Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:28-29
This is the work God requires: to believe. This statement does not make sense. Work and belief are in two different realms, and Jesus puts them together here. One is the other. The people would have been scratching their heads over this one. We still are.
We understand work as work, especially when it comes to us and God. This is the way we all start out. We come to God wanting to know what He wants us to do. What does He expect of us? Different religions have different approaches to this, but they all operate pretty much on the same basis. Just tell us what to do, and we’ll do it. This is what we assume religion is. Religion is you and I doing what God requires. That is why the people asked Him this question.
And even when we should know better — we hear Jesus talking about believing. We think we know what He means. But the concept of working to please God is so engrained in us that we cannot shake it. As Brennan Manning used to say, “We ‘should’ on ourselves constantly.” As good Christians, we “should” do this, and we “should” do that.
We go to church, we read our Bibles, we pray, we attend Bible studies and seminars, we sing in the worship band, we teach Sunday school, we become a deacon or deaconess, we tithe, we serve on committees, we volunteer with the youth group, we go on mission trips, we have our daily devotions, we give to the poor, we read Christian books, and there’s no end to this list.
Wow … are we ever working the works of God! Who could question our salvation or our dedication? Who could ever bring a charge against us? But here’s the real question: Do we believe? Have we done all these things by working or by believing? How can you tell? Well, if you’ve done all these things by working, you’ll be very tired — maybe even burnt out. If you’ve done all these things be believing, you’ll be energized, because God did them through you. You just showed up. You’re going along for the ride, and what a ride it is!
So why do we keep slipping back? Because we want to know. We want to be in charge. We want something we can track. We want to prove to ourselves and to others that we are doing it right. We want a standard we can measure.
So just like the crowd around Jesus, we ask the same question: what must we do to work the works of God? To which Jesus replies, as He did then, to believe in the one He has sent.
Since church at the catch last night I’ve been thinking about what it means to “believe in” Jesus. Trust was the first word that came to mind, then abide, connect (stay connected), live, and finally walk. Later , Vine’s dictionary mentioned: have confidence in and rely on. All of these thoughts on believing in Jesus to “work the works of God” seem relational to me. I agree that when God is one leading, guiding, and empowering it doesn’t seem like work. It feels like a gift. Finally a task lines up with my God given gifts and it’s like “this is why I am alive!” I love those times, but most of the time I’m plodding along. Walking by faith, wanting to be a “vessel”, but it takes patience, faithfulness, and a lot of grace. I’m praying that we can all “believe in” and grow in our belief in Jesus during this uncertain time.
Yes. I’m looking at this mostly from the perspective of how do we obey God? How do we please Him? How do we do what He wants us to do? Basically, how do we live the Christian life? It’s totally by faith as you say. It’s by believing that He is in us and will empower us to do what He wants us to do as we rely on Him. As we step into areas of our weaknesses trusting that He will indeed show up. That’s why the “work” of God is to believe. It can only happen through Him. We say these words, but do we know what they mean? Are we truly living them? If we aren’t feeling some of this tension, we probably are not.
Thank you for the encouragement to step out, (even though I may be afraid) relying on Jesus to provide what I lack!
Isn’t that just like my Lord & Savoir Jesus to get me to think just when I start feeling I got a lot of this Christianity stuff of Faith about one half figured out… Yet He tells me my work is my Faith…
And just leaves me Praising His Holy name more for His love & grace, b/c I know that I know I don’t deserve it!
Amen, Mark. Thanks for sharing your praise. You are leading us in it as well.