Word of the Month

Labour for the food which endures

February 2013

I would like to draw attention to a passage that has occupied my mind in recent days. The Lord Jesus once said: “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you” (John 6: 27).

The first few words caught my eye: “Labour for the food …” This sounds a little strange. We would hardly express it that way today. I think this is intended to convey something to the effect of “acquiring food”. This is already a little easier to understand. I checked to see how this passage has been translated into other languages, and in a more modern version it says: “Make an effort for the food …” This really gets to the heart of the matter: “Make an effort for the food which endures to everlasting life.”

The context can be quickly summarised. At the time, some 5,000 men (women and children were not counted) were fed with five loaves of bread and two fish. This was a miracle of multiplication which the Lord performed. A short time later the people came back to Him. He explained to them that, although He too had to provide for His physical wellbeing, the food that He had to give would endure far beyond the earthly. Then He gave them this counsel, namely to strive for the food that endures to everlasting life. I will apply this as follows in the present: let us put the earthly aside and make a greater effort for the food which does not perish, food that endures to everlasting life. This we receive from the Son of Man. It must be He who provides this food for us.

That is one aspect of the matter: it is the Son of God who provides us with the food that endures to everlasting life. However, there is also another aspect to consider: it also requires an effort on our part. Let us interpret this food as the word of God. This food that serves to everlasting life is the word of God which the Lord grants us in the divine services. Not everyone will be readily able to absorb this food for his or her soul. I would like to emphasise this! This word of God will only become food for our souls if we make an effort for it! This means that we must first of all have a longing for it. If we come to the divine services with the attitude: “Well let’s see what there is today”, we will lose our inner attachment to this word. Then we will not make much of an effort to take it in and we will not be able to get much out of the divine service.

It is quite different when we come with a longing in our heart for this food and say: “Dear God, now show me what I still lack.” If we have the desire to become truly rich in heavenly gifts in the divine service, we will indeed make an effort. We will even wrestle to ensure that the word of God really penetrates into the depth of our souls. Let us make an effort for this food which the Son of God gives us. This means that our souls must have a longing for it and that we must submit ourselves to the word of God. Beyond that we must always examine ourselves to see: “What is the direction the Lord is trying to give me for the time that lies ahead?”

We are often told that a divine service is also a collective affair. This is also true. It must be a collective endeavour, a collective struggle for the word of God. It is not a one-sided matter on the part of the minister who conducts the divine service! Rather it is a collective endeavour in which all must join together to wrestle and make an effort to absorb the word of God from above as food for our souls. May it be that we truly feel and perceive it to be food for our souls, so that this word may occupy our hearts and accompany us, and that we may draw the proper conclusions from it for our lives! Let us work with it in this manner.          

(From a divine service by the Chief Apostle)