Sunday, October 18, 2009
Matthew 14 What To Do When you Are Overwhelmed
Max Lucado writes: There are snowstorms. There are hailstorms. There are rainstorms. And there are doubtstorms. Every so often a doubtstorm rolls into my life, bringing with it a flurry of questions and gale-force winds of fear. (In the Eye of the Storm, p.125).
In this great passage of Scripture, we find the disciples at the mercy of a storm of the sea and a storm of doubt. However, amidst their fears and doubts, Jesus proves to them, once and for all His divine identity. V. 33 is the pinnacle of the story. After a stormy night, they gain newfound faith and proclaim, "Truly You are the Son of God." That may not seem so unusual to us, but remember, this is the first time the twelve unequivocally declared Jesus to be the Son of God. If you are in the midst of a doubtstorm, if you are at a crisis of faith, I pray that the Spirit of God will teach you from the Word of God to trust in the Son of God.
There are three storms in this passage, 3 pericopes with the same message. The Lord was overwhelmed at the death of John the Baptist. 12 His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus. 13 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.
Jesus was completely exhausted from His ministry. There is no doubt that He was physically drained from His hectic schedule of preaching and working miracles. He also faced the stress of the growing opposition among His enemies. He was dealing with the personal grief of losing John. On top of all that, He struggled with the continual immaturity among the disciples. He needed a break!
The Lord was overwhelmed with compassion and desired to feed the multitude
14 When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, "This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." 16 But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!"
The disciples were overwhelmed with a situation beyond their ability. John's gospel tells us the Lord used this as a teaching opportunity. The disciples were about to learn what to do when they are overwhelmed.
"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?" But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little." One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?" (John 6:5-9).
Think about the ways the disciples "despaired" over the seeming impossibility of what faced them. First, they despaired over what they didn't have. Philip quickly sized up the crowd and said that it couldn't be done financially. It would take more than "two hundred denarii" -- the rough equivalent of eight to nine months wages -- to feed such a crowd. They just didn't have the money to do what Jesus was suggesting. And even if they did; Bethsaida was a tiny little town. There weren't enough stores and markets to buy the goods. They'd have to travel out of town to get the supplies.
Second, in terms of what they did have, they despaired over the humble source. All they had was the lunch that a little boy had brought. The text doesn't say this explicitly, but my suspicion is that this little boy heard what was going on and volunteered to give up his lunch for the cause (and if that's true, then -- like Dr. John Mitchell from Multnomah Bible College once pointed out -- one of the greatest miracles in this story is that a little boy was willing to give up his lunch!). But that's all they had: one little boy's lunch -- enough perhaps to satisfy the hunger of a little boy; but certainly not a multitude of several thousands of people.
Third, they even despaired over the nature of what little they had. It wasn't just five loaves and two fish but, as John tells us, five "barley" loaves and two "small" fish.
Barley loaves was a pretty humble thing to offer to people. Barley was cheap, and was usually reserved only as animal feed. One of the rabbinical laws even suggested that offerings for certain, particularly heinous sins should be made of barley instead of wheat or meat, because if the sinner was going to act like animals, then they should offer the food of animals for their sins (cited in Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. 1, pp. 681-2). That tells you something of what people thought of barley loaves!
And what's more, the word used to describe the fishes is one that refers to a tiny sort of fish that you eat whole -- bones and all; much like our modern idea of sardines. And all they had were two of such fish! That would have hardly been enough to dress-up one barley loaf -- let alone five!
It might have made things easier for the disciples if they simply didn't have enough of some good quality food. But the food that they didn't have enough of wasn't even that good to begin with!
Finally, they despaired over the enormity of the task of buying food for that many people. All the gospel writers except John has the disciples saying basically the same thing, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food" (Matt. 14:15).
Frankly, the disciples didn't want anything to do with this problem. The events of the day had pushed them to their limit. Have you ever felt like you were pushed to your limit? Jesus now commanded the disciples to get into the ship and go over to the other side. He remained back and dismissed the multitudes, He then spent time alone with the Father. In the meantime the disciples had encountered a storm, and a strong wind was blowing against them, so that though they had been rowing hard all night they were only to the middle of the sea. Sometime after 3:00 in the morning Jesus came walking to them on the water. Initially they were frightened thinking that He was a ghost. He assured them that it was only Him, and Peter said, "Lord, if it is You bid me come to You." Jesus said, "Come"
Again the Lord was teaching them something about the crises and storms of life. You may be going through some deep waters. The storms may seem overwhelming. It may be that the resources seem to be entirely exhausted. This is the time to learn the lesson the Lord teaches.
1. Give The Lord What You've Got
John the Baptist gave the Lord his life
John the Baptist gave the Lord what he had. There wasn't much that he had, all he ahd was his life, but he gave it for whatever purposes the Lord should choose.
The disciples gave what food they had
It was compassion that moved the Lord to seek to feed them, the Lord taught them His compassion for the multitude.
16 But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!" 17 They *said to Him, "We have here only five loaves and two fish." 18 And He said, "Bring them here to Me."
The disciples gave their obedience
22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.
One of the great disasters of history took place in 1271. In 1271 Niccolo and Matteo Polo (the father and uncle of Marco) were visiting the Kubla Khan. Kubla Khan at that time was a world ruler, for he ruled all China, all India, and all of the East. He was attracted to the story of Christianity as Niccolo and Matteo told it to him. And he said to them: "You shall go to your high priest and tell him on my behalf to send me a hundred men skilled in your religion and I shall be baptized, and when I am baptized all my barons and great men will be baptized and their subjects will receive baptism, too, and so there will be more Christians here than there are in your parts." Nothing was done. Nothing was done for about thirty years, and then two or three missionaries were sent. Too few and too late. It baffles the imagination to think what a difference to the world it would have made if in the thirteenth century China had become fully Christian, if in the thirteenth century India had become fully Christian, if in the thirteenth century the East had been given to Christ. In that, we have seen man frustrating God's purpose in history. William Barclay -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 390
The very scope of Jesus' request was overwhelming ... but not impossible! They were looking only at the task ... and as long as we do this we will never succeed for God To see merely the task is to fail, these same disciples had watched Jesus all day heal the sick and yet they could not see Him in such a way as to accomplish the task He asks of them! How many times have we missed God's best because we simply saw the overwhelming task and so did nothing!?
25% of South Korea's 40 million people are Christians. The city of Seoul has over 6,000 churches. 100 years ago it had none. Costa Rica has seen a 100 percent increase in Evangelical churches in the past four years. An estimated six million people in Africa are turning to the Lord each year. Continent wide, 5,000 new churches are started annually. More Iranians were saved in seven years under Khomeini than during the previous 70. One out of every three in the Soviet Union now professes to be born again. -- From Servant Magazine, May/June, 1989
In each of these places people gave what they had. Sometimes all they had, their lives!
2. Trust What The Lord Says
Fear defeats Fear brings illness, both mental and physical illness, hospitals are crowded with the fearful Doctors say that a high percentage of those patients hospitalized are there because of fear.
Fear Destroys your testimony No man can speak winsomely of Christ when he is fearful When he does not have faith in God, then his testimony is weak and meaningless and a lie. No man is at his best when fearful Fear destroys happiness shatters the nerves, weakens the mind Fear defeats'
Fear Dishonours God. Our God has promised to be with us always, every step we take every breath we breathe Listen to this wonderful promise given to Moses "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor hi. afraid of them for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" (Deut 31 6)
Actually, fear is calling God a liar Why? Because God promises to give us all things to provide for our needs this is written down in Philippians 4 19 'But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus " He has promised to protect us 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb 13) We have the promise of His power "But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me
Keep in mind that God cannot lie therefore, when we fail to believe Him, we are dishonouring His name Titus 1 2 says, "In hope of eternal life which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began."
The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else. -- Oswald Chambers in The Highest Good.
In hot tropical rain forests, huge plants and trees grow quickly, sometimes almost overnight. But these trees have soft wood, and they fall prey to insects and diseases and live only a short time. In the rugged mountains of the north, growth is slow. Plants and trees must endure high winds, ice storms, and intense cold, but they grow strong and tough with knotty, hard wood. Hardships have values we don't usually appreciate at the time, but they have a tendency to strengthen us. --
A man confined to bed because of a lingering illness had on his sunlit windowsill a cocoon of a beautiful species of butterfly. As nature took its course, the butterfly began its struggle to emerge from the cocoon. But it was a long, hard battle. As the hours went by, the struggling insect seemed to make almost no progress. Finally, the human observer, thinking that "the powers that be" had erred, took a pair of scissors and snipped the opening larger. The butterfly crawled out, but that's all it ever did--crawl. The pressure of the struggle was intended to push colourful, life-giving juices back into the wings, but the man in his supposed mercy prevented this. The insect never was anything but a stunted abortion, and instead of flying on rainbow wings above the beautiful gardens, it was condemned to spend its brief life crawling in the dust. That gives me the idea that God knows what He is doing. It's a fact that you can depend on Him--even when it seems the struggle is hard and meaningless.
Oh, for a Faith That will Not Shrink
Oh, for a faith that will not shrink,
Though pressed by ev'ry foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe!
That will not murmur or complain
Beneath the chastening rod,
But, in the hour of grief or pain,
Will lean upon its God;
A faith that shines more bright and clear
When tempests rage the while;
That seas of trouble cannot drown,
Nor Satan's arts beguile;
Lord, give us such a faith as this,
And then, whate'er may come,
We'll taste, e'en here, the hallowed bliss
Of an eternal Home.
—William H. Bathurst
3. See What the Lord Does
9 Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison.
A.T. Robertson said of John, "It cost him his head; but it is better to have a head like John the Baptist and lose it than to have an ordinary head and keep it."
Are we willing to stand for truth and fulfill God's will no matter the cost? It is better to die for Jesus than to live for self. Mk. 8:36 says, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" Though some may be called to die for Jesus, most are called to live for Him.
Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, 20 and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21 There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." 28 Peter said to Him, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." 29 And He said, "Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, "You are certainly God's Son!"
As the sounds of battle drew closer to Saigon on April 29, 1975, biology teacher Thoa Nguyen gathered his family. South Vietnam would soon fall to the Communists. "We will never surrender our beliefs," said Thoa, a devout Christian. "We must leave our country." But at the airport Thoa, his school-principal wife, Son, and their seven children were turned back. The following morning a band of Communist youths seized Thoa and pushed hm into the street to be executed. "Please, dear God, help!" Son screamed as a pistol touched Thoa's head. Suddenly a woman ran forward. The Nguyens, she said, were popular for their good deeds as teachers. An execution without trial would harm the revolution. God answered Son's prayer as Thoa and his family were released. -- Today In The Word, Moody Bible Institute, August 6, 1991.
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy, To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father's full giving is only begun.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
~~ By Annie J. Flint (1866-1932) ~~