Faith Lessons from Philip and Andrew

Faith is continually giving us opportunities to learn and to grow.

Two of Jesus’ disciples—Philip and Andrew—discovered this one day.    

While Jesus was teaching by the Sea of Galilee, a large crowd came to him.  Seeing their need for physical sustenance, Jesus asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5)  John adds to the text that Jesus “said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.”

From a Biblical perspective, testing is not for the sake of grading a person’s faith.  Nor is it for the purpose of promoting or flunking a person.  Testing, in a Biblical sense, has to do with refining or purifying or strengthening a person’s faith.  Many preachers have made a big deal of Philip’s answer, (“Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little”) as though Philip’s lack of faith deserved a failing grade.  But Jesus never makes such a comment, nor does he drop Philip from the group of apostles, replacing Philip with a more deserving individual.  Jesus knows that for each of us, faith is a work in progress.  Since God’s consistent goal is to keep strengthening our faith and to grow us in the likeness of Jesus, we can expect to encounter tests throughout our lives that can help us to grow stronger in faith and more like Christ. 

Jay Akkerman points out, “For two years, scientists sequestered themselves in an artificial environment called Biosphere 2.  Inside their self-sustaining community, the Biospherians created a number of mini-environments, including a desert, rain forest, even an ocean.  Nearly every weather condition could be simulated except one, wind.  Over time, the effects of their windless environment became apparent.  A number of acacia trees bent over and even snapped.  Without the stress of wind to strengthen the wood, the trunks grew weak and could not hold up their own weight.”

Helen Keller adds, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Through Philip, we learn that tests come along in our lives not to grade us or to weed us out, but to give us opportunities to grow in faith and in the likeness of Christ. 

John goes on to report, “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 among so many people?’” (John 6:8-9)

Andrew comes up with an idea.  It may not be much of an idea, but he presents it to Jesus anyway.  The word John uses to describe the fish is opsaria, a diminutive word, signifying that the fish were very small, like tiny sardines.  The bread is identified as barley, seen as an inferior bread, considered the bread of the poor.  It seems hardly worth mentioning them to Jesus, but Andrew does mention them.  With those small fish and barley bread, Jesus fed 5,000 people.

What we learn from Andrew is that when anything is given to Jesus—no matter how inadequate it might be—Jesus can do something great with it.

To put this in perspective, consider the following:

A basketball in my hands is worth $65.  A basketball in Lebron James’ hands is worth $20 million a year.  It depends whose hands it’s in.

A baseball in my hands is worth $7.  A baseball in Clayton Kershaw’s hands is worth $30 million a year.  It depends whose hands it’s in.

A football in my hands is worth $50.  A football in Tom Brady’s hands is worth $15 million a year.  It depends whose hands it’s in.

A rod in my hands might keep away a wild animal.  A rod in Moses’ hands parted the sea.  It depends whose hands it’s in.

A sling shot in my hands is a kid’s toy.  A sling shot in David’s hands slew Goliath.  It depends whose hands it’s in.

Two fish and five loaves of bread in my hands is a couple of fish sandwiches.  Two fish and five loaves of bread in Jesus’ hands fed thousands of hungry people.  It depends whose hands it’s in.

Nails in my hands might produce a birdhouse.  Nails in the hands of Jesus produced salvation for the entire world.  It depends whose hands it’s in.

We never know what God might do when we give the little bit we have to him.

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