The Philip Philosophy and the Andrew Approach John 6: 1-13
This was the only miracle of Jesus, apart from His resurrection that all four gospels recorded (Mt. 14 Mk. 6; Lk. 9) I am sure you have read this passage before and have heard it preached, but I believe there is something new God wants you to hear today. A few points to consider about this miracle of the feeding of the five thousand:
1. Never Assess a Difficulty In The Light Of Your Own Assets
While God’s resources are infinite, never ending, unlimited, ours are finite and limited, they will not last forever, they can not last forever, they will eventually run out at some point. The point I am making here is that you should never examine a problem and then try to work it out based entirely on the resources you have at hand. When what you have at hand is insufficient to take care of your needs, what do you do?
Notice the question that Jesus asked in John 5:5: "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He didn’t ask how shall we buy bread for them, not how much the food will cost, but where. He was only asking this to test the faith of Phillip, for the bible says, He already had a plan. (John 6:6) The response of Phillip and Andrew is typical of how many of us would have responded, and this I have termed the Philip Philosophy and the Andrew Approach. Andrew looked at the number of people to be fed, at the need to be met, and was overwhelmed. He then quickly compared this great need with the available food and concluded that nothing could be done about the problem.
For Phillip, it was about figures, about calculations, about mathematics. He said: "Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" In other words, if they worked for eight months the proceeds of their labour would still not be enough. Philip did not realise that it was not about works, but grace, that is was not about labour, but the favour of God! He didn’t realise the one who was asking him the question was the one who can make all things possible, the one who can covert nothing into something. Glory be to God.
Phillip was so sure of what could not be done that he lost sight of what could be done, in other words, he had no vision of what could be done. He and Andrew were so focused on what they didn’t have that they lost sight of what they had. They did not remember that they had a small amount of food, and above all, they had Jesus the great provider! Some of us are in the habit of doing this thinking, I am lacking in this area or that area, I am too short, I am too fat, I am this I am that, I am too old to go back to the university, I am too old to complete my college degree. If you think you are too old, remember how old Moses was when God chose him to lead His people out of captivity? He was 80. Remember that Caleb was 85 when he made himself available to go to battle in Hebron.
It is not about how old you are or how young you are. Jehoahaz and Jotham were 25 when at different times they became king at Judah; Jeroboam was 16 when he was made king and he ruled for 52 years, Pekah was 22 when he was crowned king of Judah, Hezekiah was just three years older when he was made king of Judah 25 and Manasseh was merely a 12 year old boy when he began to rule in Judah and the Bible says he ruled for 55 years. It really doesn’t matter how old or how young you are, the crucial question is: are you ready to be used by God? Are you ready to yield yourself and what you have to God?
In verse 9 of John 6, Simon said, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" This boy had a meagre lunch; the loaves were more the size of pancakes than today’s full size loaf and the fish were probably like fish fingers, not the big tilapia variety many of us are used to.
One of the lessons Jesus was trying to teach us here is that when your resources are running low, learn to stop putting your trust in material provisions and learn to put it in God. The Phillip Philosophy says it is about numbers, but life is much more than numbers, it is trusting God not your resources for provisions. There was someone who calculated that the food Israelites eat between when they were liberated from Egypt and when they arrived at the Promised Land was about 12 million pounds (in weight) each day. Could they have been able to provide for themselves? No, it was God the great provider who made provisions for them and the same God is still able to meet you at your point of need.
We need to keep on reminding ourselves that every resource comes from the hand of God in the first place. He is the source and whatever is in our hand is the resource. Many people calculate their finances to the least penny and in the process, they become discouraged when resources run low, so discouraged that they frivolously and unwisely fritter away the little they have, thinking, it was never going to be enough in any case. The Phillip Philosophy says solve even insurmountable problems in the light of your own resources, but it is not about calculations, but about the one who paid the price at the cross of Calvary.
2. Jesus will only transform what is transferred to Him
For those who subscribe to the Andrew Approach, it is largely about size, but let me announce to you today, it is not about size; it’s about releasing what you have to God. Jesus intentionally used a small amount of food to authenticate His miracle. A young boy, a small lunch. You don’t have to be a big shot or a millionaire for God to use you. It is about your availability not your ability! God is big even if your resources aren’t! Jesus didn’t expect that boy to have enough to feed the crowd, Jesus only wanted him to place it in His hands, and leave the rest to the miracle worker. Jesus is impressed with people who gave when their resources are limited. Remember the story of the widow’s mite?
What the boy transferred to Jesus was what was transformed by Jesus. It may be small in quantity, it may be poor in quality but if you transfer whatever you have to Jesus, it will be transformed by Him! You can have little and it will remain little as long as you hold on to it. But if you have little and transfer it to God, He will multiply it. Remember the widow of Zarepath in I Kings 17? She surrendered her little flour and the little oil to God through the prophet and God multiplied it.
3. Only the all-sufficient person is able to magnify an insufficient provision
Human wants, economists have told us since the days of Adam Smith, are insatiable. That is correct. Many times if you look at the bills coming in and put them against your expenditure you will notice – if you haven’t done that a long ago – that there is a disequilibrium, a sort of disconnect, an imbalance. What you have is just not enough to meet your needs, but God has been keeping you all this while, and He will keep on keeping you.
So, the key question in your time of need is not how much have I got, or how big what I have is, not even what do I have? The key question is, is God in what I have? Is He in my plans? Is He in my activities? Do I go to God with my need of daily bread or am I living my life independent of trust in Him? When you give to God what is in your hands, expect the incredible, expect the miraculous. The bible says without faith it is impossible to please him and faith, simply explained, is our response to the Word of God. Remember, faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of God (Romans 10:17). Unfortunately, we often put our faith to action as a last resort when all else has failed.
Let’s pause to examine the disciples’ response to the Word of God in this instance:
Response 1: Their first response was an attempt to get rid of the problem. Mark’s account (Mark 6:36) says they asked Jesus to send the people away. On the surface, this appeared to be a request based upon the disciples’ compassion for the crowd, a request which seemed very reasonable. However, it wasn’t a response based on faith.
Response 2: Their second response in Luke 9:13: Jesus, this problem is yours to deal with give them something to eat. They thought that acquiring food was Jesus’ problem but Jesus told them it was their problem. Many of us think getting the finances to run the church is the problem of the pastor. No, it is an issue not for the pastor alone, but for the Body of Christ as a whole. The second response wasn’t a response of faith.
Their third response (as exemplified by the calculating) Phillip and the fourth (in line with the Andrew’s approach that if it is not big it is no good) were to search for a human solution; these responses had absolutely nothing to do with faith. Perhaps Jesus had hoped to hear Phillip say, Lord you can get us through this like Ezekiel said in the vision of the valley of dry bones. Instead Andrew literally threw up his hands and say the problem was too big and the resources too low. Phillip in effect said yes I know that you are the Jesus who turned water to wine, you were the same person who raised up the daughter of Jairus, who restored the health of the woman who was bent over for 18 years, but I think feeding the 5,000 is a bit too big for you, I not sure even you can do anything at this point. Does Phillip’s reaction remind us of ourselves? We have seen God’s work in other people’s lives, but we do not let that knowledge carry over into our lives. We know that God has worked in the past, but we are not sure that God can take care of us now.
4. Without God in it, it is no good
Like many of us, Phillip had left faith and its author and finisher totally out of the picture. We try to figure out our problems, we sweat it out, agonise over it, strategise about even things we know we can’t do anything about in our own strength and finally in desperation we let God in on it. But do you have to be desperate before you bring God into your situation? So many believers when they try to do it themselves, they call it moving by faith, but faith is about letting it go and hanging it on Jesus, believing that he is able to get it sorted. It is not about wishing the problem away, it is not about sweating it out, it is about bringing God into it. When Goliath was harassing Israel their king Saul tried to figure it out but did not bring God into the picture, until a teenager by the name of David came into the scene and defeated the champion of the Philistines by bringing God into it.
5. Serving is a pre-requisite for Success
Jesus took the bread and fish, gave thanks to His father and passed the food on without thinking of his own needs. Why? Because he is the Good Shepherd, not a hired hand merely watching the sheep, He is responsible for the sheep so he won’t abandon them, the same way He will not abandon you at any point, if you stay close to Him. The Bible says Jesus died for us even while we were still sinners, so when resources are running low it is a testing time and you should test God and see if He will not deliver. The one that brought you out of the miry clay will surely stand up for you at your point of need. Get rid of the Phillip Philosophy and the Andrew Approach and embrace the agenda of the Almighty God by saying: although I may be running low, I will keep on giving because I have a God who will never fail me! Notice that Jesus didn’t confiscate the little boy’s lunch and say I’m the big boss here, if anyone should eat, I should. Instead, his priority was feeding the crowd. He broke the bread himself, He didn’t say I am too big to do this, He didn’t bark out instructions to His disciples. He did it himself and passed it on to the disciples.
6. There is joy in joining others in doing God’s Work
Also notice something here, he could have tried to distribute the food himself, but He delegated that to His followers. I know there are many pastors who will want to lead the choir, teach Bible classes, take the offering and do everything in between! If Jesus had attempted to distribute the food all by himself, probably not more than 100 would have been fed! How often we believers attempt to preach the gospel alone, how often have we tried to take the accolades alone and accomplish little. The Lord distributed to the disciples who in turn distributed to the crowd. God is pleased to use human instruments to accomplish His work but it must all begin with His hand. His was the increase; theirs was the distribution, but only after it passed through His hands. The disciples first received the bread from the hands of their Master and then distributed to the multitude. It was not their hands which made the bread increase but His! The young boy might have provided bread and the fish, but the Lord was needed to bless it and the disciples were needed to distribute it. What a lesson for team leaders in this church. Make use of the gifts and talents of people in your team!
7. There is always plenty left over for those who serve Him
The natural human inclination when giving stuff out is to say: if I give this out who’s going to make sure that I have all I need? God is! Look at verses 12 and 13 of John 6. There were five loaves of bread to start with, but after it passed through the hands of Jesus 12 baskets remained uneaten. Who were the 12 baskets of leftovers for? The 12 disciples! Jesus was making provision for the servers! As you serve in His house, He will surely make provisions for you.
While the Phillip Philosophy says use of the calculator, the Andrew Approach says if it is too little it is useless, but God has already got it figured out. He has a plan, a plan to make you the head and not the tail, a plan to meet all your needs according to His riches in glory, a plan to take you to the expected end! He has not forgotten you, He has not abandoned you, He has not rejected you. It is time to do away with the Phillip Philosophy and the Andrew Approach, and the sufficient provider will multiply your insufficient provisions, in the mighty name of Jesus.