After Jesus fed the five thousand, the next day, they went in search of Christ, and when they found Him, the Lord said to them:
27Do 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.” 28Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent”(John 6:27-29).
The Lord’s heart went out to His people for their pursuing Him for daily food like He had multiplied the day before. He said, “Do not work for food that perishes [or spoils], but for food that endures to eternal life” (v. 27). The Lord was contrasting natural food, i.e., that for which we work, with spiritual food, which is given to us by the grace of God, not by our works. Spiritual food will benefit us for eternity. Eternal things require no work from us but to trust in the Son of God. Just as eating a large meal gives one a sense of feeling satisfied within, in the same way, we are to spend energy and labor pursuing the things that satisfy the soul, i.e., the person of Christ and His Word. Without this food that endures to eternal life, we feel empty and dissatisfied within.
We tend to spend more time at our commercial labor to give us large houses and brand-new cars, but living life chasing after material riches results in spiritual poverty. What a tragedy it would be to find at the end of our lives that we are weak in the things of God because we valued spending our time on our daily business, many of us going far beyond putting bread on the table rather than seeking to prosper in the things of God. This chasing after the wind was what I began to realize as a commercial fisherman. While I was still young, I began to question why I worked sixteen-hour days, six days a week, for more money than I needed or could spend. I felt like I was living to work rather than working to live, and even the things I bought did not bring me what I was seeking. I became aware of the barrenness of my soul, my inner life. I began to take months off from work at a time, searching for something to satisfy the emptiness in my soul. There was something within me, i.e., a missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle of life, an emptiness on which I could not get a handle.
The symptoms of my inner disharmony and emptiness were that I could not rest until I found whatever it was for which I was looking. This internal dissatisfaction was a gift of God and a good thing for my soul, and I will eternally be grateful to God for the emptiness I felt inside. These thoughts drove me to travel the world in search of something I was missing. When I was fifteen years old, I thought I would find fulfillment in life by being part of the "in" crowd, and then I'd feel like I'd made it. That didn't satisfy my inner emptiness. Then, it was to have a beautiful girlfriend and a cool motorbike to carry her on the back. Then, it was a car, a house, and even a commercial fishing boat with my brother. When those things didn't satisfy me, I turned to illegal drugs and traveled to different countries, but nothing satiated my inner thirst and hunger.
Prince Charles (Now King Charles) of England once spoke of his belief that “For all the advances of science, there remains deep in the soul, if I dare use that word, a persistent and unconscious anxiety that something is missing, some ingredient that makes life worth living." Perhaps this generation's most celebrated English columnist, Bernard Levin, once wrote about the void in his life. He said:
Countries like ours are full of people who have all the material comforts they desire, together with such non-material blessings as a happy family, and yet lead lives of quiet, and at times noisy, desperation, understanding nothing but the fact that there is a hole inside them and that however much food and drink they pour into it, however many motor cars and television sets they stuff it with, however many well-balanced children and loyal friends they parade around the edges of it…it aches.
If you have the honesty of heart to look within today, are you spiritually full or empty? If you are aware of the same emptiness of soul that I experienced when I was young, please, please, would you turn your heart toward home where your estranged Father is waiting. Keith Thomas
This meditation is a shortened version of the in-depth study: Jesus, the Bread of Heaven.
As quoted by Nicky Gumbel, Questions of Life, Published by Cook Ministry Publications. Page 13.