Now I don't know how big the baskets were, but even if they were small baskets, that is quite a lot of food left over.  God will always give us more than we need.  When we place our faith and trust in Him (as Andrew did) He will never disappoint us.  He will equip us to overflowing.  He will furnish us with more than we asked for.  The verse I quoted in Ephesians uses words such as abundant and exceeding.  I picture a Thanksgiving cornucopia spilling out with food.  God gives us so much more than we ask.  When we come to Him for salvation, He not only gives us eternal life, but He gives us the Holy Spirit to work in us, He gives us joy and all the other fruits of the Spirit (a fruit basket, you might say), He gives us His power, He gives us His grace, mercy, forgiveness.  He is so good to me.  How can I ever be a Philip when I have such a powerful God?  How can I ever be pessimistic when He has shown me all that He can do? 
     Lord, help me to be like Andrew every day.  I have no idea what problems I may face, but they are never bigger than You.  Help me to look for solutions, not because I can solve the problems, but because I know You can.  Help me to never forget what You can do, through me, and for me.  Help me to remember that You will never meet my expectations, but exceed them every time.

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