The Season of Thanksgiving - John 6
We have been looking for the last several weeks at what it means to be a New Creation and how that change effects us and the way we live. Now that October is behind us we are entering a season of reminders. In December, we have the reminder of the Incarnation—how God was willing to step out of Glory into our ravaged existence in order to invite us and provide a way for us to be with Him.
First though, comes the reminder of thanks. If you are a New Creation—redeemed and set free, restored to relationship with your Creator, then you have a lot to be thankful for. I am glad that our nation has chosen to remind itself every year to be Thankful for our bounty and our blessings. But one thing should be noted, the declarations of our nation’s Thanksgiving were not made in the best of times. There was a lot or rebuilding going on, there was a lot of continuing mourning.
It is the times of difficulty that create the opportunity for us to truly realize and give thanks to God for all that we have.
If we can give thanks in difficult circumstances, when things are not the best, then we are living as a New Creation, with our mind forever reminded of where we have been, how we have been changed, and where we are going. We are following the model of thanksgiving given by Jesus Himself.
Jesus showed us how we can and must express genuine thanks even in the face of overwhelming needs. The opportunity came when a large crowd, captivated by His miracles, followed Jesus around the Sea of Galilee. You see it in John 6.
1. New Creation--Thanksgiving Living—Don’t Panic When Needs Arise—6:1-5
When 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?" (John 6:5)
All of a sudden, Jesus and the disciples were confronted with an overwhelming need. Jesus did not respond as if something terrible or unusual has happened. He does not panic—unexpected needs are nothing new—not then, not now either.
We will always have needs. It is the nature of being human. We were not created to be self-sufficient. Needs are a normal part of life.
But sometimes we can be surprised by needs—it’s important that we don’t panic.
Needs can hit our lives with such fury that we don’t really know what to do, our minds freeze. Bills come when least expected. Poor health can arrive without warning. Crises typically arrive unannounced.
The fact that some needs surprise us does not mean that God is surprised. Far from being unprepared, our Father is well aware of our needs. All of them. All the time. So we don’t need to panic b/c we know God is still in control.
But if this situation didn’t surprise Jesus, why did He ask Philip the question in the first place?
2. New Creation Living—Tests Your Safety Nets with Needs—6:6-
Jesus asked Philip where they were going to get the food to feed the huge crowd. Jesus was conscious of the need and already had a supernatural solution in mind, but was calling it to Philip’s attention. It was a test!
He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. (John 6:6)
More than any other situation in life, needs expose and test our internal support systems. Needs reveal the true objects of our trust. Where do we turn for help in a crisis? Do we cry out to the Lord? Do we confidently trust Him to give what we need when we need it?
Or do we look for our own self-made back-up plans, our emotional safety nets? Safety nets are those just-in-case solutions we get ready in case the Lord doesn’t come through. The places we are more likely to run to for shelter and help in our times of need.
Needs will show you who or what you are really trusting in. They serve a purpose.
If you think Jesus is just some ordinary guy, you’re going to think Jesus was only concerned with the logistics of feeding the large crowd. But Jesus wanted to know where Philip and the disciples would run to with a need so great. Would Philip trust God or look for his own back up plan?
Philip ran to his personal ability to feed the crowd, asking himself how long he would have to work to feed the group. He did the math.
Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"
His calculations were flawless but his formula was flawed. He left God out of the equation.
Andrew looked at what was immediately available as a solution. The small lunch was more than enough for the boy, but it could not begin to eliminate the need confronting the disciples.
Another 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?" (John 6:7-9)
Phillip was saying “What I can DO is insufficient and inadequate.” Andrew was saying “What I HAVE is insufficient and inadequate.” When we finally accept that, Jesus is there to say, “Good, now we’re ready to talk.”
When the disciples’ safety nets ripped apart by the overwhelming need, their theology was exposed.
You need to know that Jesus doesn’t want us to live depending on our own efforts and what our own minds can come up with. We’re not supposed to live with safety nets or back up plans. He is calling you to live without safety nets. No matter how great the need, He desires that you run and call upon Him and not look to or trust in anything else.
This is not a call to drop out of Social Security or drop your insurance coverage. I’m not saying that if you have a savings account, you don’t really trust God. However, any of those things can quickly become just as much of an idol as a carved rock or piece of wood.
Your needs are designed to draw your heart into greater dependence upon God, and not upon yourself or your resources, abilities or any one or anything else.
Instead, New Creation Living wants you to
3. New Creation Living means--Focus on God—not Yourself--John 6:10-13
Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Jesus 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.
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. (John 6:10-13, 23)
The disciples were astounded. Jesus took the resources they had—which were inadequate—and gave thanks to God. In the midst of an overwhelming great need, He gave thanks. It was a choice. Two miracles resulted.
There was the miracle of the inadequate becoming more than adequate. Everyone ate as much as they wanted!
Then there was the miracle of understanding. The disciples never forgot what they had witnessed. Even years later, when he wrote his gospel, John used the spot from the Feeding of the 5000 as a marker to identify Jesus’ movements—vs, 23.
This is such a significant moment that the 5000 is the only account recorded in all 4 Gospels. The day after, John described a boat that touched ashore near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord gave thanks. (John 6:23) The spot was branded into their memories. They never forgot what had happened there and the lesson they had learned.
The disciples eventually realized they could thank God for everything—even in needs that were overwhelming or unmet. We can give thanks even in needs that were overwhelming or unmet when you trust that God will carry you through no matter what. He will take your inadequacies and use them for His glory.
5. New Creation Living means—Growing Through the Needs
But notice Jesus didn’t act immediately. It would have been easy for Him to have acted quickly to remove all anxiety from their hearts—but He didn’t. He asked questions and deliberately waited, and prolonged their uncertainty, to train their hearts to be grateful at all times. They were learning together.
Jesus wanted them to get beyond their own abilities, to get beyond the crisis of the moment and Trust God, and He demonstrated it by giving thanks to His Father in the midst of uncertainty.
Jesus gave thanks over the bread and the fish—in the face of the need, before it was met. It is important that we maintain a grateful spirit, willing to honor and glorify God even in the face of needs—that is a sign of our growing and maturing.
Did you knew that one of the ways our understanding of Jesus is messed up is b/c we don’t thank Him enough. Giving Thanks Helps our Understanding.
Paul warns the Romans about the warped and idolatrous view of God that can result from an attitude of ingratitude:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23)
As a consequence of ingratitude, lost men and women fail to see God as He really is. They miss His glory. They replace Him with gods of their own creation.
It is vital that we maintain a grateful, trusting spirit in the face of our needs. Otherwise our view of God will be skewed and false. That’s not saying—“Gee I’m so happy that I have this disease.” OR “Thank You Jesus for that car accident that took away my legs.” Instead, growing in faith to praise Him, to glorify Him, to hold on to Him and let Him carry you through.
Needs expose our source of strength and our safety nets.
Needs also provide us with the opportunity to express our thanks and our dependence.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.
Paul was very Genuine about what he was feeling. He realized he was in hardship, that they were suffering under great pressure, despair.
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the
dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
Do you panic when the crisis comes? Do you try to do or fix everything on your own? Are you living from crisis to crisis by your safety nets? Then realize that God may very well bring a crisis into your life to demolish your safety net.
He desires that you are willing and able to Give Thanks and Praise to God even in the midst of the trials.
As a New Creation God will carry you… don’t jump out of His arms—run to Him first.
Do you have someone to run to in times of trial? If you are in a trial right now—can we pray for you?
If you are interested in joining this church and allowing us to help carry your burdens, then please come forward.