Philip or Andrew – Math or Miracles

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

John records an interesting incident in the life of Jesus. It reflects two vastly different attitudes and viewpoints on life.

Jesus is speaking to a huge crowd and the people have had nothing to eat. He presents the food issue to Philip. Philip’s response is, “Eight months’ salary would not buy enough bread for each one to have one bite.” (John 6:7 NIV) Another disciple, Andrew, said, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish.” (John 6:9 NIV)

Philip was a closely calculating person who probably missed a lot of miracles in his life because he had to subject everything to the math test. He already had figured out exactly how much money it would take for each person to have one bite.

How often do we sit in meetings at a church or an organization and someone comes up with a great idea, but then it is quickly squashed because people start “running the numbers” to show how unfeasible it would be? Generally the idea is shot down pretty quickly.

I remember reading one time about Henry Ford. The story goes that he called together some of his brightest visionary thinkers. He wanted them to sit down and spend a day together dreaming about new ideas for the Ford product. He only had one requirement – nobody could bring a slide rule. (For those of you who are very young, a slide rule is what was used before the calculator, which was used before the computer, to quickly derive math answers.)

Mr. Ford wanted people to think, without immediately reaching a negative conclusion based on preliminary numbers. He wanted to spend a whole day dreaming about possibilities.

Philip’s whole approach was to focus on what they didn’t have. He could think up a lot of quick reasons of why something couldn’t be done.

The other character here is Andrew. He reflects a different point of view. He didn’t reflect long on Philip’s analysis of what they didn’t have – he simply made a statement of what they did have.

When we face things in life we can usually spend our time and energy on what we don’t have – or what we do have. I have a hunch that God gets very excited when people want to look at what we do have, and take it and use it.

Andrew suggested that they did have five small loaves and two small fish. Now anybody could look and see that even that was not mathematically feasible. But Andrew didn’t deal with the math. He created the possibility of a miracle when he brought the little boy to Jesus.

Here is the miracle – Jesus took a little and did a lot with it. He blessed that small boy’s small loaves and small fish and fed 5,000 men, not counting the women and children. The crowd must not have contained many Methodists because there was a lot of food left over – twelve basketfuls!

The Philip view produces a safe, calculated, business as usual, lifestyle that misses miracles. The Andrew view produces surprises, unrealized potential, exciting possibilities, and a lifestyle that puts us in the middle of miracles.

What will it be today – Philip or Andrew – math or miracles?

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