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H:Face to Face 11/24/19: Get Rid of It

Face to Face

“Get rid of it”

November 23-24, 2019

Today we conclude our series, Face to Face — Encounters with Jesus that change us forever and next week will be the start of our Christmas series.

You know in Jesus’ day, there were those who heard Him from afar and those who watched Him from the crowd. But the Bible also gives us powerful stories of men and women who encountered Jesus “Face to face.” Here at New Hope Mililani we believe that true transformation comes, not merely from sitting in a crowd, but by having a face-to-face encounter with the living Jesus.

Our story today is one of the few events that is recorded in all four gospels. But although this miracle is familiar to many, very little is known about one of its central characters. We aren’t given his name, his background, or even where he came from. We know he was young, and to many of us he’d probably be just another face in the crowd. But because of his sacrificial giving he got to take part in one of the greatest miracles ever recorded.

Let me ask you a question. How many of you have ever gone to something that went longer than you expected? Some of you are thinking, “Yea, this service.” It’s happened to all of us. Maybe it was a movie, maybe it was a party, maybe it was a ceremony like a wedding or graduation. Once Jalee and I were invited to a Church event (not this Church) where there was going to be food and festivities. We got there at 5 in the evening and we didn’t eat until 10. Do you know how hard it is to pretend to still be into a service when the food table is right there and it’s 10? I felt like God was testing me.

That’s exactly what happened in our story today. The Bible says Jesus was teaching and healing but the service went long. Mark’s gospel says, “By this time it was late in the day,” Luke’s gospel says it was, “Late in the afternoon,” and Matthew’s gospel says, “As evening approached.” It’s like when some of our Pastors teach. The end of service is rolling around but we haven’t even gotten to point 1. Everyone’s secretly checking the time thinking, “We’re not going to make it.” But imagine if the service went through lunch, into the afternoon, and now evening is approaching. Stomach’s are rumbling and people are probably becoming restless. In John 6 it says,

5When 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?” 6He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”

We’re told that the number of people gathered were 5,000 men besides women and children. Back then they counted by households, so 5,000 households probably meant more like 10, 15, possibly even 20,000 people. Jesus turned to Philip and said, “Is Tanioka’s still open? We’re going to need to cater.

I feel like Jesus must’ve had a sense of humor. They’re looking out at a sea of tens of thousands of people, it’s late in the day, if they dismiss everyone now they might be able to make it to the nearest town before the shops close. But we visited the region in Israel where this happened and I can tell you with full authority that there was no Zippy’s around. So the disciples were getting nervous and Jesus turned to them and says, “Hey guys, I’ve been ministering all day. We’re all getting hungry. What do you guys have planned for dinner?” Ever work for someone like that? I am. I mean, I have. But look again what John writes, “He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.”

1. YOUR DEAD END IS GOD’S OPEN DOOR.

7Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

To Philip and the disciples this was an impossible situation. This was a dead end. And who brought them there? Yea, did you know that sometimes God will bring you into an impossible situation to see what you’ll do? He already knows what He’s going to do but He wants to see what you’re going to do.

Jesus already knew about the 5000, Jesus already knew about the 2 fish and five loaves, and Jesus already knew about the 12 baskets leftover — 12; one for every tribe of Israel and one for each of the disciples. He already knew how this miracle would point back to the miraculous provision of mana in the wilderness during the time of Moses and because it was nearly Passover, He knew the time would soon come when He would be revealed as the true Bread of Life from heaven. He knew how the people would respond to this miracle and He knew the journey His disciples needed to go on. Often times when we reach a dead end we cry out to God and we say, “God what are you going to do? Do you see what’s happening? What are you going to do?” But God already knows what He’s going to do. He’s orchestrated every moment of your life to bring you to this place and He already knows the outcome. The real question is, what are you going to do? How are you going to respond when you reach the end of your rope, when the heat is on, and you feel like you’ve hit a dead end?

Are we going to say, “Well, I don’t understand this. I don’t see how this can work out. There’s no way. I’m done with this.” Or are we going to say, “God, I don’t see how this can happen and I don’t know how this is going to play out, but the one thing I do know is that you already know what you’re going to do so I surrender to Your will because you already have it all mapped out. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know the One who holds the future.”

If you’ve found yourself in a dead end today, and you’re here wondering what God is going to do, I’m here to encourage you that God hasn’t forgotten you, He hasn’t abandoned you, He knows the plans He has for you, and He is able to work all things out for your good. So what is the response God is looking for? Surrender. Surrender is they key that turns our dead end into God’s open door.

2. YOUR LITTLE DOES NOT DEFINE GOD’S LIMITS.

8Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

There are so many questions I have about this story that the Bible doesn’t answer. First of all, how is it possible that out of 20,000 people only one boy had food? The Bible doesn’t say, but I think it’s safe to assume there were probably others. What was stopping them? What would you do in that situation? It’s late, you’re hungry, and you’ve really been looking forward to that Popeye chicken sandwich you packed. You had to wait in a long line. Don’t raise your hand but how many of us might be thinking, “What difference will this make?” “This isn’t enough for everyone.” “I might need this for myself.” “Maybe others will give so I won’t have to.” I’m sure the boy thought some of those things himself. But for whatever reason, out of 20,000 people, he chose to give all that he had — not because it was enough but because the Master had need of it.

I imagine him walking through the crowd of people, clutching his lunch bag tightly to himself. Finally, he presses his way up to the hilltop where Jesus and His disciples are gathered. Sheepishly, he offers the precious contents of his bag to the nearest disciple. It was Andrew, the brother of Peter. “Jesus, we got a kid here with a couple of fish sticks and some bread but what good is that going to do?” How many know we often accuse Peter of foot-in-mouth syndrome but it sounds to me like it ran in the family!

Dejected, I imagine the boy turning to leave. But then he hears the voice of Jesus say, “Bring him to me.” How many know, Jesus often looks for the things man overlooks? I’ll say that again, Jesus often looks for the things man overlooks. He delights in using the things we dismiss so that our faith isn’t found in worldly wisdom but in the power of God. David was the least of his brothers, so was Joseph (when chosen), Gideon’s clan was the weakest in his tribe and he was the weakest in his clan, the widow who gave 2 pennies gave more in Jesus’ eyes than the rich man who gave only a portion of what he possessed, Abraham was too old, Elijah was suicidal, Moses had a speech impediment, Samson had lust issues, Rahab was a prostitute, the Samaritan woman was divorced, Noah was a drunk, Jacob was a cheater, Jonah ran from God, Naomi was a widow, Martha was a worrier, Peter denied Christ, and Paul murdered Christians before becoming one. You still think God can’t use you? We serve a God who is able to do exceedingly more than we can ask or imagine despite our deficiencies. Your little does not define God’s limits.

So don’t be just a face in the crowd. Press your way to Jesus and contend for your face-to-face encounter with Him. Jesus is looking for those who would say, “I don’t have much, and I don’t know what you can do with this, but I give you all that I am. Use me for Your glory.”

3. IN OUR HANDS IT’S NEVER ENOUGH. IN GOD’S HANDS IT’S MORE THAN ENOUGH.

10Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.”

Let me ask you a question. At what point did the miracle take place? Did it take place in the boy’s hands? Did it take place in the disciple’s hands? See, don’t place your life in a Pastor or leader’s hands. Some people come to Church looking for a spiritual leader who will show them what to do. But the miracle doesn’t happen in our hands. Our job is to point you to Jesus because the miracle happens in His hands. That’s why we contend for a face-to-face encounter. Our job as Pastors and leaders it to usher you to Jesus.

But as long as our time, and our talents, and our resources stay in our hands they will never be enough. They won’t be enough to truly satisfy us, they won’t be enough to accomplish what God has planned, and they won’t be enough to be a blessing to those around us. It’s like the story Jesus told in Matthew 25 of three servants who were each entrusted with wealth from the Master.

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.”

Who did the wealth belong to? Not the servants. They were merely entrusted with the Master’s wealth.

15To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”

Isn’t it interesting that the servant who received the least did the least? Maybe there was some comparison? “Well, I didn’t get the same talents as that guy so I’m not doing anything.” Maybe there was some resentment? “Why didn’t the Master give me the same? He doesn’t trust me.” Maybe there was a sense of scarcity? “Wow, I really don’t have a lot here. I need to just make sure I don’t lose what I have.” For whatever reason, the servant buried what he was given.

Jesus concludes this story with a sobering reminder that regardless of how much we’ve been given, we will all give an account to the Master someday for how we stewarded His wealth. The Master isn’t going to hold you accountable based on anybody else. But He will hold us accountable based on what we were given.

So whatever you have, whether it’s your time, your treasure, our your talent, remember that everything is being entrusted to you from the Master. Everything ultimately belongs to Him and someday He is going to return to see how we’ve stewarded the lives we’ve been given.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” 

There are things in this world that are temporary. So many people are chasing after the temporary things of this world at the cost of the eternal. Jesus said if you surrender what little you have, which was never enough in your hands, I will give you life and life more abundantly.

Story has it there was once a man who got lost in the desert. The water in his flask had run out two days back and he was on his last legs. He knew that if he did not get some water soon, he would surely die. The man saw a small hut ahead of him and thought it was probably a mirage or hallucination. But having no other option he moved toward it. As he got closer he realized it was quite real! So he dragged his tired body to the door with the last of his strength.

The hut was not occupied. It seemed like it had been abandoned for quite some time. The man entered it, hoping against hope that he might find some water inside. His heart skipped a beat when he saw what was in the hut — a water hand pump. It had a pipe going down through the floor, perhaps tapping a source of water deep underground. Desperately, he began working the hand pump but no water came out. He kept at it frantically and still nothing happened. Finally, he gave up from exhaustion and frustration. He threw up his hands in despair. After, what seemed like cruel fate, it seemed as if he was going to die after all.

But then the man noticed a bottle in one corner of the hut. It was filled with water and corked up to prevent evaporation. He uncorked the bottle and was about to drink the sweet life-giving water. Then his hand brushed against a piece of paper attached to it. The handwriting on the paper read, “Use this water to start the pump. You must pour the entire contents of this bottle or it will not work. P.S. Don’t forget to fill the bottle when you’re done.”

The man had a dilemma. He could follow the instruction and pour the water into the pump, or he could ignore it and just drink the water. What to do? If he poured the water into the pump, what guarantee did he have that it would work? What if the pump malfunctioned or had a leak? What if the underground reservoir had long dried up? But then…what if the instructions were correct? Could he risk it? If it turned out to be false, he would be throwing away the last water he would ever see.

With his mind made up, the man take the bottle, and hands trembling, he poured the entire bottle into the pump. Then he closed his eyes, said a prayer, and started to pump. At first nothing happened and his heart began to sink. But as he continued to pump, suddenly he heard a gurgling sound and then water came gushing forth from the spout. The more he pumped the more life-giving water came pouring forth. There was more water than he could possible use. After refreshing himself and drinking to his heart’s content the man found a map  in the hut. The map showed that he was still a far ways off from civilization but now he had which direction to go and had the water needed to make the journey. He refilled his flask and made sure to refill the bottle before sealing it with the cork.

Before leaving, he picked up the note on the bottle and scribbled his own message at the bottom. He wrote, “From one desperate traveler to another, believe me, it works!”

In closing, from one desperate traveler to another, I know what it’s like to be at the end of your rope — to feel like you’ve hit rock-bottom and you’ve go nowhere else to go. Sometimes, as we’ve seen, that can be the best place to be because our dead end is God’s open door. I know the fear of risking everything you have for something you’re not sure will come through. That’s another reason God will sometimes bring us to the end of our rope, because we won’t know that God is all we need until God is all we have. But what we bring to God does not limit what He gives to us. And if we’ll simply have faith to surrender our lives completely to Him, He will reward us with life everlasting.

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