Early in his ministry, Jesus’ reputation for healings and wonders attracted huge crowds. “Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. . . . Lifting up his eyes . . . a large crowd was coming toward him” (John 6:3, 5, ESV).
Bible scholars estimate this crowd as being between 10,000 and 15,000 people. The sight of the vast throng must have encouraged the disciples. It confirmed that they were following the right Man and that more great things were going to happen. And it must have delighted Jesus to see their joy because they were learning to anticipate great things from Him.
Yet, as the crowd gathered, the disciples faced an impossible dilemma: “Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?’” (6:5). No sooner had a dream been realized than hard reality set in.
Is this scenario familiar to you? Think back to the first great job you had. You were excited because it seemed like the first step in fulfilling your calling. But after a few days you learned your boss wasn’t who he appeared to be and you had to work with a colleague who seemed to resent you. The demands on your time were far greater than you were told, causing you to miss precious time with your family. You realized, “I had no idea it would be this difficult.”
That’s how I imagine Philip felt at that moment. Bewildered, he answered Jesus, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little” (6:7). That was a huge amount of money. In short, even if they had the means and ability to provide food, it still wouldn’t be enough to feed the crowd.
As I read Philip’s response, a phrase leaps out at me: “Would not be enough.” How often does this thought arise in our minds when we face obstacles? How often do we wonder, “I’m not sure I have what it takes. I don’t have the resources, and I doubt I have the ability. Am I strong enough in Christ? Do I have enough of the Holy Spirit? Lord, am I about to derail?”
We can know this for sure: Jesus had called Philip to a great victory that day but Philip just couldn’t see it yet. The same is true for us: God has called us to expect great things in our walk with Him. So, what happens when our situation requires faith? Do we believe Him for the miracle needed? Or are we derailed by our limitations? Jesus’ challenge here had a purpose: “He said this to test [Philip], for he himself knew what he would do” (6:6).
When it comes to spiritual matters, you and I will never know our potential under God until we step out and take risks on the front line of battle. We will never see what power and anointing are possible until we bond with our King and go out in His name to establish His kingdom. Sitting safely in the shelter of Bible discussions among ourselves, or complaining to one another about the horrible state of today’s society, does nothing to unleash the power of God. He meets us in the moment of battle. He energizes us when there is an enemy to be pushed back.
In 1 Chronicles 11:12-14 (NIV) we meet Eleazar, who accompanied David into a major battle with the Philistines. We get an idea of how formidable the enemy was when the Bible says, “At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines.” This was no minor skirmish; this was all-out combat against a superior opponent. Many frightened Israelite soldiers saw the coming horde and ran for their lives.
But not Eleazar. He and David “took their stand in the middle of the field. They defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory” (verse 14). Once again we see the combination of human and divine efforts. God did not act alone. He didn’t unleash a lightning strike from heaven to fry the Philistines. Instead, he was looking all across the horizon that day to see who would stay in the barley field and thus receive His supernatural aid. While others left in fear, these two—David and Eleazar—stood firm.
The account in 2 Samuel 23:10 adds even more detail about Eleazar. He “stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword.” He swung his weapon with such grit, such adrenaline, that his muscles locked up on him; he couldn’t let go. Talk about a mighty warrior for God!
What the world’s situation cries out for today is this kind of determined and desperate faith that grips the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and won’t let go until victory comes.
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.
One of the supreme marks of a mature believer is love for all of lost humankind. Such a Christian shows love equally for Jews and Palestinians, for Bosnians and Serbs, for everyone.
Only a full-grown, mature believer can accept these words of Jesus: “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Mathew 5:44). I ask you: Can you imagine spending a month in a Palestinian field hospital, nursing and feeding soldiers who want to destroy Israel? Can you keep your prejudices in check as you read inflammatory news reports in the coming days? Will you have the same spirit that was in Christ, who said as He was crucified, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”?
If you want to walk as Jesus walked, you can’t allow your human passions to be inflamed by headlines. Christ died for every lost soul on this earth, including abortion doctors, murderers, rapists, child molesters. Right now, our jails are filled with convicts who have become powerful witnesses of the saving love of Jesus, all because somebody loved them in spite of their sins.
You can know you’re growing in grace if you’re able to pray for those whom the world hates. As we hear of terrible things happening, we are to stand against every prejudice that rises up in us, and declare, “I take Christ’s authority over this. I will love humankind as my Lord did.”
Here is the great promise that puts to rest all our feelings of doubt and uncertainty: “Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth . . . giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. . . . They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).
A sure sign of spiritual growth is that you take every problem and crisis immediately to Jesus. You have learned that you have a place to go.
“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).
Some Christians are forever in a crisis. Every time you meet them, they tell you another awful complaint: “I’m facing one thing after another. I don’t know what to do.” They are willing to describe their problem to anyone in the vicinity but they never take it to Jesus, as if He has nothing to offer them.
Don’t misunderstand: I’m not referring to Christians who are going through real, legitimate problems. Every day our ministry receives dozens of letters from saints who are enduring severe suffering. Rather, I’m speaking of the “professional gripers” in the church. They are pros at complaining. As you listen to them, you want to ask, “Is your God dead? Why don’t you draw on the resources He’s provided you? Don’t you know He’s made you more than a conqueror?”
How pleasing it is to the Lord when you go to Him first with all your cares. You know you have someone who is faithful to see you through.
Here are several Scriptures for you to lay hold of:
“Casting all your care upon him; for He careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
When you find yourself in a crisis, quickly run to God for comfort, provision and direction!
Satan has tripped up many Christians by convincing them they’ve lost something in the Lord. The fact is, it’s a terrible sin to doubt God’s love for you and to misjudge your position in Christ by your feelings. Your day-to-day standing with Jesus has nothing to do with your zeal, tears or intensity. It rests on faith alone.
Imagine how lost you would be if your salvation actually rested on your feelings. Paul urges us, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13). You’re never to rely on past emotional experiences. What matters today is your trust. Do you trust His promises to you? Are you ready to partake of His divine nature in a truly biblical way—not by emotional trips or outward evidences, but by casting yourself on His glorious promises?
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). Peter makes it clear: We obtain Christ’s nature by appropriating God’s covenant promises, and not by any other means.
A minister once boasted to me, “I’ve finally gotten back to the faith of my youth. I’m praying more, and the Bible is my meat again. God is giving me red-hot messages for my congregation and once again I have a great love for the lost. I feel so renewed.” Just a few months later, however, this man was back down in the pits.
God does bring renewal and fresh anointing to our lives. But that’s not the food we are to live on. We are to live on a constant faith in His covenant promises. His word is unshakable, no matter how low we may feel. Our Lord will keep His promises to us: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).