Why do you choose to follow Jesus?
Do you pursue Jesus so that you will have wealth? Do you seek to be free from loneliness by joining yourself to a church? Do you seek to be honored and respected?
I read things all the time from people who say that God intends for us to be wealthy and happy and a lot of other nonsense. God does not want us possess mere happiness—he wants us to have joy. The joy of the Lord transcends circumstance and is part of an abundant life. True riches are found in Christ and cannot be altered by the government, stock markets, or thieves.
Why do you seek Jesus?
In John 6, Jesus performs an amazing miracle. He takes five loaves of bread and two little fish and feeds a crowd of five thousand men, not including women and children. After everyone has eaten their fill, His disciples collect twelve baskets of leftovers. With their bellies full and their eyes amazed, the people in the crowd consider taking Jesus “by force to make Him King.” (John 6.17)
Further on in the passage, their minds still full with dreams of endless bread, they chase Him down to Capernaum:
On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.
So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
~ John 6.22-27, ESV, emphasis mine
In spite of all Jesus had taught and the miracles He had performed, these people were still stuck on their stomachs. They wanted a king who would feed them so their labor could be put toward their other desires (if they even desired to work at all). If Jesus could do such a miracle, He could likely overthrow the Roman rule they despised. Their hearts were focused on the physical, but Jesus turned their minds to the spiritual. He teaches them some difficult truths in the remaining verses of the chapter. When they hear these things (and also realize that He has no intention of becoming an earthly king nor feeding them breakfast), John records that they “turned back and no longer walked with Him.”
If we seek Jesus in order to have physical abundance, we are seeking Him for all the wrong reasons. The rich young ruler sought Jesus, but when Jesus asked Him to forsake His wealth, he turned and walked away. Jesus tested the young man, and He failed miserably. It is possible to have earthly abundance, but if you are given such, God expects you to use it to fulfill His purpose.
“Do not work for the food that perishes…”
Some will abuse this passage by saying that we should not work. On the contrary, the scriptures encourage us to be diligent workers, laboring “as unto the Lord and not men.” If you want to have wealth, put your boots on, hit the pavement, and work. Does that mean that disaster will not strike? Does it mean the stock market will never crash? Does it mean hyper-inflation will never rob you of your hard-earned cash?
My friends, these things are all temporary. Someday they will perish.
“[Work] for the food that endures to eternal life.”
This ought to be our primary purpose for seeking Jesus: eternal life. History bears out the fate of the early Christians: imprisonment, torture, stoning, poverty, ridicule, isolation, abuse, crucifixion, lion feed, and humiliation. It doesn’t sound like what we would consider an abundant life. On the other hand, the people who witnessed their fate observed inner peace, strength under fire, love without measure, and a joy that transcended circumstance. The Christians possessed a quality that piqued the interest of non-believers—they reflected Jesus.
Do you want to have that abundant life?
Ask yourself, “Why do I seek Jesus?”
Do you seek Jesus to fill your belly or to satisfy your soul forever?