By: Pastor Rowley
This message was delivered to Lincoln Christian Life Center, Sunday morning, February 15, 2015 using the “New American Standard Version.”
There is an encouraging saying. Perhaps you have been blessed by it. It is, “Little is much when God is in it!” That is more than a clever saying; It is Biblical truth! Let me explain!
SIZING UP THE FOUNDATION
After seventy years of Babylonian exile, the Israelites began a long journey back to the Promised Land. It was a most difficult return. They had to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and reconstruct the city walls. Then, they had to rebuild the temple. When they finally got the foundation completed on the temple, there was mixed feelings. Ezra 3:11-13 says-
They sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.
What caused the opposing reaction? For the new generation, it was exciting and thrilling. The temple was on the road to being rebuilt. But for the older generation who has seen the former temple, the foundation was small, postage stamp little compared to the former one. Their reactions are like the reactions people have today. A new wave of worship is sweeping the world and the young are thrilled. But the older generations clamor, it isn’t like it used to be! I suppose that from generation to generation, it is always the same. I remember when Charles Wesley was introducing new music into the church; people were complaining that it wasn’t like church anymore. Even in more recent days, when music shifted, people complained that the new music in the church was simply music that had come out of the bars.
The prophet Haggai discussed this turmoil. He said in Haggai 2:3-7,
“Who is left among you who saw this temple in it’s former glory. And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now take courage, Zerubabbel,’ declares the Lord, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’ For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
Associated with that prophecy is Zechariah 4:10- “For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubabbel- these are the eyes of the Lord which range to and fro throughout the earth.” Before saying that, the prophet gives the key. He said in verse 6- “Then He said to me, ” This is the word of the Lord to Zerubabbel saying, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of host.'”
Everything you do always starts small. Being faithful in the small is what gives you success for the larger. It is a keen principal for life. It is said that it takes 10,000 hours of work in your occupation before you master it. Some feel doing the small is below their dignity. But the real advance is not according to your ability or strengths. It is, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of the armies of heaven.”
Napoleon was number 42 in his class. Yet, he became a world dominator. Sir Isaac Newton, the world famous scientist, was next to the lowest in his class. He failed Geometry because he didn’t do the problems according to the book.
The world famous author George Eliot learned to read with great difficulty, giving no promise of brilliance in his youth.
A six year old came home from school with a note from his teacher saying he was “too stupid to learn.” His name: Thomas Edison. This is true in the natural realm. It is even more so in the spiritual realm!
SIZING UP YOUR ABILITIES
At the age of 80, God called Moses to lead His people out of Egyptian bondage. Can you imagine Moses’ reaction to that? He had lived and worked in the desert for 40 years as a unknown shepherd. He felt completely not equipped for the task. He lacked self- confidence. Perhaps he could have done something at the age of 40, but who does anything in the Twilight years of old age? “Why me, Lord?” he questioned, “I can’t do anything. How can I do it?”
God asked him a simple question- “What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2). “It’s a rod!” Moses responded. It was a stick like any other rod a shepherd would carry? But then, God proceeded to demonstrate to Moses the miraculous potential of that seemingly insignificant rod. He told Moses to cast it to the ground. He did and it became a snake. Then God told him to pick it up. And he did what you should never do to a snake. He picked it up by the tail. Instantly, it became a rod again. In those moments, Moses was learning the authority of God.
With that rod, Moses defeated the magicians of Egypt, stripped Pharaoh of his power, and brought Israel out of slavery. Every time Moses needed God to intervene, he stretched forth his rod. He parted the Red Sea with the rod, he opened water from a rock with the rod. He was learning that the only equipment he needed, for the complete commission that God called him to, was a simple shepherds rod.
You might think your life is not significant. Well, what is in your hand? You too have a rod in your hand. Learn to trust God and extend God’s authority over every issue you face.
Do you know how the Pentecost revival began at the turn of the twentieth century that is the most extensive revival the world has ever seen? In a tiny town in Wales, a timid young girl got up and nervously got up and could only utter one short sentence: “O, I do love Jesus!” Then she sat down. The Lord used her earnest testimony to accomplish His divine purpose. Spiritual fire broke out like the day of Pentecost. Soon, the fire spread through the church and on through the small community. Then, it advanced through the entire nation of Wales. It was the spark that ignited Pentecost fire in the United States that we are somewhat familiar with.
What is in your hand?
SIZING UP THE CROWD
There are some phrases in the story that need a closer look. For example, in verse 5, it says, “Jesus, lifting up His eyes.” The word “eyes” is the Greek term Opthalmos. It means to see with penetration or sharpness. It refers to two levels of seeing- seeing the crowd and having a mental vision. In other words, Jesus saw the spiritual vision of God for the occasion.
Then, Jesus asked a question: “Where are we to buy bread; so that these may eat?” We are talking about a crowd of at least 20,000 people. Only the men of 5,000 are mentioned.
Verse 6 says an astonishing truth. It says, “He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” He allowed Philip to use his brain to calculate the expense and the means of providing food for the crowd. Philip used his thinking and reasoned that it would cost an average work 2/3 of a year’s wages to pay for it. Even with that calculation, people would get only a small sample.
God either tests us or chastens us. Both are to refine our spiritual character. We grow as we are tested and disciplined. That is always God’s method of growing us!
Jesus then asked to see how much they had available. Andrew reported, “A boy has a lunch of five barley loaves and two fish.” Then, Andrew reverted to his logical mind and said, “But what are these for so many people?”
The next part of the story is amazing. Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down. He gave thanks. Then, He distributed the food. The miracle occured as they passed it out- not when He prayed over it. Do you know how much food that would be? If the disciples had to go back and back to get more food, that would take hours. But the miracle was ongoing. As the disciples gave food, it multiplied.
I learned from this sermon to have faith and keep trying.