When faced with any issue, no matter the size, our first question should be, “What has God said about this?” The Bible is the inspired Word of God. It is a compilation of human thoughts with divinely appointed meaning and value. We read the Bible to know God in a personal way, to recognize that He is everything we need, and to remember that He has already spoken on the things we will encounter in life.
Studying the Word of God allows us to connect and empathize with those throughout history who have struggled with temptation and trials of all kinds. The stories of these men and women are meant to help in our pursuit of freedom and the kingdom of God.
When I began writing this book, I realized that some of the Bible stories I had heard a hundred times are centered around the feeling of inadequacy. We’re going to take a look at three such stories, which, throughout the course of this book, we will reference regularly. The first is one that I’m certain you have heard before, and it’s centered around the disciple Philip, five loaves of bread, and two fish.
To set the stage for this story, Jesus and his disciples had just crossed the Sea of Galilee and were followed by a substantial crowd. The masses of people were inspired to follow them after witnessing Jesus performing miracles in other towns. Many were so amazed and invigorated that they simply left their homes and occupations without any immediate plans of how long they would be gone or how they would sustain themselves. Standing before Jesus and the wonders He had performed in the lives of the sick and dying reinvigorated them; in those moments, there was nothing more important than following the Messiah.
But what occurred between the extraordinary and the ordinary? What did the people do when their eyes were once again fixed on ordinary human struggles like exhaustion and hunger?
Now, I imagine a collective sea of discomfort didn’t break out all at once, but perhaps the discomfort happened as a result of a gradual groan that began with a few. The few could have been doubters who had only come along to disprove that Jesus was performing miracles as the rumors suggested. That’s speculation, of course, but it’s common for those half-invested to be the first to complain when conditions become difficult or unpredictable.
Complaining is infectious and can swiftly influence everyone, even those faithfully invested from the beginning.
Regardless of how the tides changed, Jesus perceived that there were people in the crowd who would be returning to their homes after a physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting series of events. He was filled with compassion for each one of them, perhaps knowing that many would collapse from fatigue in their travels home. So He took action, and that action was engaging a particular disciple whose faith was, evidently, underdeveloped in comparison to some of the others:
When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread to feed these people?” He said this to stretch Philip’s faith. He already knew what he was going to do. Philip answered, “Two hundred silver pieces wouldn’t be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece.” (John 6:5–7 MSG)
The first thing to notice here is this: Jesus already had a plan. He knew exactly what He wanted to do but intentionally chose to involve Philip when He did. You see, Jesus never acted out of self-interest. One of His primary concerns was to develop those around Him by stretching their faith and pushing them closer to the Father. Not only was He able to see the “big picture” issue, but He was also paying exceptional personal attention to one man whose body was in the right place, but whose heart needed to be pushed to greater limits. Jesus saw the problem and created a solution that would meet the physical needs of the masses and address Philip’s propensity to focus on the feeling of inadequacy when faced with something out of his comfort zone.
There is nothing we can do to help these people, was Philip’s fear. The obstacle before us is too great.
Isn’t the disciple’s reaction relatable? You and I could surely talk for hours about all the times we have had similar thoughts. Why is it that faith can be so second nature? How did we go from walking with God in the Garden of Eden to such doubt? Often, the first step we need to take is small but hidden by walls of disbelief. Luckily for us, Jesus sees both our difficulties and our resolutions; we must only make it a habit to lean in, listen, and take action.
In the case of Philip, Jesus planned to demonstrate this process through a young boy with an inadequate amount of food, but the right amount of faith:
One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.” (John 6:8–9 MSG)
Like Philip, Andrew was too focused on what they were lacking. They did not yet understand that Jesus was embodying one of the ways in which God develops His people: He commands us to act while allowing us room to doubt. This position of trust is uncomfortable, but faith is about denying self-imposed comfort zones and recognizing that God can and will do what He says He will do. He does not start things that He does not plan to finish. His faithfulness is perfect. And so we read:
Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted. When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves. (John 6:10–13 MSG)
Have you ever felt like Philip and Andrew? Like God has called you to do something but has not properly equipped you? Take comfort in knowing that this is probably by design and that He is trying to stretch your faith. The following are circumstances you may find yourself in from time to time:
God has not called me to anything because I lack a certain skill set.
God has called me, but I’m not quite ready yet. I need to grow spiritually before I’m good enough to take action.
I allowed the truth that God’s timeline is different than man’s to become a crutch; it became an excuse to do other things I know God has not called me to.
I want you to know that God does not intend to confuse us. When we consider the things He has called us to, we must defend ourselves from feelings of doubt and uncertainty by comparing them with what He has already promised. And what He has promised is to work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
The word “work” in this verse implies that there is a concentrated effort involved with molding and shaping our circumstances. “All things” reminds us that there are no conditions for God’s faithfulness with regard to those He has called. Our Father will always devise a future that frustrates the devil’s sense of victory; with every circumstance, good or bad, He creates a future opportunity for there to be a positive impact on the kingdom.
But it tends to take time for us to see that reality, doesn’t it? For me, it was six years before I recognized how negatively the enemy had influenced my impact and how quickly God could turn things around for His Glory.
It doesn’t have to be that long for you. Whatever has happened in your life, whether it was a mistake you made, a result of stagnancy in your faith, or something that another person did to you, be reminded today that our God can use what has happened for good. The process has not been what you thought it would be like, perhaps, but I promise you, if you keep fighting and pressing into Him, the finished product will be beautiful and filled with purpose.
And the best part? You don’t have to have all the answers to move forward.
That is what Jesus was trying to demonstrate to Philip and Andrew. God takes those who don’t have it all together to accomplish incredible things for His kingdom and His Glory. Philip’s faith was inadequate, but Christ saw greatness and gave him the opportunity to grow. He wanted to show the disciple the possibility of moving from fact and logic into trust and security. And how better to practice trust than to put it into action?
Jesus then challenged the disciples to do something illogical: move from their comfort zone and into the crowd to have everyone sit down to be fed. Can you imagine the thoughts going through their heads? It was no longer about their own skepticism; they now had to look thousands of hungry men, women, and children in the eyes while trusting that Jesus was able to do what He said He could do.
Of course, they were right to trust Him, because every person across that field of green ate more than their fill of bread and fish. Not only that, but there were twelve baskets of leftovers! Jesus demonstrated the faithfulness of God and also that it is not in God’s nature to begin something without finishing it.
Jesus wanted Philip to learn to react to future situations from a place of faith, being aware that Jesus would never ask him to do something impossible. Sure, it would have been impossible for Philip alone, but with God Philip could act. To the disciples themselves it seemed like they had inadequate resources, but did they really? It seemed that they were not equipped to succeed, but weren’t they? In the end, the true resource was God’s blessing.
It was never about the number of biscuits or fish they had, but how those few could be multiplied through faith.
This story, like the other two we will look at in the coming chapters, is proof of God’s workmanship. It is evidence of a Father who cares deeply about the development of His children and who takes pride in the process He has laid out, which is built upon faith. But know this: the enemy has a process too, which we will delve into a bit later. His schemes are abundant, and his plan is to steal, kill, and destroy the fullness of life which Jesus came to offer us (John 10:10). When Jesus stretched Philip’s faith, I want you to see that he also prevented the enemy’s kingdom from advancing. You see, it is fundamentally important that we recognize that the enemy, too, has a plan for our lives. Like God, he plants seeds and cultivates them; he invests in his kingdom with the goal of making it a bigger place.
Acknowledging this truth, consider what might have happened if steps of faith had not been taken in every biblical story you have ever encountered. What if Moses had believed the lie that he was not good enough to deliver the Israelites from captivity? What might have happened had Jesus allowed Philip’s doubt to dictate the story of the five thousand? We can’t really know what would have transpired, but we can be certain that thousands would not have witnessed the great faithfulness of God that day, or His favor on the man who claimed to be His Son. By the enemy’s record, that would have been a great victory.
What I believe God wants us to consider is this: if we are not actively advancing the kingdom of God, are we passively advancing the kingdom of our enemy? Take note of this question, as we will revisit it several times throughout this book.
Before moving on, take some time to acknowledge the ways in which the enemy has attempted to keep you from God’s plan for your life. Consider the following questions:
What has God inspired me to do, and how has the enemy tried to slow my journey?
What skills has God given me that Satan might view as a threat?How might the enemy try to prevent me from hearing God’s voice?
What is present in my life that could be keeping me from being the best version of myself?