John 6:7-9 “Philip answered him, ‘Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will that go among so many?’”
Philip saw only the problem. The need was too big. There was no way that they could buy enough bread to feed everyone. And Philip’s reaction is very typical when it seems like we don’t have enough, or we don’t have a way to fix the problem. We fixate all our attention on the problem itself, and the more we look at it, and the more we think about it, the more we worry, the less we actually get done, and the more pessimistic we become.
The inability to look beyond our needs or our problems only feeds our sinful nature and erodes our faith. It can even choke faith altogether. Remember how Jesus interpreted the seed that fell among the thorns in the parable of the sower and the seed? “The seed that fell among the thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures…” (Luke 8:14).
Andrew looked a little farther. He took inventory of what they had. But Andrew could only conclude that their resources were too small. “How far will that go among so many?” Andrew’s problem was the inability to look beyond self. “What can I do, what can we do, to fix the problem?” Generally, we think of self-confidence as a good thing, something we try to build in our children and each other. But if all we have is self-confidence, it is only a matter of time before we run into a need, an issue, a problem so big that we are completely overwhelmed.
The example of Philip and Andrew helps to confront our own pessimism and failure to look for help where help can be found. The solutions we need are not to be found in some self-help slogans or platitudes about seeing problems as opportunities, or making lemonade when life serves you lemons. Jesus confronts our pessimism to teach us that we can trust him to provide.
The answer that neither Philip nor Andrew stumble upon was the man who asked them the question in the first place. Jesus was standing right there in front of them! They had seen him drive away the demons, control the weather, and even raise the dead. Was this problem worse than those?
We have seen him endure torture and sacrifice his life to bring us forgiveness for our sins. We have seen him take his life back again and rise from the dead. We have been promised that he sits at the right hand of God’s power in heaven ruling all things for the good of his people on earth. We have his word that nothing can separate us from his love. That is reason for optimism, for Christ-confidence, for trusting Jesus to provide, no matter what the size of our need may be.