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About this series
Unleashing God's Power into Impossible Situations
What do you do when a circumstance or relationship in your life is so hard, so big, so overwhelming that it truly becomes impossible? You need a divine, supernatural intervention. In this new 5-part series from Chip Ingram, you’ll discover the steps to experiencing breakthrough and how to make breakthrough a normal part of your life.More from this series
Mark chapter 6 – five thousand people are fed. Notice what Jesus does. He sends the disciples off. “Immediately Jesus had His disciples get into the boat to go ahead of Him while He dismissed the crowd. And after they left, He went up on the mountain to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of a lake, and He was alone on land.” And, this, by the way, when you’re ready to take some steps for God – notice, the disciples get on the journey, and there is a stiff wind, and they’re straining at the oars. That’s what it’s like when you start taking steps for God.
And so, “About the fourth watch of the night, He went out to them.” And this is trying to increase their faith, so He’s walking on the water. And as He comes by, and had decided to pass by, they see Him and think He’s a ghost, and they’re terrified.
Immediately He spoke to them and notice what He says to them. He says to them, He says to us: “You’re taking a step.” You want to do what God wants you to do, and you’re thinking, Yes, okay, we’re going to go to counseling, or, Okay – oh, my lands, I’m going to really go public in this situation. I’m going to share my faith with this person, or, You know what? I’m going to confront this issue with one of my kids, and I’m scared to death, because maybe she’s going to… And what’s He say to them? “Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.”
Now, we’re in Mark’s gospel, and Matthew, Mark, and Luke are what’s called the “synoptics” and they’re speaking to different audiences. And so, Mark is written to the Roman audience, Luke to a Greek audience, and Matthew to the Jewish audience. And so, they all tell the same story, but they add, all correctly, the full picture, but in ways that help their audience understand.
And so, Matthew, during this exact same time, he adds something. And he lets us know that, right when Jesus is walking on the water and is going to pass by, Peter – you know, I love Peter. You know, he’s impulsive, “Let’s give it a whirl, what the heck.” You know, “You only live once.” “Lord, if it’s You, tell me to come!” And so, Jesus says, “Come.” And so, Peter takes – you know – it’s like, “This is amazing. He walks on the water; I walk on the water.” And then, his courage evaporates, and he sees the wind and the waves, and there’s fear. He starts to sink, and literally – quick prayer – “Save me!” And Jesus reaches out, pulls him up. They get into the boat. They worship Him.
And that metaphor, that picture of stepping out into uncertainty, which, if God doesn’t show up, you’re paralyzed by your fear, and you don’t do it, is courage. And Jesus is going to use this little picture, and then, the author is going to take us through a series of barriers to breakthrough. Because in your life, I can tell you this – God wants you to get out of the boat – and I don’t know what the boat is for you. But He wants you to get out of the boat of your fear, and take a step of courage, and that’s the catalyst for the power of God.
The issue is not: does God have power? The issue is not: is He willing to help you? He wants to. But the issue is: do you have the courage, rooted in faith, to take the step that, even when you can’t see what’s going to happen, to obey, and then, watch Him work? What keeps us from taking that dynamic step that causes the chain reaction of God’s power to come into our life?
Now, I want you to know that, sometimes – when we teach the Bible, or when I read it, I’ll get into one passage, and just a paragraph, and I’ll spend all of our time there. But what we miss, often, is that the author has put, sometimes, story after story and miracle, and he’ll let you know it all fits together, and he wants you to see the structure of what’s happening.
So, that’s what I’m going to do. My prayer is that you read chapter 6 through chapter 9 a little bit later today, and put your feet up and get a glass of iced tea. I’ll give you the highlights, and I’ll narrate it, because what I want you to catch is the big picture.
Barrier number one: Courageous steps that overcome this barrier – our first barrier is our traditions. We open it up in Mark chapter 7. The context is, they get out of the boat, and now, you need to know that things are swarming. Look at the very end of chapter 6. If you have your Bible, or iPad – whatever you using, look at the very end of chapter 6. Peter has walked on the water; he’s now falling in. They’re in the boat; they get to shore.
And when they get to shore – notice this very carefully – people are running to villages, and places all over, and every single person who brings them to the marketplaces, anyone who touches Jesus – it says all of them are healed. Jesus is communicating, “I am the Good Shepherd.” He’s doing these miracles to let people know, “I want to help you.” And physical healing is a way – you know, He lets them know, “I’m here. I’m the Healer. I love you. I’m for people.”
And so, His popularity is mushrooming. And now, the religious leaders are threatened, and so, we pick up that story in chapter 7: “The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and they saw that some of His disciples were eating with hands that were not washed .”
The Pharisees and the Jews always washed their hands ceremonially when they came back from the market, before they ate, and at special times. So, this is not, like, wash your hands for germs. This was a spiritual issue. There was a tradition that, when you went out into the market, and you were around those Gentiles, and all the evil in the world, you should clean yourself.
Now, you can scan the passage, but I’m going to tell you what’s in it. Seven times, the word tradition is there – “the tradition of the elders,” “the tradition of the elders,” “the tradition of men” – tradition, tradition, tradition, tradition. And, basically, what they say is, “You know, you’re not playing by the rules, and for years and years and years, we’ve been told, and we have these rules made by men.”
And Jesus says, “Your traditions nullify the truth of the Word of God, and Isaiah was right.” Look in the text. What’s He say? “Isaiah was right. Your lips say one thing, but your hearts are far from Me.” And He said, “You have your traditions.” And then, He points out that actually, the barrier of your tradition keeps you from obeying what God actually says.
And so, by that time, the Pharisees, who were very greedy, by the way, and very religious – so a lot of things haven’t changed.
People were to support their parents in their old age, like we’re supposed to. And what the Pharisees did is, they came up with a new tradition: just say the money is Corban or dedicated to God. And so, you would keep the money, and you wouldn’t have to support your parents. And Jesus just rips them. And He says, “Your traditions made by men, your rules made by men, nullify the Word of God.”
And then, He says, “You know, anything, no food is unclean. If you’re thankful for it, it goes in you, because everything you put in your mouth, it comes out of you eventually.” He’s pretty graphic here. He says, “If you want to know what makes you unclean, it’s what comes out of your mouth, because that’s what fills your heart – greed, malice, envy, sexual immorality, using people, corruption.”
He said, “It’s the things in your heart. That’s what separates you from God.”
And what all of us have is, we have some baggage and traditions and rules that we have equated with Scripture, over time, and it’s a barrier. It keeps you, and keeps me, from stepping out and being courageous. The fear of man. Because people tell us, “Well, you have to do it this way, all the time.”
I was getting interested in Theresa – many of you know, she was not a Christian, and was married before. She would find out later that her husband was having an affair with another woman, for about a year, that she was unaware of. She got pregnant with twin boys, and when he found out that, he left for another state, with another woman.
She was absolutely just devastated. And her boss, a few weeks later, led her to Christ.
And after multiple attempts to contact him, and bring restoration, a couple years later, there was nothing. And so, she got a divorce and had two little boys, and I met her when the boys were just – she came in Bible study, so, two and a half, three years later.
And so, I certainly was attracted to her, but a young woman with two kids was not on my radar, so I began to pray that God would give her a husband. I prayed for two years. And I just didn’t have any idea that I would be the answer. And it was really hard. Because, at that point in time, I was a basketball coach, and I was a teacher, and we were doing this college ministry. And then, I got this, Oh, my gosh, God, You’ve got to be kidding. You want me to be a pastor or a missionary or something?
And little by little, Theresa became one of the most godly women I had ever met, and I got to know those kids, and God said, “Okay, I want you to – this is My plan.”
Well, I checked with my parents and had their support, but in that day, as is important – you know, divorce is not for any reason, any time, any way. God hates divorce. He wants us to be together. But when you’re abandoned by an unbeliever, or on grounds of infidelity, God provides measures for people who are the victim.
But I had a spiritual leader that we have now reconciled all this, but he told me, “I don’t believe in divorce.” He said, “If my wife died, I would still not remarry. You get one shot, one person.” And I’d been around my spiritual leader, in this group, for about seven years. And the tradition of this group was, “That’s the way it is.”
And I remember agonizing. We fasted and prayed, and prayed and fasted, and, “Oh, God.” I read every book on the subject; I looked at every verse. And it was real clear what the Bible said is, “She’s an unbeliever. She’s abandoned by an unbeliever.” It was immorality. Here’s what the Bible says, but this group’s tradition...
And so, this man’s wife went out for coffee with my wife, and said, “If you marry Chip, you’ll destroy his life. God has His hand on Chip’s life, and He’ll never use Chip’s life if you all get married.” That’s a lot of pressure. And I agonized, and I just realized, One day, I’m going to give an account for my life before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
And it was a real breakthrough for me, because that was the beginning of a series of decisions that said, what other people think can’t dictate what I do. “The fear of man is a snare, but blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” That’s Proverbs 29:25.
And there are some of you that you know exactly what you ought to do, and you don’t do it because of your tradition. You have a history – as I’ve talked with one guy recently – you have a history that your great, great grandfather, grandfather, grandfather, they’re Buddhists, or they’re Hindu, or they’re moderate Muslims.
Or, God has been speaking to you, and you know that you’re walking with Him now, and you need to go public with your faith, and you really haven’t, but it’s, “You know, I don’t want to do that, because my family, or my parents, they think that...” “I got baptized as a kid, even though I wasn’t a Christian, and God’s speaking to me, but I just don’t want the hassle. My mom, my dad – it’ll offend them.”
For others, it’s just the tradition, “My faith is really private, and I don’t want to go too public with that. I don’t want to be fanatical, and that’s sort of part of the tradition in our family. We really love God, but we’re not real public about it.”
And God says, “Go into all the world and share the Gospel. I love people, and you’re My agent.” And that tradition holds you back. Jesus said, “You want courage? You want to believe? Then look at some of the man-made rules.”
The second one, He says there’s a barrier of our unworthiness. Right after this – it’s interesting – the issue was whether you’re unclean, and right after this, Jesus is trying to get a little R&R, if you will. I mean, He’s been bombarded by all these people. They want His time; they want His energy. And so, He gets away – verse 24: “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and didn’t want anyone to know it; yet He could not keep His presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about Him, a woman whose little girl was possessed by an evil spirit came, fell on her face, and she begged Him to heal her little girl.”
And so, this is a woman – the author wants to note – she’s a Gentile, Greek origin, she’s a woman. She breaks in; she’s uninvited. She does everything wrong. But she’s passionate.
And the conversation goes, as you read it a little bit later, and He says, “Look, I came for the house of Israel,” the Jewish nation. And the Gentiles were called “dogs” in that day, in a slang term, and Jesus, I think, testing her says, “I came for the children, and not for the dogs.”
And her answer of faith was, “Even the dogs, after the children eat, get to come in and get the crumbles under the table.” And basically, what she’s saying is, “You know what? I believe in You, and I don’t have any hope, but I – I don’t care what anyone says. I don’t care. I’m coming, and I need Your hand.” And then, the text says, “Daughter, go home. You’ve answered well. Your faith – your daughter’s well.”
But you know, if I was one of those disciples, I would say, “That woman is unworthy.” Number one, culturally, she’s not a Jew, and she rolls herself on the floor, and she begs. And for some of us, you have this little lie: “Yeah, I think this is probably true. Well, for Chip, or maybe a pastor or missionary,” or some Christian you think is really hot stuff and really lives the life. “Yeah, I bet God does that, but not for me.”
And so, you know what? You don’t take any step out. You know why? Your fear of disappointment. “I’m afraid if I take a step out, and – tchoo! I’m unworthy. God, He wouldn’t do for me what He does for some other people.” And so, Jesus, very clearly, says, “You know something? I love impartially. I’m for you. Do you believe?”
The third barrier is the barrier of our deafness. Right after this, we read a group of people come, and they have a friend who’s deaf and mute, and they bring him to Jesus. Look at your text: They beg Him. Notice the pattern. The people at the end of chapter 6, they brought their friends, and they begged Jesus to heal. The woman comes, and she begs for her daughter. And now, they come, and they beg for their friend – he can’t hear, and he’s a mute. And so, Jesus takes him aside, out from the crowd. He heals him.
Some of us, you can’t hear from God. You think, I would take a step of faith, or I would have a breakthrough, but you know what? I’m afraid, because God doesn’t speak to me the way He speaks to other people. I don’t want to go public with what I really believe and why because people will ask me questions, and I don’t know how to answer them.
You think you’re deaf; you think there’s some special thing that other people know about this book. And every single day, this book that God speaks to ordinary people is available, and the great majority of Christians never open it. They depend on people like me to give you thirty or forty or fifty minutes of a little bit of truth, and then, you’re on this journey of trying hard to be a good person. Totally miss the point!
The living God, who created the world, says, “This Word is alive, and I’ll speak to you about you and about Me, and I will give you promises and I’ll give you direction, and I’ll show you what to do with one of those kids and work, and what to do when you’re single, and what to do when you’re depressed, and what you do when you’re struggling, and what to do at work, and when and how to do what, but you’ve got to listen to Me.” Because see, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
And He’s saying to His disciples – because the goal of all these things, as the author writes this – the real goal is not just to help these people. These disciples are going to get the ball, and the mission to take it to the world, and they did, or we wouldn’t be here. He wants them to learn. He wants them to learn, you know what? No one is unworthy, no matter what you think. He wants them to learn: I’ll speak; I’ll speak, and I’ll open people so they can then, after hearing – they can speak.
And then, we get the fourth barrier. It’s not just our deafness, but it’s our lack of resources. How many of us said, “You know, I would really do that. You know, I’d like to go on a mission trip, but, you know, if I take the time off, I don’t have the money.” Or, “You know, I see that that’s a really big need, and I would love to help people, but – pshw! – you know, I don’t have that kind of money.”
And so, we saw the feeding of the five thousand in the Jewish arena. Now, we have the feeding of the four thousand, but it’s a Gentile audience. It opens up in chapter 8: “During those days another large crowd gathered. And since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, ‘I have’” – are you getting this? – “‘I have compassion.’” The word is splagchnon. It comes from down deep in your gut. It’s visceral.
Jesus sees the needs of people – Gentile, Jew, hurting, moral, immoral – Jesus sees the needs, and something deep inside of Him, because of who He is, as God – He just cares. And compassion is not sympathy. It’s not, like, “I feel for them.” Compassion, in Scripture, a hundred percent of the time, leads to action that actually helps people.
And so, He says, “I have compassion for them; they’ve been with Me three days.” It’s like a rock concert, except different. It’s like three full days, and they’re hearing Him teach. But there are no Porta Potties; there’s no food. And He says, “The three-day seminar is over, and I’m going to send them home. And many of them haven’t eaten; they’re going to faint along the way.”
Notice, He doesn’t say to the disciples – He doesn’t say, “You feed them.” He just presents the issue. He just presents, “You know, here are people that have a need. We ought to do something.”
And you know, I can just hear Peter, to John: “You know, He did it once. You think He can do it again? What are we going to do?” And they go back to the same old thing, and they don’t know, what they are going to do, and of course, they bring what they do have, because that’s what God wants.
The breakthrough comes, not when you have it all figured out, not when, “If I do this, this, and this,” not, “When everything gets lined out, then I’m going to do it.” You bring what you do have to the supernatural power of the living God, who lives inside of you, as a follower of Christ, and you say, “I’m going to courageously step out, because I believe You’ll provide.”
And so, four thousand people get fed, and then, the disciples get clean-up duty again, and guess what happens: there are seven baskets this time. Because for the Gentile, or the Greek, world, the word seven is a perfect number. And they pick it up, and it’s not lost on the disciples, and they’re realizing He’s not just the Messiah for the nation of Israel; He’s a light to the Gentiles. Jesus came to save and to forgive all people. And He’ll provide.
I wonder how many times those of us – God shows us a need – a need at a local school, a need with an unwed mother, a need with sex trafficking, a need with some people that can’t make their house payment, a need with some people – and we say, you know, “God, I would really help out, but I don’t have the resources.” What’s God saying? Courage is the catalyst to breakthrough. Take what you do have, take a step, and start meeting some need.
And then, what you’ll see? God will show up. He’ll draw other people. I mean, all those great stories we have of miraculous things that happen, they don’t happen to people that are waiting for God to line everything up; they happen to people who step out, and often don’t know how it’s going to work. In fact, that’s part of making room.
Do you understand, God is on the edge of His throne, and He wants a breakthrough to happen for you, and you’re basically saying, “I’m not taking a step, because I don’t think He’ll provide.” And your financial worldview has you living in a situation where you don’t experience God’s power. You don’t experience answers to prayer – you know what? God doesn’t play games. He doesn’t provide breakthroughs over here, when He says, “Now, this is true and right, and this is what I want you to do,” and you say, “Well, thanks. I take that as a really good opinion, and I’ll consider doing that.” That’s not how it works. Obedience is a channel through which blessing flows.