In 2020, we’ll be talking a lot about seeing God’s hand in our journey of faith. You might have seen our spring newsletter where we talked about God’s working in human suffering. He has the ability to give perspective and meaning to the circumstances of our lives.
I was reading in the book of John recently where Jesus miraculously fed a crowd of more than 5,000 people. They had heard how he had healed the sick and had followed him out to a remote area. If you’re familiar with that story, you know that he met this large group’s need by multiplying 5 barley loaves and 2 fish.
After this, Jesus withdrew to a solitary place. Then later in the evening, he walked on water to join his disciples who had set off by boat for the other side of the sea. The next morning, the crowd realized Jesus had gone, and went to look for him. Finding him on the other side of the lake, Jesus had some stern-sounding words for them.
“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.” (John 6:26-27)
So the crowd asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (v.28) And Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
There are a lot of lessons in this passage, but I’d like to share three.
First, this very large group of people were aware of their need. They were probably poor and wrestled daily with meeting their most basic needs. So this chance to eat their fill was something rare.
It’s a humbling thing to ask for help in meeting our needs. In fact, unless our needs go unmet, we often depend upon our own strength to meet them. Compared to the poor, those of us who are wealthy might even take for granted our ability to provide for our needs. So we lose—or never develop—an awareness of the weight and significance of meeting our basic needs.
But the poor are aware every day of their limits, their brokenness, even their sin. As we take our journey of faith this year, it would be good to ask the Lord to open our eyes. Where do we lean on our own strength rather than looking for God’s provision? The answer will bring clearer vision of our hearts, and more understanding for others.
The second lesson we see here is that this large group of people were taking their needs to Jesus. When we become aware of our needs, what is our first response? Do we go to God to meet our need when we’re unsettled because circumstances don’t go well? I’m afraid that many of us too often grab our cell phone! We look there for answers, or for a distraction from our discomfort. Where we turn in need will plot out our life in a significant way. So I encourage us not to run from or ignore these negative emotions, but spend time looking to God for the answer.
And third, we see Jesus in this passage challenging the group to see their deeper need. Below our everyday surface needs are desires for things like significance, love, acceptance. In our faith journey this year, let’s ask the Lord and dig deep inside to find out what is driving us. Let’s “peel the onion” to uncover and become aware of thoughts, emotions and needs that only God satisfies. He loves us wholly—He made us! When it comes to our deepest longings, even those we may not be aware of, He alone provides and fulfills. He alone gives contentment and peace. His work in our circumstances brings understanding, meaning and encouragement.
He might even ask us to sacrifice that comfort for the good of others.
Photo by Jayden Brand on Unsplash