Then they inquired, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” John 6v28-29
It is a Sunday morning. And the first thing on the agenda is this passionate appeal. God is in need. No. He needs a lifeline. And that lifeline has to be attended to almost immediately. How dare you live in your own house when the Lord has no house to rest his head? The pastor queries.
In some cases the pastor bellows from the pulpit in the middle of the service to the congregation. “Give to the work of God. Those who give to the work of God have the reward of eternal life. God loves a cheerful giver. You can’t claim to be a believer if you are not giving to the work of God.”
Yet in some other assemblies, the pastor reaches out for a few scriptures in the Old Testament and gives the example of David who desperately wanted to build a house for God but God turned him down and gave the privilege to his son, Solomon. He tells the congregation it is a privilege to be a partaker of those who build for God. And enjoins them not to blow away this lifetime opportunity.
He tells them how Abraham gave his Isaac (though God did not take Isaac from him) and appeals to them to give their Isaac. It is reckoned that until you give your Isaac, you can’t qualify to be in the league of those working for God or giving to God. The congregation is sometimes told, if you can’t go, you can send your money. Let your money work for God.
The sound bite from every service is that money is the vehicle of the gospel. If there is no money, God is handicapped. Really?
Sometimes you are thrown into confusion. You really don’t know who needs help. The congregation, the pulpit or God. In one breadth the pastor sets himself aloof from any challenge. Whatever he asks the congregation to bring is never for Him. It can’t be for him. It is for God. He hides under God and blackmails his congregation into giving. The Lord is ever in need. And the beat goes on and on.
But what in real sense is the work of God? Do we give to the work of God or can we give to the work of God? Is the work of God intrinsic in us or an outward show of service? Those are questions that should tuck our minds and perhaps challenge our theology. Did the Apostles for instance appeal for an offering for God? When they lived a communal life as recorded in the Acts of Apostle what did they do with the offerings they collected? Were those money sent to God in heaven or divided among the brethren so that nobody lacked and nobody had in excess?
Or put in a simple way, does God need our money? Is he waiting for our money before anything could be done? Is he sitting in one corner of the globe for us to gather cash and bring to him? What actually does it mean to do the work of God? These questions can go on and on.
In the earthly days of Jesus, when this question came up; Jesus took his time to give answer to what it means to do the work of God. He was very unambiguous and direct in his response to the question. He left no one in doubt that the work of God is not about paying for one service or supporting any church activity. His explanation is so simple that even if you don’t have a dime to spend you’re qualified to be in the league of those who work for God.
The question put to Jesus was very straightforward. What must we do to perform the works of God? And he answered, ““The work of God is this: to believe in the One whom He has sent.” That sounds too simplistic. Just to believe and then you’re doing the work of God?
The starting point is to acknowledge that we can’t give money to God in lieu of working for Him. Working for God has to do with our relationship with Him first. It is preposterous to equate giving money to working for God. As a matter of fact when Jesus was physically on earth we did not read that he demanded for people’s money as a condition to serve him. All the disciples were not selected on the basis of their giving. The rich man who came to Jesus wanted to know what he could do to have eternal life. Rather than ask him to bring money, the Lord told him to sell all he had and give to the poor. He did not ask him to bring the money so a house could be built for God or for any of his personal use. He demanded that the poor be taken care of.
So how can believing in Jesus translate to the work of God? To believe in the one whom God sent is to believe all that he says. And the evidence we believe in somebody is when we do what he asks us to do. That is where the issue of giving comes in. But even at that, all the giving we do is within the human sphere and never for God. The only link to God is when we give to the poor. Proverbs 19v17 tells us that giving to the poor means lending to God. Jesus was to later expatiate on this in Matthew 25 when he related clothing the naked, visiting those in prison and doing acts of kindness to fellow man as doing those things for him. So the implication is that man is the “God” that we help.
But then we must not lose sight of the fact that working for God is primarily about our lives. We are the work of God in progress. Ephesians 2:10 tells us “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
We need to note that Jesus is more concerned about the fundamentals. The people who thronged around him had benefitted from the miracle of the multiplication of the fish and bread and were so eager to associate with him. So they came to him and asked that all time question. What must we do to do the works of God? They perhaps had expected that Jesus would reel out a list of dos. They were expecting answers like, bring money, attend church, do evangelism etc. But Jesus went to the root. His answer looks simple but deep. They asked for the works of God. But he said in response: This is the work of God. Note that he reduced the works to singular: Work.
The work of God according to Jesus is one thing-believe in the one whom he has sent. The wisdom in that is that when we believe in the savior, rest on him and rely on him; every other thing will follow. Jesus knew the problem of the people was not in the doing but in the believing. God is more interested in whom we are than what we do or what we claim to do for him. Jesus had once noted in Mathew 7v18 that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit and a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. Tree stands for man in Bible language. The goal should be to make the tree good.
That is where we get it wrong in modern evangelism. We are more interested in getting people to do something but God is more concerned on how we live for him. Jesus says to those who came to him-believe in the person that God has sent. Faith in Jesus means losing ourselves to him, depending on him completely and resting on His promises for us. To believe in the one whom he has sent means to abandon ourselves in his hands trusting that he is capable of keeping us from falling. It means not to trust in the arm of flesh. It means not to hold to our values and desires. It means to say always, Lord, your will be done.
That is the essence of God’s work. When next you think of the work of God, think first of the owner of the work.