Topic:The Testing of Faith
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat? He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Examination time has come. We are not sure why Jesus chose Philip. It may be that Philip was the one whom he thought to be most advanced in the lessons of faith. These disciples all had unique personalities. Peter was loud and brassy. He had his foot in his mouth most of the time. James and John were ambitious and fiery. They lost their tempers easily. Philip was quiet and deep, he seemed to hang around in the background all the time. Yet I am sure Jesus saw in him a man of deep perception. The quiet kind are often the deep thinkers. Perhaps he chose Philip because he was the one who would most likely understand all that was underneath the very dramatic surface phenomena which the disciples were witnessing.
In any event Jesus said to Philip How are we to buy bread so that these people may eat? He did not really expect to buy bread. In fact Jesus knew that Philip could not possibly answer his question. There was no village and no store nearby, and they had very little money besides. His question is clearly designed to set before Philip a predicament that had no human solution.
Has that ever happened to you? Perhaps right now you are in that kind of a state: You are faced with a predicament for which you can find no answer in the normal resources of human life. That is what Jesus did with Philip.
Our Lord was thinking of ministry to these people, of meeting their need. But Philip immediately began to think of money. He responds to Jesus’ question: Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little. As he estimated the resources available, Philip gave up in despair; he thought there was no way this problem could be met.
God forgive us for the Philip in us all! How many times has this happened in our own experience! As we contemplate the Word of God to us he commands us to feed the multitudes—not only physically, when need arises, but even more important—spiritually. I am distressed by the fact that very few seem to understand that we are sent into the world to teach the world truth that it never could find in any other way, truth that is desperately needed to handle life and make it work as God intended. In the secular realms of knowledge there are great missing elements, great blanks, that the people of the world try to fill up in a dozen different ways, but only the church possesses the truth, the bread that can feed the hungers of life.
What do we do when we hear this command, Feed the multitudes? We respond like Philip. We think of committees, fund raising and organizations. We use very impressive-sounding words: We have to set our goals, we must understand the parameters of the problem, etc. The result is that very little gets done. Our Lord, however, says to begin where you are, with what you have. I am convinced that if we would just do that, all these expensive substitutes would not be needed.
Forgive me, Lord, for trying to meet the needs around me in my own strength. Teach me to offer up to you what little I have and trust that you will use it in miraculous ways.
What is our first response when faced with overwhelming predicaments? Do we calculate a purely human solution, or do we reckon on God’s supply of wisdom and resources?