Stephen Caswell © 2005
What do you look for in effective ministry? Warren Weirsbe describes Christian ministry like this. Ministry takes place when Divine Resources meet Human Needs through Loving Channels to the Glory of God.
Today I would like to look at some of the principles of Christian Ministry. Today more than ever we rub shoulders with needy people. How can we make a difference? Where do we begin? What can you do when the resources aren’t adequate? John 6 answers these questions. We will see how the Lord Jesus Christ overcame human inadequacy. This morning we will see 3 things: The Multitudes, The Master, The Miracle.
1. The Multitudes
a. Great Needs
Jesus knew how great the needs were. The people of Israel like all of us had incredible spiritual needs. They also had immediate physical needs. The feeding of the 5,000 is one of the few miracles recorded in all 4 Gospels. As we read the various accounts we get a detailed description of the day. Christ and the disciples had gone aside to a quiet place to rest for a while. They had just returned from a ministry trip in the region. The disciples had been very busy preaching about the Kingdom of God.
Luke 9:10-11: And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing.
Even though they were having a time of Rest & Recreation, Jesus received the crowd. 5,000 men, women and children came to Jesus with various needs. The Lord ministered to all their needs. He healed the sick amongst the crowd. He taught them about the kingdom of God. This dealt with their most important need; the need of salvation. Christian ministry is not physical or spiritual, it’s both. The Salvation Army used to have a slogan when ministering to the down and outs of society. Soap, Soup and Salvation. It’s not an either or situation. We must minister to the whole person.
b. Limited Resources
John 6:5-9: 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?
Jesus asked Philip where they could buy food for all the people to test him. Philip replied that 200 days wages wouldn’t be enough to give everyone just a little. Perhaps Jesus asked Philip this question because it was close his home town of Bethsaida. He was a local and should have known where the local markets were. Philip’s reply was we can’t meet the need. The disciples didn’t have the resources required for this. This is a problem Christians are always confronted with. We just don’t have enough money, resources and workers to help everyone. Yet the disciples were wrong. They had the Master with them. Jesus is always sufficient. He can always meet the great needs of this world.
The disciples answer was to send the crowd away hungry. They said it’s getting late; let the people go to the surrounding villages to buy food for themselves. Luke 9:12: When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here. Another disciple, Andrew found a young lad with a small lunch. He brought the boy to Jesus with his small lunch of 5 barley loaves and 2 fishes. Andrew then correctly observed, but what are they among so many?
c. Christ’s Concern
Mark 6:34-37a: And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things. When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, this is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat. But He answered and said to them, you give them something to eat.
Christ looked upon the crowd very differently to the disciples. Firstly, Christ lifted up His eyes to see the crowd. Then He considered their needs. The word saw, θεάομαι in John 6:5 means to behold, contemplate, view attentively, indicating the sense of a wondering consideration involving a careful and deliberate vision which interprets its object. He didn’t see them as a multitude as the disciples did. The disciples saw the crowd as a problem that they couldn’t solve. They wanted to send the problem away.
Jesus saw them as individuals, sheep without a shepherd. He saw their individual needs. The good shepherd is concerned about lost sheep. He wants to save them and bring them into the fold. Therefore he commanded the disciples to give the people something to eat. They weren’t just a multitude but individual people with real needs. A shepherd feeds his flock. Jesus fed them spiritually and now He was concerned about their physical needs.
How do we view ministry? The needs of our community are great. Our resources are limited. Money, time and workers seem insufficient. Do we see the needs as too great for us to make a difference? Have we responded like the disciples did, sending the crowds away? Or do we view the multitudes like Jesus did? He saw them as lost sheep needing a Shepherd. Have we forgotten that the Master is with us and His resources are sufficient?
2. The Master
a. Brought To Christ
John 6:9: There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?
You often find Andrew bringing someone to Christ. Firstly, he brought his brother Peter to the Lord. Look how mightily the Lord used Peter after He had been trained. In Christ’s hands Peter became a mighty man of God who lead 3,000 to Christ on the Day of Pentecost. Here, we read that Andrew brought a small boy to the Lord with his meager lunch. Bringing people to Christ is the best thing that we will ever do. It lasts for eternity.
The boy is to be commended for giving his entire lunch to the Lord. He was unselfish. He could easily have kept back something for himself; but instead he gave it all. He placed it in the Master’s hands. He didn’t have much; but what he did have he gave to Christ. God doesn’t want 10% of our lives or 10% of our money. He wants all of us; He wants 100%. Romans 12:1: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
A sacrifice belonged to God. It was brought to God and offered up completely. In the same way a living sacrifice belongs to God. Too often, we break up our lives into little sections. We divide sacred from secular. We give God a piece of this, a bit of that and a smidgen of something else. What God wants is all of our lives. He wants to use us in our communities, in our jobs, our Churches, and in our families. Living sacrifices belong totally to God. This little boy gave all that He had. This is why God used it so effectively. In a similar way, the widow put 2 mites into the temple treasury; she put in all she had.
Take All The Keys, Lord
Dr. F. B. Meyer came to a crucial, transitional time in his ministry. He sat dejectedly in his study. My ministry is unfruitful, and I lack spiritual power, he said to himself. Suddenly Christ seemed to stand beside him. Let me have the keys to your life, Christ said. The experience was so realistic that he reached into his pocket and took out a bunch of keys! Are all the keys here? Yes, Lord, all except the key to one small room in my life.
Christ said: If you cannot trust me in all rooms of your life, I cannot accept any of the keys. Dr. Meyer was so overwhelmed with the feeling that Christ was moving out of his life because he was excluding Him from one interest in his life that he cried out, Come back, Lord, and take the keys to all the rooms of my life! We give Christ all or none.
b. Blessed By Christ
John 6:11: And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.
Ministry without God’s blessing is a waste of time. Jesus gave thanks for what had been provided. He didn’t complain that it wasn’t enough. The Lord Jesus gave thanks for what God had provided blessing the meal. Mark 6:41 gives further detail: He looked up to heaven. Real ministry is sourced from heaven. James 1:17: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Ministry requires God’s blessing if it’s to be effective.
Let’s thank God for the resources we have and ask Him to bless them. Let us ask God to meet the great needs around us. Let’s not complain that we don’t have enough money, workers or resources. Instead we ought to pray that God will bless what we have. Jesus had no money and one small lunch to meet this great need. In the Master’s hands a little becomes much. If God blesses what we do it will be sufficient to meet the needs. Jesus had just 12 men to distribute the food to a crowd of about 20,000 people. Yet, they did it.
2 Cor 3:5-6: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
c. Broken By Christ
Mark 6:41: And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them;.
After blessing the loaves and the fishes the Lord broke them. To meet the great needs Jesus had to break the loaves and fish. Once broken they were miraculously multiplied. John 12:24: Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. When we say that someone is broken we usually mean that they are repentant, humble, soft. God can’t use people who are hard or rigid. So He breaks us first. Job was already righteous before he had been tested. God said so. He was even more so after his trials. Job 23:10: But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. Job came forth as pure gold. The Lord used the trials to break Him and make Him even more holy.
When we give ourselves 100% to Christ He will use us in amazing ways. Yet it will be painful as God allows us to suffer for His name. He gently breaks us and molds us. Our own plans and dreams are forgotten as we embrace God’s will for us. Knowing Christ and pleasing Him consumes us and the suffering doesn’t worry us. Sometimes family or friends will criticize you, turn on you. Christians may call you fanatical; but don’t quit.
We have ministered to people in our own home a number of times only to have them leave and spread rumors and gossip. Even though it hurts, God allows it for our own good. He uses it to soften us and make us more like Christ. As we yield to God’s will and power in our life, The Lord uses us; often we don’t even know it. He works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. We are but channels that Christ flows through.
When God breaks His servants, He cleanses us, softens us, refines us and fills us. Like the song. Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mold me, fill me. Chuck Swindoll said this; Before God can really use someone He has to hurt them. Look at the Apostle Paul. Acts 9:15-16: But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake. God won’t use proud, self sufficient people; He uses humble, broken servants who depend on Him.
Hudson Taylor was once given a very flattering introduction before speaking. After he came to the pulpit he said this; I am just a small servant of a very Illustrious Master. I have read 2 biographies about Hudson Taylor. He suffered a lot of hardship, persecution and personal loss. He was often sick. He was constantly maligned by Christians and even by his fellow missionaries. Yet, God used Hudson Taylor mightily. He reached thousands of Chinese and western people for Christ. God used Him so much because the man was humble, broken and soft. The Lord greatly multiplied the work of this broken servant. Isaiah 57:15: For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
Our own resources are meager like the little boy’s lunch. We don’t have much to give to God. But have we given God what we do have? Have you placed everything into the Masters hands? Have you given the Master your family, your home, your possessions, your job, your time, and your life? God wants all of it! Do we ask the Lord to bless our lives and our service for Him? Our Christian service will accomplish nothing unless God blesses it! Are we allowing the Lord to break us? God can’t use proud people with hard hearts. We must be soft and broken, humble and contrite for God to use.
3. The Miracle
a. The Provision
John 6:10-13: Then Jesus said, Make the people sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost. Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.
Jesus had the people sit down on the grass. The word sit down, ἀναπίπτω, is the word used to describe people reclining at a meal table. The meaning of this word in the New Testament was always to lie down in order to eat.
Jesus, the Master of the house was providing a lavish meal for His guests. Therefore the people had all that they needed. John 6:11 says that they all had as much as they wanted. The word wanted, θέλω, means to will or desire. They were filled, completely satisfied by Christ. God’s provision is always enough, and amazingly there was food over. They had more food at the end than the beginning. Philippians 4:19: And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Hudson Taylor said attempt great things for God, expect great things of God.
The Lord told the disciples to gather up all of the leftovers. Nothing must be lost. Why? Because the remaining food could be used to meet further needs. We must never waste God’s blessings. When God gives us an abundant blessing let us use it to the full. Don’t waste a bit. Use it all for the glory of God. Meet all the needs that you possibly can.
b. The Prophet
John 6:14: Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, this is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.
This miracle convinced the crowd that Jesus Christ was the Prophet that Moses said would come into the world. They saw the miracle and were astounded. They acknowledged the Lord’s power and believed that Jesus was the Messiah. There is no question that this miracle brought glory to God. The people knew that Jesus was different. Christ’s miracles led many people to follow Him. Yet people are fickle.
c. The Problem
John 6:15: Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
What disturbs me about this crowd is there obsession with temporary things. The crowd was more excited about a free meal than they were about receiving eternal life. The people were only concerned about physical problems and physical needs. They wanted Jesus to deliver them from the Romans not their sin. They wanted food for their bodies not for their souls. This is clearly seen in their response to make Him King. They wanted Jesus to take back the kingdom of Israel from the Romans. Yet, Jesus taught them about the kingdom of God, about salvation and they paid no attention. He gave them a free meal and they got excited. That’s why Jesus taught them He was the Bread of Life.
John 6:26-27: Jesus answered them and said, most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him. They came to Christ in droves because of Christ’s deeds, but left just as fast when He placed demands upon them. When Christ taught them about sin and salvation they couldn’t get away fast enough. Why didn’t He change the message? Why didn’t He water it down, make it relevant to their felt needs? Because such a message was wrong. It would do them no good. Jesus preached the Truth and many didn’t want to hear it. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5: I make known to you the Gospel I received.
Spurgeon’s Greatest Compliment
Charles H. Spurgeon reckoned as the highest compliment ever paid him the words of an open enemy who said, Here is a man who was not moved an inch forward in all his ministry, and at the close of the nineteenth century is teaching the theology of the first century, and is proclaiming the doctrine of Nazareth and Jerusalem current eighteen hundred years ago.
Let us never move away from the Gospel of Christ; not even an inch. Galatians 1:8-9 says: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. There is one way of salvation. It is found at the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Gospel demands repentance and faith in Christ. Revelation 14:6 calls it the Everlasting Gospel! It never changes! O beloved, never change the message just to reach the people. Jesus rejected the Jews offer of a kingdom with out the cross. Christ knew that He must first die for our sins and then enter into His glory. Luke 24:25-26. There is no way to enter even except by the way of the Cross of Christ.
Let us ask God to use us in meeting the great needs around us. He can multiply the resources we have to impact the world. Are we using God’s blessings to the full? Let’s not waste a bit. Let’s reach all the people that God allows us to. God is concerned about people. He can do amazing things through us if we give Him what we have and ask Him to bless it. Miracles can’t save people; only faith can. Jesus wants people to believe in Him for eternal life. The warning here is clear. Beware of people who chase after miracles and ignore Christ’s instruction about eternal life. The greatest miracle is the miracle of the new birth; only this one lasts forever.
2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.