Often, a dilemma contains both; a test and a temptation. The trick of course is to identify one from the other. Let’s explore it by looking at a familiar story:
5Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. 7Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” 8One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9“There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” 10Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13Therefore they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with the fragments…” – John 6:5-13 NKJV
First – two helpful ground rules concerning testing and temptation:
- God NEVER tempts. James 1:13 declares, “…God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”. The next verse (14) then explains “we’re drawn away by our own desires.”
- God DOES test. The scripture describes many occasions where God administers tests, but consider this timely quote; “The nature of a test depends on the intent of the person conducting it.” – Charles Swindoll commenting on John 6
Second, here are two observations from the test given to Philip and the other disciples.
I. Jesus Highlighted the Obvious
“Where shall we buy bread that these may eat?” (v. 5) The story reveals four options before them:
- Send the crowd away (what they first approached Jesus with) and get rid of the problem
- Buy what food they could acquire themselves (a little bit for each, per Philip’s comment)
- See if the people could pool their resources and cover the need (Jesus actually instructs the disciples to see what the crowd had – Mark 6:38)
- The unknown – For whatever reasons the disciples didn’t consider option four. This is the “God option”. The one where we’re “out-of-options” and Jesus was helping them to see the contrast.
II. Jesus Highlighted God’s Provision
The significance of this miracle is made clear by being included in all 4 gospels. Many miracles are in one, two, or three accounts, but all include this one. Not only is how He fed them important, it’s good to notice the process:
- He gave thanks – His actions always centered attention on the Father
- He gave no description of what was coming – imagine the awkward moment when He put the little dinky lunch in front of everyone and prayed. They were probably peeking at each other during the prayer and shrugging their shoulders.
- His hands touched all the food – how awesome of a thought; it all passed through Jesus’ personal touch!
- He provided even more than hoped for – The story starts with no hope of covering the need (send them away), then moves to partially covering the need (buying small amounts for everyone), and ends up covering the need and more (enough leftovers to feed the disciples for 2-3 days).
So what does this mean for us? That’s a good question, thanks for asking. It means option four can be a great thing…an entrance exam of sorts to the next level of teaching from the Master. Hey, I’m not gonna lie. I would probably have been right there with Philip trying to cover the need with practical solutions, but thankfully Jesus is still patiently teaching.
If you’re out of options today, give up trying to work it out on your own and let God handle it. Let go and watch. His love is more than we can comprehend and He provides exceedingly, abundantly more than we ask or think (Eph. 314-21). Sometimes giving up a little, can result in a lot!
Series: “The Questions of Jesus” – Lesson VI