When Problems Overwhelm

In John’s Gospel, the sixth chapter, a “great crowd of people” were coming towards Jesus and his disciples. Upon seeing this and knowing that the crowd of people would be tired and hungry, Jesus asks his disciple Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” We are told that Jesus asked Philip this question in order to “test” him. And we will find that Philip’s response would mostly likely be similar to our own: “Eight month’s wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Philip, like us, was looking at this problem (or opportunity) in terms of human understanding or thinking. Jesus however, had a divine solution in mind. The feeding of the 5,000 is the fourth of the seven signs of Jesus in the Gospel of John. 

Do you have a problem that you are trying to solve based on your own limited human understanding? So often we take matters into our own hands without going to God and trusting his guidance for a solution to our problem. We stare up at our “mountain” of problems and we become overwhelmed and frustrated when things don’t work out as we had planned. We fear that the climb up the mountain is too steep and dangerous and we begin to lose all hope. If you are facing small problems or monumental problems, turn to the God of hope as you begin to pour out your problems and lay out your fears before Him. Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Trust in God and follow the leading of God’s Holy Spirit and you will be filled with a peace that is beyond any human understanding. God doesn’t promise that our journey along the way will be quick, easy, or without some pain on our part. What He does promise however, is that He will be with you and will guide you every step of the way. God has already solved your problem; He is just waiting for you to trust Him and to follow Him. Deuteronomy 31:8: The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Prayer: God, help me to trust in you and in your will for my life. Help me to not be afraid of what the future holds and to not be anxious over the many worries of life. Give me peace in my heart to trust you and to follow you, knowing that you have already worked out a solution to my problem(s) in advance. Help me to trust you completely and to have a strong faith that can move mountains. Amen.

John 6:1-15 (NIV)
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

6 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

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

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

8 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?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 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.

12 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.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Giving Thanks

Psalm 100 (NIV)

1  Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

With so much turmoil going on in the world today, I find comfort in the words of Psalm 100. This passage reveals to us why God is so completely worthy of our praise. God created each person on the face of this earth, and if you confess your belief in God and in Christ, you belong to God and you are counted as one of His people. God intimately knows you, He cares about you and He always wants the best for you. This knowledge about the personal nature of God should cause us to “shout for joy to the Lord” and to “worship the Lord with gladness and “with joyful songs.”

Psalm 139:13: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Matthew 10:30: And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” We should begin each day of the year praising God and cultivating thankful hearts.

As I grow older, I find myself looking back on past Thanksgivings and recalling some of my fondest memories. My favorite remembrances most often revolve around family and the sharing of a meal. Everything seemed to move at a slower pace and being with family was what mattered most during the week of Thanksgiving. I remember long conversations over dinner and I don’t remember anyone being in a hurry to rush off to score the best deals on pre-Black Friday shopping. I mentioned to my wife this week how I longed for those days again when everything seemed much simpler and slower paced.

During this past month, I have tried to be more intentional to begin each day by giving thanks to God for what matters most. I am blessed to have a wonderful, loving family and I thank God every day for each one of them. I am also thankful for a soon to be new addition to our family, as my oldest daughter has found the man that she wants to spend the rest of her life with. I am so very grateful for the blessings of good health for our family. I am grateful to God that we always have food on the table and a roof over our head. I am thankful to God for each new day that He gives me to spend with my family and to be the hands and feet of Christ to those that I encounter each day.

This year I was especially thankful for the slow paced meal and the good conversation that we enjoyed around the table. My aunt, who is 91 years old, told us a funny story that had everyone around the table laughing out loud. As she was asked to tell the story a second time, I looked at my family and was filled with joy to see the smiles on their faces and to hear their laughter. For those few precious moments, I was able to go back in time and remember Thanksgiving meals from the 70’s and 80’s, where no one was in a hurry to go shopping and laughter filled the dining room and warmed our hearts. As I grow older, these are the simpler things that I am so thankful and grateful for.

 

God Remains in Control

There is so much violence and terrorism in the world today and people are afraid. I completely understand that feeling of fear, because I am fearful of what the world will be like for my loved ones as they grow older. You can’t read or hear the news without experiencing some degree of worry or concern. It seems that the value of human life is something that is not considered treasured or sacred anymore. We first witnessed the downing of a Russian airliner on October 31st that killed 224 souls, and we now know that a terror group was behind the downing of that airliner. Then a few days ago, this same terror group struck Paris and took the lives of even more innocent people. And this morning, we are told of many potential threats against our own country, especially during the upcoming holiday season. Many people say that this world is out of control and it’s easy to understand why they think that. At first glance, it does appear that this world is spiraling towards complete and utter chaos.

There is a fierce battle that is raging and it is one that most people do not even consider. This battle is being waged by the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, makes it clear that our battle is not a “struggle against flesh and blood” but rather “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Satan is behind all of the violence and destruction that we are witnessing in the world today. He knows that his time is coming to an end and he is relentlessly waging a war to bring about death, destruction, and turmoil upon the world. The evil one wants us to be afraid and to turn our attention away from God and His truth that Satan has already been defeated.

The Apostle Paul instructs us how it is possible to live a life that completely trusts in God and in His plan for this world. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11). We are called to have faith in God and to trust in His plan for this world. We will never fully understand in this life why events may unfold as they do, but we can certainly trust that in spite of whatever occurs, God is in control. That alone should give us peace to overcome the many fears and dangers that we may face.

God is in control of this world! This is something that all who believes in God must remember. Satan (“the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” Ephesians 2:2) wants us to think that God has lost control of this world. Scripture however, reminds us that God remains in control of this world and that all we see unfolding is a part of God’s plan. As believers, we know how the story ends, God wins! Satan and death already stand defeated.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). Evil does not have the last word, God does!

The Grace and Peace of God

Tonight as I write this blog, I find myself needing to draw closer to God. I need to be reminded of just how holy and powerful God is. As believers, we serve a God that created this world that we live in and also each one of us. “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it” (Psalm 89:11). “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13-14).

When I feel that I am alone in my struggles, I turn to this passage, which serves to remind me that God is always watching over me. “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord” (Psalm 139: 1-4). It encourages and strengthens me to know that God is aware of me and watching over me.

When you feel overwhelmed with anxiety and worry, turn to God who can give you peace. This world that we live in cannot offer the peace that flows freely from our heavenly father. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Allow the peace of Christ to take the place of  your worries and doubts.

Are you struggling with disappointment? Have things not worked out the way you have planned or hoped for? Sometimes God says no and we must understand that it is for our own good that it happened that way. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

We often think that our problems are impossible to solve and we allow this world that we live in to beat us down. Many times we attempt to solve our problems with our limited understanding and we end up making our situation even worse. Trust in God to solve your problems and to guide you in the direction that you should go. Proverbs 3: 5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Luke 18:27: Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

The Apostle Paul reminds us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. As I think about this passage from Romans, my strength and faith is continually renewed. Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Treasures in Heaven

Luke 11:43 (NIV): “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.”

Luke 12:15 (NIV): Then he (Jesus) said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV): “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I have always tried to teach my children the importance of being kind and merciful to those in our society that are less fortunate. And although I have made many mistakes as a parent, I believe that I have been successful in helping my children to be kind to and befriend those who desperately need some kindness and compassion. Over the years, I have been blessed to watch my children make friends with those of different races, nationalities, and even religious backgrounds. They have often made friendships and long lasting relationships with those who had no one else to befriend them.

I had a conversation with someone recently about church. As we talked, I noticed that this person was describing people at church in terms of their job titles or their status in the community. This person even mentioned what kind of vehicle they owned. I couldn’t help but wonder if this person’s primary objective in going to church was to be seen and to be noticed by being in the presence of “important” people. This person always talks about “important people” instead of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit during the time of worship. It makes me wonder if this person has the right priorities when it comes to worship and in their daily walk with God. Material possessions and getting ahead seem to take a higher priority than being compassionate and merciful towards others.

Jesus, when noticing how guests chose their places of honor at the table said, “But when you are invited, take the lowest place (seat or place of honor) (Luke 14:10). Being humble and considering others greater than yourself is what Jesus calls his followers to do. Throughout the Gospels, we find that Jesus spent his time around those who were less fortunate. He cared for those that society had cast aside. He had compassion on and he healed those, whom society didn’t even notice. If you call yourself a follower of Christ, you should be doing the same. Always strive to consider everyone greater than yourself. Jesus said, “Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last” (Luke 13:30).

Go out into the world and live out your calling as a Christ follower by being kind, compassionate, and merciful to those that you encounter each and every day. By doing so, you will store up for yourself “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). The good things that you do in this life that have eternal value will be rewarded in the eternal life in heaven. Are you storing up treasures on earth or treasures in heaven?