‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ A question from the disciples.
I look at the question the disciples of Jesus asked and it seems pretty reasonable to me.
But Jesus blew them (and me) away with the answer.
They were asking an “old plan” question. The “old plan” has a whole bunch of what must I do stuff. They were thinking we needed “to do” something.
What could they put on their to do list that they could easily check off?
Jesus gave them some “new plan” answers. This was in fact good news.
Here it is. BELIEVE in Jesus!! That is the new plan. Work equals believing. God’s goal is that we believe in Jesus.
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’
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 6:27-29
There is much to be said about faith. So … we start with God. God is the object of my faith. I start with believe in Him. My faith gets tested.
My faith needs to grow. Like the man who came to Jesus looking for a miracle, I say “I do believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
I want radical faith in my life. May it rain down on you and me. May we bath in it to the stunning beauty of our Master Jesus. Now that is a good word!
Perhaps the strongest statement emphasizing faith comes during the risen Jesus’ encounter with the so-called “doubting Thomas,” where Jesus says, “Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29). While Jesus performed visible signs during His ministry for others to see and believe, such signs could be abused and misunderstood. In John, Jesus praises the kind of unseeing faith that believes Jesus is the crucified and risen Messiah and Master who alone saves.
God as the object of faith: My faith starts with belief in God.
- James 1:2–4 (NASB) —Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
- Romans 4:18–21 —In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.
- Genesis 15:5 — 5 And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
- 1 Peter 1:6–7 — 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus the Messiah;
Here are some key ideas:
- Outlook determines outcome, and attitude determines action. God tells us to expect trials. It is not “if you fall into various testings” but “when you fall into various testings.” The believer who expects his life to be easy is in for a shock. Jesus warned His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation”. Paul told his converts that “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God”.
- We are God’s “scattered people” and not God’s “sheltered people,” we must experience trials. We cannot always expect everything to go our way. Some trials come simply because we are human—sickness, accidents, disappointments, even seeming tragedies. Other trials come because we are disciples of Jesus. Peter emphasizes this in his first letter: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12). Satan fights us, the world opposes us, and this makes for a life of battle.
- The phrase “fall into” does not suggest a stupid accident. Translate it “encounter, come across.” A disciple certainly should not manufacture trials. The Greek word translated “divers” means “various, varicolored” The trials of life are not all alike; they are like variegated yarn that the weaver uses to make a beautiful rug. God arranges and mixes the colors and experiences of life. The final product is a beautiful thing for His glory.
- The key word is count. It is a financial term, and it means “to evaluate.” Paul used it several times in Philippians 3. When Paul became a disciple, he evaluated his life and set new goals and priorities. Things that were once important to him became “garbage” in the light of his experience with Jesus. When we face the trials of life, we must evaluate them in the light of what God is doing for us.
- This explains why the dedicated disciple can have joy in the midst of trials: he lives for the things that matter most. Even our Master Jesus was able to endure the cross because of “the joy that was set before Him”, the joy of returning to heaven and one day sharing His glory with His church.
- Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to “count it all joy.” If we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter, not better. Job had the right outlook when he said, “But He knows the way that I take: when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
- So, when trials come, immediately give thanks to the Master and adopt a joyful attitude. Do not pretend; do not try self-hypnosis; simply look at trials through the eyes of faith. Outlook determines outcome; to end with joy, begin with joy.