Then they say 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 6:28-29—NIV)

This fascinating exchange occurred as the beneficiaries of the miraculous "feeding of the 5,000" went searching after, and found, Jesus on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They desired to crown Him king since they saw He could heal and feed. However Jesus was more concerned about soul sustenance.

Even as their attention continued on the "here and now", He instructed them to pursue "food which endures to everlasting life". Their immediate response was fully earth-centric. They asked what they must "go on doing", as the Greek text puts it. They wanted a quantifiable, legal description of a task to be habitually performed. Their quite obvious desire was to merit His consideration of their ultimate thirst to crown Him in Jerusalem, while enjoying His largess and protection from harm and ill. No other nation had such a king!

Our Savior’s response was in the form of a wise teaching. His words were carefully measured to move their focus, from earthly striving for legal, habitual acceptance, upwards to the heavenly reality of what it is that God is working. This God-work is out of their hands. It is God’s work to produce that which brings about soul-sustenance and merits audience with God.

That God-work is what produces the belief “in Him Whom He has sent.” Instead of a "legal work" habitually performed, He requires of them "forensic release", this work of God. Any kind of faith which must be ginned up from within is not saving faith. Saving faith is here presented as a gracious gift of the working of God wherein the believer is made alive with simple trust in the finished work of Christ as its object. It is apart from any need for evidentiary facts of personal merit, or further proof of Christ’s worthiness (which the crowd continued to request as the chapter unfolds).

How fitting it is for us to consider what sort of "faith" we perceive within ourselves! Is your hope of eternal life one which must be constantly shored up in storms of eroding doubt with evidences of performed goodness, arguments of soul-merit, and confidence in some personal act performed long ago? Be careful that your rest is not founded in works of flesh which will fail you. Rest your soul care in the everlasting arms, cease from the striving and instead labor on in Divine partnership with supreme confidence "that He Who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ". This alone is saving faith.