How Does This All Work Anyway?

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The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29

In Psalm 143:10, David prayed a prayer. Listen to what David said. He said, “Lord, teach me to do your will.” He didn’t say, “Teach me to understand your will.” He didn’t say, “Teach me to know your will.” He didn’t say, “Help me find your will.” He didn’t say, “God, please disclose your will, reveal your will, manifest your will.” He said, “Lord, teach me to do your will.” Which carries the presupposition and the assumption that it was not a matter of information, but it was a matter of obedience. It wasn’t a matter of knowing it, it was a matter of doing it. He doesn’t ask God to reveal his will, he simply says, “Empower me to do it,” which assumes that he knew what it was.

In John 6, Jesus feeds the 5,000. The crowds follow Jesus – because he gave them food. He satisfied them in the moment, and they, like sugar addicts, sought after him for more! Jesus responds in the most wonderful way.

Jesus answered, “You are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For 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 6:26-29

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” What a beautiful response to a people looking for the easy way in life. He gave us the easiest job of all – believe on him! What makes this hard, dare I say an impossible task for some, is the fact that there is nothing of us in that. The sin of man, sin in its very root is this: “I will be like the Most High.” Satan said it and was cast down from heaven. He tempted man, and with those same words, “You will be like God…” we fell as well. The fact of sin, and the nature of fallen man is this: we want to do something – anything! But we cannot. The very preface of grace is that we come to this eye opening truth – we cannot save ourselves. This is not head knowledge, it is a heart revelation and all who receive grace must come to this place.

John writes: This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. 1 John 3:19-24

This passage was written more than 30 years after John 6 and here he is, teaching the very same lesson. The answer to the question, “How do I know I’m where I should be?” John says is by the Spirit – the baptism of the Holy Spirit which Jesus has given to us. Why? In 1 Corinthians 14:4 Paul tells us that when we speak in the Spirit we edify ourselves. In Ephesians 4:29-30 Paul again tells us that whatever edifies imparts grace. In contrast, Paul implies that whatever does not edify grieves the Spirit.

We have several “issues” that are now exposed; our self-righteousness and self-occupation, the need to believe, rest, and receive (these last are contrary to self), and the work of receiving and edifying – i.e. being filled with grace.

At the root of every person is the battle over who we will put our faith and consequently our efforts in life toward – either we will serve God, or we will not. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:24. What we must draw from this is simple: if we do not love God, we despise him. If we start with the first fall – Satan’s, and we follow this trend right on down to our own hearts, we will see that this is the root – this is the war that God himself wages on our behalf – he wants our love, and has done all things – he has done all the work for us; all we have to do is believe on him! Yet this is our struggle – every single day! It is nothing more than pride. You can dress it up any way you like, but it is still pride.

When we pray and things are not answered, well there are as many reasons for that as there are thoughts. The simple factor is that God is not bound to time as we are. He promised Abraham a son, and it was 40 years later that he became the father of Isaac. The Bible records that God was with Joseph, and caused him to prosper – only after he was thrown into Pharaoh’s prison. God’s promise of the coming Messiah, the One who would set man free from the power of sin (Genesis 3:15) was almost 6,000 years until Jesus was born. We ask for things, but when we ask, our vantage is limited. It does not mean that our requests are not heard, nor does it mean they are not answered. In fact, God spoke to the prophet (Isaiah 65:24), that before we even call out to God, he has already answered.

When it comes to sickness and death, God sees it as an enemy and hates it more than we do. God never intended for man to have to endure these effects of sin. The wages of sin is death. Everyone will die, it is a must. But for those who have put their trust in Christ, his promise is that they will yet live – they will as he did, overcome death. Remember, even Jesus died! He was dead for 3 days! Every healing is simply a gift, a picture of the promise of life in Christ. He is the healer, he is God. When we seek healing, more often then not we are like the multitude in John 6 (where we started). We seek the immediate, or short term fix when God is not interested at all in the temporal. He will – and does meet us in the temporal, because that is where we live, but his meeting us there is only to lift us to his place – the eternal. When we see him in the eternal, we no longer eat a meal or are healed of a sickness or disease, we eat him, we are made whole. He is less interested in feeding our bellies and more interested in satisfying our soul.

When we come to understand this, when we pray, we no longer seek the temporal, but we see the need of the temporal in context to the eternal. When the need being met in the now will aid in the cause of meeting him in the eternal, he will meet that need. When it is not needed, he is under no obligation to meet us there – for what purpose will it fulfill?

As with grace, prayer – and answers to prayer – come when we understand what we are looking at. Are we truly seeing Jesus, or are we seeing a temporal fix for a need that once met will not bring us any closer to knowing an eternal God?