John 6:1-20
Do What God Wants You To Do
July 26 2015

A very wise man once said: “We should read the Bible to learn what God wants us to do, and read the newspaper to remind ourselves of what we do.”

Read the Bible to see what God wants you to do – and the newspaper to remind yourself of what you do.

When you read the newspaper or watch the news on television, what types of stories make the headlines? More times than not it’s stories of violence, hatred, prejudice, war, natural disasters and the like.

I find it somewhat amusing and at the same time very disturbing that people can be gunned down while studying God’s word, and in very little time people are focusing on a flag and are spray painting the slogan “black lives matter” on public and private property instead of being willing to address the root causes of violence and prejudice.

For the record, I am proud to be from South Carolina and grew up learning and reading about the War Between the Sates, but I agree that it’s way past time to take the Confederate Battle Flag down from the statehouse and the statehouse grounds. My Dad was in the South Carolina Legislature in 1960 when the Confederate Flag was put on the statehouse to commemorate the centennial of the War Between the States as a way of marking the anniversary, but he always said that the resolution to put the flag on the statehouse stated that it would be there from 1960 – 1965, the end of the centennial. By 1965 the flag was not taken down, and became more a symbol for prejudice than pride, which was not what it was originally intended for. And, for the record, I agree that black lives matter – just as every life matters. We tend to run behind flags and slogans instead of addressing the real problems in our world – the problem of sin and the violence, hatred, prejudice and other aspects of sin that permeate our lives and our world.

So, read the newspaper to remind yourself of what we do. Read the newspaper to remind yourself of the sin, hatred, violence, and prejudice in our lives and our world.

But read the Bible to see what God wants you to do.

When you read the Bible, what do you see is God’s will for you and the world? Instead of sin, hatred, violence, and prejudice you will read that God’s will is for salvation, love, compassion, and peace.

Read the Bible to see what God wants you to do – and the newspaper to remind yourself of what you do.

Why is the world like what we read in the newspaper and not like what we read in the Bible?

It’s because all of us are sinners, and too many of us are too willing to let the world be the way it is instead of being willing to work for how God wants it to be.

Too many of us are too willing to let the world be the way it is instead of being willing to work for how God wants it to be.

In our scripture passage for today from John 6, there are over 5,000 hungry people that needed to be fed. Verse 10 says that there were about 5,000 men, but in Matthew we read that this does not include women and children – so there could have been many more than 5.000. What will Jesus and the disciples do? Jesus tests Phillip and asks him how they were going to feed the crowd. I can picture Phillip throwing up his hands and saying “there is no way we can feed this many!” I can picture Phillip’s response because I have heard and even said things like that many times in what seem to be overwhelming circumstances. Andrew does come to Jesus with the report of a boy with 5 small loaves of bread and 2 small fish — but I can picture him throwing up his hands and saying that is nowhere near enough. I can understand Andrew’s point also – I have heard that point made many times in what seemed to be overwhelming circumstances and have even made it myself at times.

So we have Phillip and Andrew – seeing the world as it was – seeing the situation as it was — and not thinking they could do anything to change it.

But we also have the boy with the 5 small loaves aof bread nd the 2 small fish. When I was a child I had a Bible Story Book that told an imaginative story of the boy at home his mother that morning as she packed his lunch of bread and fish before they left to hear Jesus. The boy had several options as the disciples tried to see what food they could find to feed the crowd. He could have kept his meager lunch to himself and not admitted that he had any food. He could have been afraid that Gentiles – the people his people hated and lived just across the lake – might get some of his lunch if he shared it. He could have felt that he had so little, and his little bit wouldn’t make any difference. Or he could have felt that he was just a small boy, leave it to the adults to take care of the problem.

Unfortunately we can understand all of these options before the boy, for we struggle with these same excuses the boy must have struggled with when facing similar challenges.

But the boy had another option for responding to the need. Even though it seemed that the need was too great and his contribution too small, he gave Jesus what he had and Jesus used it, and all the people were fed. He didn’t let the situation keep him from doing what he could, but trusted that Jesus would use what he had, and miraculous things happened.

So – I’ll ask you again — why is the world like what we read in the newspaper and not like what we read in the Bible?

It’s because all of us are sinners, and too many of us are too willing to let the world be the way it is instead of being willing to work for how God wants it to be.

Too many of us are too willing to let the world be the way it is instead of being willing to work for how God wants it to be.

Too many of us are overwhelmed by the sin, the hatred, the violence, the prejudice, the hunger and the poverty we see all around us and, like Phillip and Andrew, throw our hands up and say “the problems are too great – what we have to give won’t make a difference – why even bother to try?” And the world and the community stays like it is because we don’t use what God has given us to make a difference for His glory.

I don’t suppose anyone here ever does this, but I read recently about a game some people play that’s called Disqualification. Here’s how it works. People disqualify themselves from doing what they are able to do because of who they are. They consider themselves not old enough, not young enough, not smart enough, not wealthy enough, not something-or-other enough to make a difference, so they don’t do anything. Individuals can play this game and so can groups of people. Disqualification is also the name of the game when a person or a group says: What we have isn’t worthy to be called a gift. It’s small and simple and poor and laughable. It’s not enough. They wouldn’t want it. It’s pitifully small and slight compared to the needs of the world and the community.

In other words, too many people are too willing to let the world be the way it is instead of being willing to work for how God wants it to be.
Now do you recognize this game Disqualification? Have you seen individuals and groups play it, and keep themselves from doing things they can do for God and make the community and the world more the way God wants it to be? Have you perhaps played the game yourself? Many people have. But the boy with the 5 small loaves of bread and the 2 small fish did not play the game of disqualification. He did not let the fact that hw was only a boy disqualify him from doing what he could to make a difference in the situation he was in, and he did not let the fact that it seemed he had too little to make a difference deter him from doing what he could. As young as he was, he did what he could. As little as he had, he gave what he had. And Jesus used what he gave and a need was met.
Too many of us are too willing to let the world be the way it is instead of being willing to work for how God wants it to be.
Friends, don’t play the game of disqualification. Don’t let the problems that you see in the world and the community keep you from using what God has given you for His will and His mission. Use what you have, whatever it is, to work against the sin, the hatred, the violence, the prejudice, the hunger and the poverty you see all around you. Don’t be like Phillip and Andrew, throwing up your hands up and saying “the problems are too great – what we have to give won’t make a difference – why even bother to try?” Be more like the boy who was willing to use what he did have, and be a part of God’s mission in his world. Have what I call a “spirituality of multiplication”, knowing that if you will do what you can God will multiply it and the world and the community will be blessed.

Do what God wants you to do, and work for God’s will in the community and the world. Regardless of how strong the violence, poverty, and prejudice may seem in the community and the world, use what God has given you to work for His will for peace, salvation, justice and love. Do what God wants you to do, and work to make the community and the world more in line with what God would have it be. Amen.