Sun. a.m. 4/20/97
"HOW TO BRING FAILURE"
TEXT: Matt. 14:13-21
INTRO: How do you build a Church?
This is the kind of question that this Church
in particular is asking, and it is a good question for all Churches to
There has been so much written on how to build a Church, in fact, there is
so much material out there that it can make your head swim! Therefore, instead of trying to show you how to succeed in building a
Church, there are only a few ways to bring failure ... let's look at them instead!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us
that the road to failure is easy, just see the enormous task, see what little we
have to tackle it, and leave the Lord out of the
picture! OR, we can move mountains with God's help ... it is our
I. LOOK AT THE TASK 14:13-16
A. Opportunity 14:13-14
1. Jesus had just received news that John the Baptist had been beheaded
He wishes to leave the crowds and go to a solitary place, probably for
a. Also, safety was no doubt a concern, if Herod had just killed John,
Jesus staying nearby wouldn't be a good idea either!
b. It was completely reasonable for Jesus to do this in the light of
loss of John and the danger before Him.
2. However, in the midst of the need to be alone and safe, Jesus finds a
crowd of people who had followed him around the Lake and were waiting
for Him as they approached shore.
a. To most of us this would have been a nuisance!
b. To Jesus, it was another opportunity!
3. We need to learn to see opportunity in struggles!
4. Though very tired and exhausted, Jesus has compassion on the
many who had carried the sick around the Lake came just to be touched by
a. compassion opens the door for great opportunities
b. One of the greatest miracles of Jesus recorded (the feeding of the
men ... the women and children weren't counted here!) was framed
in this context of bad news and being tired ... but compassion
5. Those who accomplish the most for God are not those who have the
time and resources ... but those who are the most available!
B. Overwhelmed! 14:15-16
1. It is rather interesting to note that it was Jesus who should have
most overwhelmed, but it is not, it is the disciples!
a. They tell Jesus to send the crowd away since they had had nothing
eat all day .... they had a genuine concern for these people
b. To their surprise, rather than Jesus praising them for their concern,
tells them to go and give the 5,000 plus crowd food to eat!!
2. This completely overwhelms them!!
a. How could Jesus ask them to do the impossible!!!???
b. How could they possibly obey Jesus' wish here?
3. Isn't this really the same issue for us today, Jesus says, "BUILD MY
CHURCH" and we say "HOW?!"
a. We can do as the disciples did, look at the overwhelming task and
the impossibility of it ... we will then move toward failure!
b. What kind of world would we live in today if those of the past had
become overwhelmed with the task?
One of the great disasters of history took place in 1271.
In 1271 Niccolo and Matteo Polo (the father and uncle of Marco) were visiting
the Kubla Khan. Kubla Khan at that time was a world ruler, for he ruled all
China, all India, and all of the East. He was attracted to the story of
Christianity as Niccolo and Matteo told it to him. And he said to them: "You
shall go to your high priest and tell him on my behalf to send me a hundred men
skilled in your religion and I shall be baptized, and when I am baptized all my
barons and great men will be baptized and their subjects will receive baptism,
too, and so there will be more Christians here than there are in your parts."
Nothing was done. Nothing was done for about thirty years, and then two or three
missionaries were sent. Too few and too late. It baffles the imagination to
think what a difference to the world it would have made if in the thirteenth
century China had become fully Christian, if in the thirteenth century India had
become fully Christian, if in the thirteenth century the East had been given to
Christ. In that, we have seen man frustrating God's purpose in history.
William Barclay -- James S.
Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988),
4. The very scope of Jesus' request was overwhelming ... but not
a. They were looking only at the task ... and as long as we do this we
never succeed for God
b. To see merely the task is to fail, these same disciples had watched
Jesus all day heal the sick and yet they could not see Him in such a
way as to accomplish the task He asks of them!
5. How many times have we missed God's best because we simply saw the
overwhelming task and so did nothing!?
II. LOOK AT THE LITTLE BIT YOU HAVE 14:17
A. Obvious! 14:17
1. Their reaction to Jesus' request to have them feed all the people
(approx. 15,000 or more: 5,000 men plus women and children .... In John 6:6 it
stated that Jesus did this to test them!) was to express only the
a. "We have only 5 loaves and 2 fish!"
b. Hardly the stuff to feed 15,000 or more people who are starved!!!
c. Though looking right at Jesus, a Jesus who had power over
in people's bodies, they still saw only the little bit they had!
2. It is so easy for Christians to state the obvious doctrines we believe,
yet when time comes to practice them we act like we don't believe
3. In John's Gospel account a little boy is brought in with the 5 loaves
fish, Jesus hopes they can see the obvious, that if he can heal bodies, He
certainly can nourish them .... but they fail to see the obvious and only
see what little they have for the task!
ILLUS: A man and his dog were walking the beach when they came
upon another visitor to the beach. The owner of the dog was proud of his dog's
newly mastered feat, so he said to the visitor, "Watch this!" whereupon he
tossed a piece of driftwood far out into the sea and the dog immediately ran on
top of the ocean, fetched the wood, and ran back. The visitor just shook his
head in disbelief. Whereupon the owner repeated the procedure twice. Finally he
asked the visitor, "Did you notice anything unusual?" The visitor responded,
"Your dog can't swim, can he?" --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House
Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 135
4. They failed to see the obvious .... Christ was more than sufficient for
a. Do we minister like we believe this today?
b. Has anything about Christ changed since then? Can we believe He
will make adequate whatever we offer up to Him to do the work He calls us to?
c. Then why is it that we so often fail to see the obvious ... Christ is
and will supply all the need!
5. Jesus can take a little and make it be a lot! Don't just see what
little you have!
B. Oblivious! 14:17
1. Though Jesus' power had been obvious, they were oblivious to it!
a. They were so focused on the little they had that they did not see how
much Christ had!
b. This kind of focus can actually paralyze us with fear, frustration,
c. They were oblivious to the obvious!!!
ILLUS:Harry Houdini, the famed escape artist from a few years
back, issued a challenge wherever he went. He could be locked in any jail cell
in the country, he claimed, and set himself free in short order. Always he kept
his promise, but one time something went wrong. Houdini entered the jail in his
street clothes; the heavy, metal doors clanged shut behind him. He took from his
belt a concealed piece of metal, strong and flexible. He set to work
immediately, but something seemed to be unusual about this lock. For thirty
minutes he worked and got nowhere. An hour passed, and still he had not opened
the door. By now he was bathed in sweat and panting in exasperation, but he
still could not pick the lock. Finally, after laboring for two hours, Harry
Houdini collapsed in frustration and failure against the door he could not
unlock. But when he fell against the door, it swung open! It had never been
locked at all! But in his mind it was locked, and that was all it took to keep
him from opening the door and walking out of the jail cell. Zig Ziglar --James S. Hewett,
Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 225.
2. Ever wonder what this small boy thought about these mature
unbelief and doubts here?
a. In the presence of Jesus and His power these adult disciples failed
see Christ's power to supply the need!
b. Do we do this in ministry today ... .yes, even Pastors who should
the faith in action for babes in Christ to see can even be oblivious to
Christ's power at times!
III. LEAVE THE LORD OUT OF THE PICTURE! 14:18-21
A. Omnipotent 14:18
1. The answer to the need was simple: "Bring them here
to me" said Jesus!
a. How do we meet the tremendous needs of this society today, it can
overwhelming to see how many needs there are .... the answer is still
same now as it was then ... bring them to Jesus!
b. They had missed an important thing when Jesus had asked them to feed
the people: He who asks them, will give them the supernatural means to
accomplish the task!
2. Obviously they couldn't meet the need of this many people in their own
strength and resources ... and neither can we today!
3. But, Christ was not asking them to meet the need in their own strength,
He is the Omnipotent God who is able and willing to supernaturally make it possible for them to do what He asks them to do!
a. How true still ... we can build His Church, not in our own strength of course, but with supernatural power we can, power from God!
b. That Jesus had to tell them to bring the people to Him indicates that
they had left Jesus out of the picture!!!
c. How many "pictures" in your life have left Jesus out!?
d. What might God do if we believed in His presence instead of leaving
Him out of the picture!?
ILLUS:This past spring President Clinton, presenting the
Congressional Gold Medal Award to Billy Graham, talked about Graham's trip to
Little Rock, Arkansas, years ago. During a time of racial turmoil, the
evangelist was asked to segregate his audience: I'll never forget what Graham said, and it was
in the paper, that if he had to speak the word of God to a segregated audience
he would violate his ministry, and he wouldn't do it. At the most intense time
in the modern history of my state, blacks and whites together poured into the
football stadium. When the invitation was given, they poured down the aisles
together, and they forgot they were supposed to be mad at each other, that one
was supposed to consider the other somehow less than equal. -- Christian Reader, Sept/Oct 1996, p.
B. Opportunity 14:19
1. Jesus has the crowd sit down as He takes what little they have to
and He blesses it ....
a. How come we don't see this today too?
b. Jesus didn't ask them for what they didn't have, only for what they
had to offer...this He will bless and it will meet the need!
2. Notice too that Jesus is not the one to deliver it to the people, He
received it, blessed it, AND THEN GAVE IT TO THE DISCIPLES TO DISTRIBUTE
a. Read the verse, Jesus gives it to the Disciples who then give it to
b. God wants to use us to do His work, He will supply the supernatural
means, and we must supply the mechanism (ourselves) to give it out!
3. Often we don't realize how big the opportunity is until much later
we can see the fruit of work!
ILLUS:25% of South Korea's 40 million people are Christians. The
city of Seoul has over 6,000 churches. 100 years ago it had none. Costa Rica has seen a 100 percent increase in
Evangelical churches in the past four years. An estimated six million people in Africa are
turning to the Lord each year. Continent wide, 5,000 new churches are started
annually. More Iranians were saved in seven years under
Khomeini than during the previous 70. One out of every three in the Soviet Union now
professes to be born again. -- From Servant Magazine, May/June, 1989
4. The opportunity to minister was given back to them..this time with the
Lord in the picture!
a. Having Christ in the picture made all the difference in the world!
b. IT still does!!
C. Observation 14:20-21
1. Was it enough? YES ... notice the verse says they "ALL ATE AND WERE
a. If you don't leave the Lord out of the picture you will always have
enough for the work He calls you to, and it will satisfy!
b. Jesus had asked them like Shepherds to "feed the sheep" and once
observed that that task wasn't too great, and the little they had was
enough in the hands of God, and when Christ was very much in the
picture...the job was accomplished!
c. This is then the secret to building the Church and doing anything
successfully for God today! And failure is doing the opposite!
2. Note too that there were 12 baskets full left over ...
a. Why does that number 12 have a familiar ring to it? (hint: 12
b. Another observation comes in here, not only were the disciples able to
meet everyone's needs, but their own needs were more than met, they even
had tomorrow's bread in hand!
c. We cannot serve God and end up empty!!
3. It is time therefore that our words to others about God's power and
supernatural means also ring true in our own experience!
a. It is important that we really believe what we teach
b. In this way we are to be like little children...they simply believe at
value what we tell them .... what power would there be in our ministry
if this was still true with Jesus' words in our work!
ILLUS: A pious father always closed grace for the evening meal
with these words: "Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and bless what thou hast
provided." "Papa," said the little son, "every evening you ask Jesus to come and
be our guest, but he never comes." "My son," replied the father, "we can only
wait. But we know that he will not despise our invitation." "Well, then," asked
the little fellow, "if we expect him to come and have dinner with us, why don't
we set a place for him at the table?" And so to save further embarrassing
questions, the father permitted the boy to set a place at the table. Just then a
knock came at the door. When they opened it a poor helpless waif stood shivering
in the cold. The son thought for a moment and finally said, "I guess Jesus
couldn't come today, and so he sent this poor boy in his place." With little
further conversation the little beggar boy was brought in and set at the empty
place at the dinner table. John W. Wade --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale
House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 116-117.
4. Are you heading down the path of failure or success in
CONCLUSION: Though Jesus had
demonstrated power over physical bodies the disciples didn't see He could also
have power over physical bread! Had they continued to only see what was there
they would have failed! No matter the task, if God calls us, we will succeed!
There is adequate supply in Christ who alone makes our ministry possible!