Sermon: Everyday Battle to Believe (Luke 9:10-17)

Sunday 8.14.11

The Everyday Battle to Believe

We are in a battle to believe.  Everyday the forces of evil are engaged in a mission to cause believers to not believe.  When asked, most of us here today would affirm that we believe Jesus is Lord and Savior.  We would affirm that He paid the penalty for our sin debt.  We believe the Gospel and trust that Christ is all He said He is…or do we?

Some of us have been hit hard by this fallen world.

Some here today have been challenged by loss, either a loved one has died or some other loss of significance.  Your struggle is to trust Christ through your loss.

Others here today struggle to believe, not because of what you’ve lost but because of what you have.  What you have you hold so tightly that you perhaps are guilty of loving what you have more than Christ.  Your struggle is to trust Christ with what you have.

Still others struggle to see that Christ as sufficient because of something you want.  You see others with it but you don’t have it yourself.  So our struggle to see that Christ is sufficient revolves around losses, gains, or doing without.  (Summary from a sermon by Ligon Duncan)

Again, we would affirm that He is sufficient for salvation and yet we often don’t trust Him with our everyday struggles and problems.  How can we trust Christ with our souls if we often don’t trust Him with the everyday things?  When life becomes hard for us, what we truly believe about Christ will be evident in our actions and in our words.

So it was with the twelve apostles, they too were in the battle to believe…

They too struggled to believe.

Please hear God’s Word.

10 On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. 12 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 And they did so, and had them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. [1]

1. The Mission Continues

10 On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.

The twelve return from their first missionary journey.  Jesus gathers them together and they slip away in order to discuss the events from the previous days.  I can imagine the stories that they had to tell.  They no doubt reviewed the accounts of how they had healed many and cast out demons and how they had preached the Gospel and how people heard the good news of the Kingdom of God and repented and believed.  No doubt the apostles were on cloud nine and were still amazed at the miracles that they had performed in Jesus’ name.  What’s also amazing to me is how quickly they had forgotten.  They were now faced with a similar situation.

Remember from last week that Jesus told them not to take anything for their journey.  He specifically mentioned food as one thing they were not to take.  The apostles were being trained in godly provision.  The reason they were not to take anything was that Jesus wanted them to learn that they could depend on Him to meet, not only spiritual needs, such as giving them power to heal and to preach but also, He would meet their physical needs as well.  When they traveled to a town and preached and healed, the people of the town fed them, but it really wasn’t the people, it was Christ.  God was feeding them.  How quickly they forgot.

The apostles had been engaged in a type of apprenticeship while they traveled on their mission, now it’s time for their final exam.  Jesus is discussing the events with His students.

In the mean time the crowd learned of their whereabouts and met them.  Jesus so graciously welcomes the crowd and continues the ministry He began.

Mark 6:34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. [2]

The reason the crowds were welcomed rather than turned away was because of the compassion Jesus had for them.  Because of this compassion, He spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.   As we learned last week, Jesus’ ministry of healing and preaching was a prelude to the final fulfillment of the Kingdom of God when there would be no sin and no sickness.

2.  Apostles Commanded to Feed the Multitude

12 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 And they did so, and had them all sit down.

The account of the feeding of the five thousand is one of those rare miracles that finds its way into all four Gospels.  It is extremely important to the ministry of Jesus and His apostles.

We see here a very good example that God’s ways are not man’s ways.  The apostles are a very practical group of followers…sometimes a little too practical.  They had crunched the numbers and every time they did so, they came to the same conclusion…it doesn’t add up.  We have no food and the crowd is getting hungry.  Not only don’t we have any food but we have no money to buy food.  Even if we did have money, Jesus, which we don’t, there’s no place to buy food.  Their solution was to send them away to the nearby towns to feed themselves.  That was the apostle’s solution…

They were forgetting that this crowd didn’t need fed.  Their greatest need was to hear the Master teach and preach.  They traveled long distances to arrive at this place where Jesus was.  They gave up so much and were willing to give up eating for a day if it meant hearing Christ.

Jesus gives them a command…  I imagine this command was still echoing in the apostle’s ears as Matthew and John wrote their accounts…

You give them something to eat…You feed them…

Jesus, didn’t You hear what we just explained to You?

What’s amazing is that a day before, the apostles were the ones healing and casting out demons and preaching.  They were right in the middle of multiple miracles.  They were witnessing amazing events firsthand that God alone could do.  Now, they were looking at things from a strictly human perspective.  They forgot.  They would need to retake their final exam.  With Jesus, you don’t fail your test; you simply retake it over and over until you pass.

We’ll never know if the apostles had the power to feed five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish because they didn’t trust that Jesus would give what He commanded.  Jesus will give what He commands.

This is very much in line with the 5th Century controversy that sprung up when St. Augustine voiced the line from his famous prayer.

The controversy began when the British monk, Pelagius, opposed at Rome Augustine’s famous prayer: “Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou will.” Pelagius recoiled in horror at the idea that a divine gift (grace) is necessary to perform what God commands. For Pelagius and his followers responsibility always implies ability. If man has the moral responsibility to obey the law of God, he must also have the moral ability to do it.—R C Sproul

Pelagius and his followers were wrong.  God always commands things that human cannot accomplish apart from the grace of God.  The apostles were believing like Pelagians and not like faithful followers.

I think we can all relate to the apostles in this case.  We all have witnessed first hand the work of God in our lives and the lives of others.  However, when we meet with another challenge we also forget.  We often forget that it is in our limitations God is most glorified.  Our very limitations will display God’s glory.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [3] 

There is a contrast here that Luke points out to us.  When the crowd came, Jesus welcomed them, cared for them, healed them, and preached the Kingdom to them.  But Luke also says that the Apostles wanted to send them away.  Rather than capturing the moment, they were too focused on the trouble the crowd brought and the needs the crowd had.  Jesus welcomes them, but the disciples respond by telling Jesus to send them away, into the nearby towns.  It seems they had often had this response.  Don’t bother the Master nor us…They rebuked parents for bringing their children to Jesus, seeing them as a bother.  The crowd was never a bother…

We are never a bother for Jesus.  We too can come to Him any time anywhere.

Mark 6:34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.[4]

What was the apostle’s real problem?  It wasn’t the size of the crowd and the lack of enough food to feed them.  Their problem was that they were focused on the crowd and not focused on Christ.   They didn’t realize Jesus had authority to command.  When He tells them to feed the crowd they could have done it if they were engaged in the battle to believe.  They had allowed the circumstances to overtake their faith.

Often times we too can focus so much on the problem and all its intricate details that we forget to look to Christ.  We forget that He is sufficient.  We forget that we belong to Him.  We forget that He cares for us.  We often enter into trials as if we’re lost people without Christ.  It’s time we persevere as saved people and not cave in as lost people.  It’s time we use all our resources that God has given us.

John 6:5-9…5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” [5]

Andrew was busy looking around trying to find some food.  The best human wisdom and ingenuity could come up with was a few loaves of bread and two fish.  When confronted with life’s problems this is a good representation of our power to overcome.  Yet, time and time again we turn to our own resources and struggle only to fail, while a storehouse of food waits in the power of God.

3. Jesus Feeds the Multitude

16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. [6]

Jesus takes charge of the situation.  He shows the apostles and the crowd that He is sufficient.  His promises can be trusted.  This miracle is just a picture that Jesus is more than enough.  This miracle is easy for Jesus.

Christ is doing a number of things here in this text:  First, He is showing everyone that His promises can be trusted.  His Words are as real as the food the people are getting ready to eat.  His promises are as real as the food they begin to smell and see and taste.

8          Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! [7]

The second thing is to show His people that He alone is sufficient to meet their needs.  We search and search like the disciples and find a couple of fish.  When all along there Jesus is.

The battle of this life is not a battle to supply our own needs.  It’s not a battle to work hard to meet the needs of our family.  The battle in this life is to believe.  When Christ’s promises to us right now seem far off and we wonder if they will come to pass and life is moving at light speed and trials hit one after another and you look down and in your hand lies two fish.  You look up and there is a crowd of 5000 men and you do the math and you crunch the numbers and nothing you can do will work.  Then faintly off in the distance you hear the still small voice of your Savior saying…have the people sit down and Jesus takes control.

Do you believe that Jesus is sufficient?

17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. [8]

Everyone present that day 5000 men plus women plus children plus the apostles plus Jesus all ate and were satisfied.

The Bible says that when everyone had finished there were more leftovers than what they started with!

Jesus is not interested in just barely being enough for us.  He is generous…

Psalm 81:10 I am the Lord your God,

who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. [9]

As Christians we should examine our own hearts to see if there remains the sin of unbelief.


[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Lk 9:10–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mk 6:34). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (2 Co 12:9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mk 6:34). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jn 6:5–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Lk 9:10–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ps 34:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Lk 9:10–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ps 81:10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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