The people walking with Jesus were a little startled when he turned and commanded them to stop toiling for the bread that perishes (John 6:27); and it's not as if this was the first time He had minimized the importance of the pursuit of the basics of life. On other occasions He had told them that birds didn't toil or save yet the Father took care of them; the Gentiles were obsessed with these things ( intimating that this was a pursuit well beneath them) but they were not to be. He blew the disciples minds declaring that the rich folks would have great difficulty entering into the kingdom of heaven. In fact, Jesus plainly declared that it was impossible to serve God and mammon( a contemporary pagan god ) both.
So given that Jesus had just nullified everybody's main pursuit, they asked what are the works God would have us pursue? Jesus rendered a rather curious response. He didn't instruct them to feed the poor even they knew this was a pretty frequent activity of Jesus and His disciples. He didn't tell them to start building a bunch of synagogues around Israel or go paint the temple or sacrifice oxen or all the other works that we associate with religion; He told them to " believe in Him whom God has sent!" John 6:29.
Believe. He told the man who had just found out that while he was trying to guide Jesus to where his daughter lie sick, that daughter had died. Jesus encouraged him, " don't be afraid, only believe!" Mark 5:36. Jesus said, if you believe, anything is possible Mark 9:23. I suspect that other than around Jesus, there's never been another location, another people, or another time in which believing connoted such action or force. But the longer I walk with God and offer myself to Him, the more I understand He wants you to believe what He says.
The last generation has seen an explosion of teaching and preaching on faith. The ministries of Billy Graham and Reinhard Bonnke have communicated to millions faith in Jesus to save from eternal damnation; the ministries of Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland have built up a faith in God's desire and power to save us from disease and poverty. Simultaneously, from sports to business, there is an increasing recognition of the power of visualizing goals achieved or success enjoyed. Unfortunately, there has occurred a blurring of the line between godly and secular application of faith. Faith in God's provision cannot be taught apart from the necessity of crucifying the flesh; all tenets of God's truth are part of His whole truth. To a large degree, the faith that Jesus espoused to further the kingdom has been co-opted to nurture the carnal man.
It's a line that is easily blurred and requires the persistent " rightly dividing" of Gods word. There is no virtue in abject poverty as there is none in sickness. Nor is there great spiritual progress in ease and abundance. James didn't say that the fruit of our faith was more precious than gold, but that the trials of our faith were.
As God pursues the establishment of His kingdom on earth, He is growing a church or body that is worthy of its Head according to Ephesians 4:13. I have written previously on how God's work can be illustrated by the pursuit of an office by a political candidate; he will assemble a staff of volunteers who will work on his/her behalf because they believe in his/ her ability and believe there will be reward should the candidate be elected. During the campaign, the volunteer must demonstrate a resistance to bribery or corruption lest he be disqualified to rule and reign. This is a rich analogy. That's why Paul extols the ability to thrive in plenty and in lack, (Phil 4:12) and declares to Timothy that godliness with contentment is great gain( 1 Tim 6:6 ). The candidate must have confidence that his staff cannot be distracted or deterred by the opposing camp through temptation; as Jesus, God's ultimate volunteer, put it, " he ( the opposing candidate, satan) has nothing in me!" (John 14:30).
However, the volunteer should be able to trust the candidate for his material needs during the campaign; how can the volunteer be relatively unmindful of his material necessities and therefore remain incorruptible if the candidate is unable to provide rendering himself unreliable? And if the candidate, pursuing an office of governance, is found untrue to his word, he would be unfit for office.
God is not seeking election, but He's moving towards the time when every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, or that time where here on earth, His existence, rule, and righteousness are revealed to the aligned and unaligned alike. That is when the "volunteers" are rewarded with position according to their works, which according to Jesus, is the degree to which they believed in He who God sent; to the degree that the disciple ( saint, believer, volunteer ) believed in God's promise to guide, protect, and provide. The analogy suffers, however, in that God tends not to be very obvious in His intervention; He's very much the benign benefactor who tries to remain unseen rather than a political candidate who is ostentatious in all the good that he does. In fact, whether because God works hard at remaining unseen or that satan is so skilled at perverting the truth of God's goodness, one has to be pretty determined to be constant in their belief in God's constant provision, protection, guidance, etc; so much so that I would say God wants you to believe His word when there is no physical evidence supporting it! We read Bible stories that mercifully condense the circumstances that tried the heroes of the faith; Noah's years of ark construction, Moses' 40 years of misery on the backside of the desert as a hired hand who seemingly failed his destiny and his God, Joseph's years of unjust incarceration, Paul's time in prison, etc.,etc. As the psalmist wrote of Joseph and is true of the others, he was tried by God's word (Psa 105:19); promises that have yet and seemingly will never come true; circumstances that persistently and eloquently proclaim that for whatever reason, His word will fail us. That is the time He yearns for us to decide and proclaim, " His word is true , let every man, every circumstance, every memory, every prediction be a liar!"
Faith that moves mountains and pulls up trees is faith that has been worked and tested in times and circumstances which declare, " your God is unwilling or unable!". They are times that fertilize and water unbelief and doubt. If we give up or merely step onto another path ,paved and inviting, forsaking the path about which the Spirit whispered, " This is the way; I want you to walk in it!", we undo His perfect will in our lives. We still love Him, we trust Him for our salvation, but I think we fall well short of the glory He wants to reveal through us. What would have happened if Job had cursed the Lord and died like his wife advised, or caved in to the poor preaching of his friends that he might find acceptance? We would be without the incredible and invaluable revelation that God shared through Job's life and faith! His Word to us is we must have patient endurance that we be strengthened and perfected in our faith.
The Father is about the business of establishing His kingdom on earth. I believe the book of Nehemiah is an illustration of that work amidst obstacles and enemies, so that the building of the wall around Jerusalem was accomplished with workers holding a tool in one hand to build, and a weapon in the other to fend off the enemy. As I have grown up in the Lord, particularly for the last 12 years when I have been under leadership that has indeed fought the good fight of faith, I have been amazed to understand the great tools satan has to frustrate the work of God! If He can discourage us, get us to doubt God, he can effectively take us off the work crew! He can cause dissension through offense which is so easy with us humans, and break up the work crew. God works through the assembly of believers into groups and organizations ( like Nehemiah!) ordered into hierarchies with specific assignments; but like a well placed footstep can destroy the organizational structure of an ant colony, discouragement stomps on the faith in a vision that holds a church or ministry together. Our defensive weapon is faith in God to fulfill His promises; it's our shield against fiery darts and our sword to wield His power against our enemy. The work of the kingdom of God does not continue without faith. There is work that goes forth without faith that though apparently religious, does not further the heavenly kingdom.
In conclusion, the Lord is the author and finisher of your faith, and your faith is crucial to your revealing His glory and your participating fully in the edification and perfection of His body. To resist discouragement and disillusionment, your faith must be strong that you believe in He whom God has sent. Be patient and understand the testing and trying of your faith is precious and crucial so that His kingdom might come and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven! Theo