We’ve probably all had that friend; the one who we eventually realize only liked our Xbox, pool, or toys. Maybe you were that friend at some point. We know what it’s like to use and be used. The realization that people only like you for what you can give them, rather than for who you are, stabs at the core of who we are. However, how often do we treat Jesus that way? We like the gifts He can give us, but only if He stays in our box of all things convenient. As soon as He begins to break out of that box and challenge the way we live, His gifts no longer seem so sweet.
Jesus feeding the five thousand is a familiar story for many (John 6). How many Vacation Bible School weeks have we based on the miraculous works of those fish sandwiches? What draws less attention is the conversation that takes place shortly after. After Jesus and His disciples crossed to the other side of the sea, the crowd found Him, seeking more. He called them out for seeking His gifts rather than Him. Though they do not understand, He is not angry with them. He invites them to accept the eternal food He offers.
No matter how clearly He spelled it out for them, the crowd did not understand the message He was trying to give them. They were so focused on the Wonder bread that would satisfy them in the moment that they completely missed the eternal life He was trying to tell them about.
I see this in my own life. The idols that steal my thoughts and time away from the Lord aren’t always bad things. I deeply desire to be married, which is a beautiful, God-given gift. But when that desire takes precedence over my relationship with God, it becomes a bad thing. The crowd wanting food was not a bad thing, but they couldn’t see past the tangible. Jesus chose to challenge them to see what He was trying to give them. He did not give them the food they desired, similarly to how He won’t satisfy my desire to be married until it is in its proper place: below my desire for Him.
He does not always do what we want or what we see as best, but He does more. If earthly fathers give much to their children despite their brokenness, how much more will our Father in heaven give us? (Matthew 7:11). The bread we see in front of us looks delicious, but what is momentary satisfaction in comparison to eternal life in heaven with God who loves us?
When things in our life begin to go south, we ask Him to give us a sign that He still loves us and is still there. Just as the crowd in John 6 reminded Jesus of the manna from heaven their ancestors asked for, we often ask God to do certain things. We pray for outcomes rather than His will to be done. Rather than asking for the desires of my heart to match the desires of His heart, I will ask Him to change a guy’s heart to like me. I wish that wasn’t true, but I’ve been caught praying for specific outcomes. They needed food right then, just as the pain we feel is right now. It’s hard to see situations with a heaven focus because eternal life is so far away.
As hard as it is to swallow, sometimes it takes the loss of everything we have to make us realize God is the only thing we need. Though He gives us gifts and provides for us what we need, the only thing we truly need is who He is. We worship Him for what He’s done, what He does, and what He will do rather than who He is. It’s not bad to praise Him for these things, but when the answers and gifts He gives us don’t match what we want, that cannot alter the way we praise Him. We don’t realize that what we want is actually going to kill us. Anything but Jesus will satisfy us for a short while, but eventually we will die. Jesus is the only source of eternal life and true satisfaction.
He is not going to let you settle for a small Jesus. He wants you to accept the whole fullness of Jesus. He is not in the business of building your kingdom, but that’s often what our prayer life reflects. When something comes up in life, we are more like to walk away from life if we’ve been living with Jesus in a box. My question to you is this:
Where else are you going to go?
Let Jesus break out of the box and accept the eternal life He is offering you.