28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
– John 6:28-29
I think we all tend to ask the same questions, just in our own languages.
We all want to know what it looks like to live life well. To approach our days through the lens of hope. To advance good.
We want the blueprint for that life.
We ask, “what do we do?”
Once, in a library in a small town, as our hunched shoulders encircled a corner table, I asked my college friend this question.
“How do I know if God is pleased with what I do?”
At the time, I was wondering about a big choice that I had to make. In other seasons, I have wondered about my jobs and the duties of friendship and sisterhood.
In the library corner table, I asked, “what do I need to do to know that God is happy with this? That I’m doing the right thing? That I am contributing to God’s work?”
I wanted to know the blueprint – to appease my own anxious thoughts with a plan.
I wanted to know what the crowd wanted to know in John 6. They were following Jesus’ signs and miracles across the region, tracing his steps as he traveled.
In the beginning of chapter 6, Jesus walked on water to join his disciples in a boat. So in verses 28 and 29, folks are figuring out that Jesus seemed to have magically transported himself across the water. They see that his followers departed without him in the one boat that was on shore, and yet he stood on the other side the next morning.
They’re in awe. Maybe skeptical.
When they ask “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” it’s almost as if they are asking: “How can we get a touch of that? What do we need to do to taste the miraculous?”
Like me, maybe they wanted a concrete answer. Directions for this increasingly winding journey. Maybe they wanted to know more of the mystery.
“How do we know that this is the work of God?”
I wonder if they — like me — were asking in order to appease their own need for control.
I wonder if they — like me — were asking because the mystery of not knowing is uncomfortable.
Jesus calls them back to simplicity.
“This is the work of God,” he says. “That you believe in him whom he has sent.”
“What must we do?” they ask. “What you ask for is found first in me,” he seems to say.
But Jesus always and first calls us to, before he ever invites us to do.
He always and first calls us to himself, where he longs to show us again how deeply he has loved us before we ever produced anything.
He invites us to keep asking the questions, not to access more of the signs or the perfect formula or the tangible treasure, but to access more of the treasure of himself.
The work God loves is rooted in this – his love. The mysterious, overflowing treasure of Jesus.
Is this the place from which you work? Is he your energy, your hope, your place of purpose? Does your job or your season allow you to serve God and serve other people?
If so, then I believe you can say a bold yes: God is happy with your work. He’s present with you as you go out and do. He delights in your creativity, your service, your gifts and your perseverance.
This is where we can bring our questions, and where we can rest. God is pleased with the work of his people when the work of his people is an outpouring of his love in the world.
This is how we know the works of God. This is how we know that our day-to-day work has eternal worth.
Jesus always and first calls us to, before he ever invites us to do. But friends, he’s with you in the doing — however that may look for you.
Let him be our pursuit anew this day, and every day.