Why Do You Follow Jesus?
And when they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man will give you, because God the Father has set his seal on him.” Then they said to him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he sent” (John 6:25–29).
Why do you follow Jesus? Be careful, because the first answer you’re likely to give may come more from what you were taught to say or what you’d like to be able to say, rather than the truth that is in your heart. I know that’s a tough statement, but I have recently had to struggle myself with how I answer that question. In the text above, Jesus challenges his followers to examine their hearts and see why they were pursuing him so.
The first challenge in this text is Jesus’ admonition that people are only following him because when they are hungry, he feeds them. In this way Jesus becomes a means to their own ends. If we hang around Jesus long enough, surely he’ll have mercy on us, do another clever miracle, and we’ll all get a great meal. The same can be said for those who came to him to be healed. They were interested in what Jesus could do for them, what need he could meet or what malady he could cure. They came because of what Jesus did, not because of who he was.
Do we struggle with the same thing today? Do we follow Jesus because of what he is able to do for us? Do our prayers reflect our love for him or our thirst for what we need him to do for us?
There is a second challenge hidden in this tough text. At the end the disciples ask Jesus what they have to do in order to accomplish God’s work on earth. In their desire to do the works of God, they ask Jesus for a checklist—a to-do list, if you will—that they can tick off to satisfy themselves that they are doing God’s work. Here the focus shifts from what Jesus can do for us to what we can do for Jesus. He says simply, “Believe in him who he sent.” That’s it. The greatest work we will ever do for the sake of the kingdom of God is to believe, really believe with our whole heart, in who Jesus Christ is.
If this is true, we need to ask ourselves how much of our time do we spend focusing on those things that we can check off a list and how much time do we spend growing more intimately in love with God and growing our faith in the one he sent?
Both lessons remind us that God is more concerned with who we are (and who we are becoming in him) than in what we do. He wants us to love him for who he is and respond with a deep, growing, and abiding faith and trust in him. If those priorities do not make their way to the top of our goals and ambitions, we will miss the greatest gift ever given to humanity.
I challenge you to consider your prayer life. To what extent has it become the means to your own ends? Do you love him, serve him, and follow him because of who he is, or has a self-serving spirit found its way into your prayer life? Do we love and follow Jesus because of all the mighty things he does or because of who he is?
Lay this before God and ask for Him to help you keep the right attitude in your walk with Christ.