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 6:29 (NIV)
Jesus had walked on the water the day before, and now was beginning to teach the crowd about eternal life, with himself as the Bread of Life. They were impressed with his miracles, but were coming more for food. Jesus pointed them to the deeper realities of life, which of course all centered around himself and the Father. In order to enter into eternal life, everyone, individually, needed to fully and truly believe in Jesus. The crowd wondered about which “works” (plural) that God requires. Jesus replied with the work (singular) that is preeminent – to believe in the one He (the Father) has sent, that is, Jesus.
We might say to ourselves as modern day Christians that yes, we need to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and thus we enter the kingdom and inherit eternal life. And of course, our life and behavior must be progressively transformed and witness to that belief, as the Epistle of James and the Sermon on the Mount, among other passages indicate. But the application of this verse is far deeper if we take some time to reflect and meditate.
What if we applied this to church life and decisions? It would seem that belief in Jesus’ name, blood, power, presence, glory — and more — would be the first “work” to do. The lesser the belief, the greater the temptation to rely on secular methods, techniques, programs and so forth. This also points to an understanding of Jesus – your “personal Christology” or doctrine of the person of Christ. Now, Jesus is also the Lord of all scientific research, all mathematical therorems, all “laws of thermodynamics”, and the Lord of Logic – and that is only a mere humble beginning. Science and mathematics, for example, are only possible because Jesus sustains the universe in a knowable way. All creation holds together in him – see Colossians 1:15-21 to start. As a PhD research scientist, I see no dichotomy here – Jesus is the Lord of creation as much as the Lord of redemption and salvation.
Okay, you say – but what’s the point? My point is this: maybe the “work” of belief is not being done as deeply as it could be in the life of the church. This becomes a strategic bottleneck, and determines the shape or flow of ministry from thereon. To us in Deeper Love Ministries, this appears most clearly when we share a true story and testimony of a person healed from deep pain, in some cases clinical depression, by a few hours in the presence of Jesus as led by His Spirit. Sometimes, the response is a reluctance to believe, or “that’s interesting”. I heard of a Christian mental health center that could not believe a former patient was healed by Jesus entirely of their mental illness and so obviously changed – the person was told they would still later be “on the meds for life”. Meanwhile, the methods and strategies of the world (not all wrong either!) seem more appealing and have a greater influence in the life and ministry of a church or fellowship. Clearly, the “work” to believe needs “more work”. We do need discernment, but strong belief nevertheless so that we can revel and glory in the power of the Gospel and the Ancient of Days behind it. Is it not wonderful to see and claim that Jesus can heal the deepest issues of heart and soul in ways that totally defy the methods and techniques of the world? Should that not make us rejoice?
I acknowledge that we are all on a journey, and all of us need to grow in faith and belief. Make it a goal this to grow in your belief in Jesus. And of course, always desire to grow in his love as well!