"What can we do to accomplish the works of God?"

"[Jesus said:] 'Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.'
So they said to him, 'What can we do to accomplish the works of God?'
Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.'"
(John 6:27-29)
What can we do to accomplish the work of God? In the gospel reading for Monday of the Third Week of Easter, Jesus gives us the answer: "believe in the one he sent." It is an answer that is beautiful in its simplicity...but also an answer that is easy to misunderstand.

It will help to look at what it doesn't mean.

Our Life's Work

Jesus is not referring to some singular event, some on-time act of faith. It isn't sufficient to make an 'altar call'-style  declaration of faith in the Jesus as personal Lord and Savior and decide that you have now reached the end of the Christian journey.

The great work is the work of salvation, and that work is something continuous in the lives of believers.

The Lord calls us to take up our cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). If we believe in him, then we have to believe in that call--and answer it. The great work of God is something that we are supposed to be engaged in constantly: not just believing in Jesus for one particular decisive moment, but believing in him throughout our walk with him.

Faith, ultimately, is a virtue. And virtues are ways of being, not singular events.

Believing in the Lord

Jesus is also not simply talking about an intellectual assent to him or his teaching. Our belief isn't in a fact or proposition, but in a person. If we believe in him, we are called to believe in his mission and, consequently, to live it out.

Talk is cheap, as they say. We are called to be doers of the Gospel, not just admirers of it.

This brings us, then, to what it really means to believe in the one who God sent: it is about having a deep personal trust in Jesus. As disciples, we are called to believe not only in what he tells us, but in him personally--to believe and trust that he is truly leading a guiding us.

This truly is the work of a lifetime.

Trusting in the Storm

It is easy enough to talk about trusting the Lord in the good times. It is when things get difficult, however, that that trust is tested. Are we willing to believe him when it looks like God's will isn't to our personal benefit?

Too often people, instead, use those opportunities to twist the Gospel to meet their own understanding of what is most practical or expedient. We see this all the time in politics: people using the name of the Lord in vain to justify their unchristian actions and ideals.

They rationalize. They compartmentalize.

But what the Lord is asking us to do is trust.

Trust him when he says that the meek will inherit the earth. Trust him when he says that peacemakers will be blessed. Trust him when he asks us to love our neighbor and even our enemies. Trust him when he asks us to rejoice in persecution instead of trying to find opportunities to feel persecuted and aggrieved so that we can moan loudly about it.

That is the fundamental question: do we really trust him?

Trust Not in Horses and Chariots

Or do we trust in our 'horses and chariots': our economy, our partisan political ideologies, our religious preferences and prejudices, our fears and phobias?

That is the work of God...rejecting all those other things in favor of Him. It will lead us into every other kind of good work and blessing if we are willing.

Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all else will be added unto you (Matt. 6:33). But don't lie to yourself and the Lord about what you are doing like the crowd who follows him in today's gospel reading.

If you work for the bread that perishes, you'll perish, too.

So work for the true Bread that gives Eternal Life. Work to trust him more and more each day. Ask him to purify you of the worldly dross that disguises itself a Christianity. Ask him to increase you faith.

[The boy's father said] "But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Jesus said to him, "'If you can!" Everything is possible to one who has faith." Then the boy’s father cried out, "I do believe, help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:22-24)
Lord, we believe...help our unbelief.

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