Labour not for the meat [food] which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then they said unto him, “What shall we do that we might work the works of God ?” Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
The background to this text is the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 with two loves and 5 fish. Jesus is taking the impact of that miracle to teach spiritual truth. The physical is important – we need to eat – but it is not the ultimate: it is not the purpose of life [as so many have made it today] nor is it the means of life [as so many think it is in today’s consumerist society].
The purpose and the means with God are always of a piece. They are one. The purpose and the means are always spiritual – that is they are according to God’s Holy Spirit, not man’s understanding of spiritual, nor yet man’s own human effort of itself. But God’s Spirit and God’s ways.
And God’s ways can only be accomplished by God himself as he works by his grace and spirit in our lives.
To do that, we need to be open to him, available. And our availability is not what may be commonly conceived as spiritual availability: just opening your mind and letting your thoughts dwell on certain feelings or thoughts. Hanging loose and letting it all just happen…
No, God’s way is active. We are to actively align ourselves with him by simply obeying his teaching. We don’t stop and stare, and vacate our minds and surrender our wills. We actively choose to obey God. And that is not always easy.
We get on with our lives, and in getting on with our lives we face challenges to our faith – our trust in God; we face temptation to disobey God. And in these circumstances we must work. We must make an effort to side with God and not with self, or with a sinful and disobedient pleasure obsessed world
Christian spirituality is active and conscious and thought about. It is not vacant and mindless, just drifting with a particular thought, idea, or feeling from somewhere within ourselves.
In Christian spirituality, we transform ourselves by willingly working with God in our lives to be holy – that is set apart to be and act as God would have us be and act. And that is hard work, to surrender self and waywardness in order to behave and think as God would have us behave and think.
But when we do think and act as God and the Bible teach us, then we know the presence and the power of God by his Holy Spirit, and that power and presence enables us to go on and partake of God’s grace and power yet further.
That is how to find, and see miracles in your life. Not by looking for the spectacular or the mystic, nor by undertaking exercises in meditation , or indeed following some guru or other – and there are Christian versions of that too !
But by active obedience to Christian teaching, trusting that God is with us, that God will enable us, that God will work out all our circumstances in the best way, the right way.
That is the greatest miracle of all. Not that the sick are healed or dead people raised to life in this life again. But that God is at work in the individual Christian heart and mind, and that God’s hand can be seen by the faithful, trusting believer in all the circumstances of his or her life.
PS Jesus is not saying here that we should not do work to live. By reading it in that way we would break a fundamental principle of Biblical interpretation which requires us to read every individual scripture in the light of the whole. And the apostle in the New Testament teaches that those who won’t work shalln’t eat.
No we must understand the point being made. If we blindly work for the material things of this life, and miss the true point of it all, then we work for nothing eternal or truly spiritual. If we work for those things, counting them more important than God, we will end up disobeying God [ eg an employer who threatens to sack or fire someone for refusing to do something immoral or illegal: the believer must obey God and refuse to submit to the command of mere man, and take the unfortunate consequences, trusting that God will provide otherwise].
The primary task or work for the Christian is to obey God, and be holy. And trust that Jehovah Jira will indeed be their provider as they live faithfully according to God’s Word, knowing God’s grace and Spirit to do so.
Indeed that God will show his presence, his grace and provision in whatever trial the Christian is called to go through.
May God bless you !