As we look forward to what the Lord has in store for us all in 2016, I am reminded of His many blessings over 2015! We have welcomed hundreds in from our Valley throughout the year to our ‘Look Up!’ Family friendly services, our Sunday attendance has doubled, children’s ministry tripled and we have had the privilege of Baptising six saved souls.
Such a blessing of numbers that we have seen and welcomed at Noddfa over 2015 is akin to Jesus’ own experience in John chapter 6. The chapter starts with Jesus feeding the five thousand. This count (as we are told in verse 10) was just the men, not the women and children who were most likely with them, so their could have been at least double the people, perhaps around the population of our little valley that we are called to serve (10,000).
In John Chapter 6:5, we are told that Jesus “looked up” (Look Up!) and He saw a great crowd coming towards Him. With just a few morsels, a bit of bread and some fish, they were all fed with leftovers! The people were amazed (John 6:14-15) and gathered in force to support Jesus. You would have thought this was an answer to prayer, but such ‘people power’ is dangerous and not what we as a church are looking for either. We do not want numbers, for numbers sake, we do not want people power, we want God Power! Bums on seats could start a revolution, perhaps for good in many ways. But if God’s Glory is not the motive then I’d rather close the church. He has kept Noddfa since 1846 and it is for Him that we are here, not for our own desires or motives. Jesus in His eternal wisdom saw the crowd and withdrew to the mountain.
The disciples were then sent on a boat to Capernaum. On route Jesus met with them on the water (as only He could). The disciples arrived on the otherside of the lak, the crowd eventually caught up with them (John 6:25). Jesus met with them and in love was clear with those before Him, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” People in our community are equally amazed that our small church are prepared to feed them all, “very truly, they come to Noddfa for the free Hotdogs and fireworks but not to hear the Gospel”. The people’s response to Jesus was encouraging, they wanted to know what to do to please God and Jesus tells them to believe in Him!
Not content with the miracle of being fed with mere morsels of fish and bread the people asked Jesus for yet another sign, like the one their ancestors received in Exodus. Bread from Heaven, Manna, that kept their bodies alive in the wilderness. Jesus replies with some very famous words. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”” (John 6:51). Many grumbled under the sound of the Gospel, just like people do today. They thought Jesus was asking them to be cannibals, to eat His actual flesh. The Gospel sounded too gruesome for them to stomach. It was too odd for them to accept. They did not realise that our Lord was speaking in a spiritual context. Those far from God, far removed from the spiritual truth, cling to the physical and were disgusted by these words of Jesus. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52). ““This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:52). As a result most of them walked away.
Approximately ten thousand people came to Jesus that day. They came for many reasons; for physical food, to look for a leader that could rise up against the oppressive state of Rome; perhaps to be seen to be associated with His movement, perhaps they agreed with His moral principles, or perhaps just to give themselves an easier life? Yet at the end of Jesus’ clear Gospel teaching to them, He (The Son of God) was left with just twelve before Him and one of them Judas.
2015, with all its ups and downs has been a Biblical year. By God’s Grace, we have brought people in, with little time and resource (mere crumbs of bread and a few fish) and an ageing church with a small membership. When 120 people came from the community for Look Up in November, we may have thought like the disciples and asked how can we feed them all? The church kitchen was working double time! But they were all fed, physically and spiritually with the Gospel that night, just as the 10,000 were in John 6.
Jesus welcomed ten thousand in, He fed them physically and spiritually, but in the end was left with just 11 disciples who could say “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). I thank God for the hundreds who have come into Noddfa this year (we would love to see you all again). I thank God for those that have stayed and can now say the same as Peter does here.
As we have journeyed as a church in 2015, between the well attended events, and as a small group of disciples escaping the crowds. Weekly rowing our boat towards the Glory of Christ, we can thank God that throughout 2015 He has come across the divide to meet with us through His word preached.
As a church in 2015 we have shared the Gospel to the crowds, just as Jesus did, unashamedly so, in all its gruesome truth. We have preached the truth of Sin and salvation in Jesus Christ alone and inevitably many people have been offended by it. Just as they were with Jesus in John chapter 6, this should encourage us as a church heading to 2016 together.
We are God’s chosen; we should be prepared in 2016 to continue to feed the 10,000 in this valley with the morsels that God gives us. We must be prepared to have times on a rocky boat in isolation and we must not be ashamed of the Gospel and its presentation (however weird it all may look to the world). If the truth we hold dear as a church offends people (and I say this in love) then good, because we know we are preaching the Gospel as Jesus did, and at least our neighbors have now heard it! The same heat from a stove can harden an egg, but can also soften a potato! Or to quote Spurgeon “The same sun which melts wax, hardens clay. And the same Gospel which melts some persons to repentance hardens others in their sins” The conviction of the Holy Spirit will drive many away in 2016, but as we have been privileged to see throughout this year, it can also soften hearts to God, and bring the elect home.
Let us push on forward into 2016, prayerfully doing all we can to share Jesus. We must do all that is possible and trust in God to do what only He can (the impossible) and save souls.
Happy New Year and a big thanks to all who helped, volunteered and came to our church events, meetings and outreach. We hope to see you all again in 2016.
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Tim 1:15