I recently embarked on yet another outdoor adventure without full comprehending its formidable nature. In short, I intended to ride my mountain bike from downtown Colorado Springs to Palmer Lake. I was familiar with about thirty miles of the route, but did not anticipate the additional twenty-three miles that it would wield against me. I also did not foresee the incessant headwind that would berate my mind and body.
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval (John 6:27).
Though I was already tired from an eighteen-mile ride the previous day, I set out determined to conquer the unknown. Considering the conditions, including the gradual ascent to the lake, the northbound half of the ride was quite challenging. I overcame it mentally, however, by anticipating a tail wind and gradual descent for the return trip, as well as the Nature Valley bar in my back jersey pocket waiting to be eaten. While the latter two elements did aid me in my journey, the former did not. As midmorning approached, the wind altered its course against me.
For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (John 6:33)
I felt my body quickly tiring. At the point where the Santa Fe Trail meets the Pike’s Peak Greenway Trail, near the Woodman Road overpass, the last reserve of my energy dissipated. I stopped to lie down on a bench, desperately hoping that the respite would rejuvenate my body for the remaining eight miles of the journey. However, my whole upper body began to go numb. My blood sugar was very low. I asked an elderly couple if they had any food to spare, but they did not have anything accessible. Not recognizing any better option but to try to mentally push through the physical exhaustion, I got back on the bike.
I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35b).
There is a time when weariness is not rooted in psychology. It is a fascinating, humbling, and sometimes unsettling physiological limit to reach. In one sense—at least in retrospect—I welcome such circumstances. I learn from them. At a fundamental level, I learn to take certain precautions for future endeavors. Yet, at a deeper level I learn or am reminded of certain truths concerning my relationship with God. Lately, the common lesson has pertained to YHWH’s empowerment and provision.
I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life (John 6:47-48).
Soon after leaving the bench, I knew I was in trouble. The “pins-and-needles” sensation overwhelmed my whole upper body. Having no phone or wallet with me, my remaining options were to solicit a ride from a stranger or finish the journey through sheer willpower. Thankfully, another solution soon presented itself as a familiar restaurant suddenly came into view. I recalled how this particular restaurant serves bread before the meal, and wondered whether an employee would be willing to give me one of those small loaves. Concentrating on my enunciation due to a half-numb face, I therefore briefly explained the situation to a kind hostess. She understood immediately, and then proceeded to offer me a warm loaf of bread along with some water. I took this manna from heaven outside then proceeded to slowly replenish my body.
But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (John 6:50-51).
Once finished, I got back on the bike—somewhat uncertainly at first—but then proceeded to ride the remaining eight miles in full strength. I even passed a young road cyclist along the way. Though certainly tired, I managed to return home with dignity. I was definitely ready for more food, and my legs and digestive track were a bit worn the following four days; yet by God’s grace I completed what I set out to do. I overcame the trail, and I overcame my human limitations. Without YHWH’s provision, I am not sure that I would have made it. Without His empowering, I would have likely succumbed to defeat.
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever (John 6:57-58).
Though I initially thought of Jesus’ “I am the bread of life” statement with a sense of reverent irony, the empowering implications of the Word in John 6 quickly extended beyond my morning trial to other areas of my life. Before making any personal application, though, I would first like to provide some brief context. The main issue in John 6 is unbelief: the crowd’s failure to truly understand the deeper significance of the Torah, Moses, and the exodus. Jesus speaks not only of fulfilling the Law, but also of his purpose in leading Israel and the world out of spiritual bondage (1). The crowd does not struggle as much with the possibility of persecution—they were already living in a state of Roman repression—but with the very words of Jesus. This leads many to abandon him at this point in his ministry. "Abiding and abandoning are both responses to Jesus’ words . . . Most of the disciples were willing to accept Jesus as a worker of wonders but not as the logos of God, His authorized emissary, the revealer. This is the real test of the disciple: 'If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples' (8:31)" (2).
One of the fundamental ways the enemy seeks to inhibit the progress of the Kingdom is to compromise the confidence of its emissaries. When too much doubt or fear arises, an individual or community is more likely to retreat, divert its course, or simply stop moving. In the face of such attacks, the challenge is to persevere in faith and hope. There are some instances when doubt or fear can be beneficial to the Believer’s growth; however, if doubt or fear presses against the course that God has clearly set before him or her then the better response may be to find the means to overcome such barriers and press on.
Culpepper goes on to write that “In the economy of the Fourth Gospel true bread cannot be bought, it can only be given and received. After the feeding, the fragments are collected in twelve baskets, perhaps indicating that unlike the manna, which was perishable, the bread which Jesus gives does not perish” (3). There is nothing people can do to warrant such nourishment. It is simply a blessed gift to receive and then share with others. Bread is, therefore, an important metaphor for understanding Jesus’ identity. “The theme of bread from heaven is used to affirm Jesus’ origin from above and the superiority of the bread Jesus offers (grace and truth) over the bread Moses gave (Law)” (4).
Having experience the power that even a small loaf of bread can give, let alone the eternal life-giving bread that Jesus offers daily through his Word, Spirit, and Body (the Church), this truth encourages me to continue in the direction I now follow. The direction involves various facets that I have discussed in brief or at great length during the last few years. I do not know how far the road will go before the nature of the destination will become clearer, but I trust that YHWH will continue to provide the means necessary to reach it. I do not know how many barriers or landmarks there will be along the way, but I find solace and confidence in what is already known. In other words, though tomorrow wields numerous uncertainties, I seek to live thankful for the certainties of today. I wonder if this is the best that any of us can do. While the Kingdom of Heaven will one day arrive in full, its standard has already been given and its boundaries expanded for nearly two millennia. How we as Believers live with such truth is an important choice to consider. To God be all glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Thank you for your prayers regarding the team leader who is undergoing cancer treatment. Though he struggles with weariness at times, he maintains an enthusiastic and hopeful attitude as his body continues to heal and the Berlin trip approaches. Another blessing is that his community has provided the means necessary for his support to reach 100% for the trip. Praise God.
Another blessing is that nearly every MILL team—of which there are seventeen (5 Egypt teams, 4 Germany teams, 4 India teams, and 4 Peru teams)—has reached the 50% mark for funds raised. A few teams have even reached the 68-70% margin. Though the 75% deadline approaches this Friday, April 23, everyone is encouraged by such progress. We all trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in theMILL Missions and will provide for all its needs. Nonetheless, we value your prayers; for they serve to strengthen what can be done in the Kingdom, including fundraising.
Thank you also for your support. I am blessed to have such a community behind me. Through your prayers and generous giving, 67% of my funds have been raised. Your spiritual and practical support plays a significant role in making my involvement in theMILL Missions possible. Thank you so very much. May God bless you and keep you. May His face shine down upon you, and give you peace. Now and forevermore, Amen.
If you wish to give financially, please go to www.newlifechurch.org and follow the link on the bottom right titled “Giving.” You will then need to create an account. Once that is complete, select “Germany Missions 2010—theMILL” for Fund, and “Joshua Grubb” for Sub Fund.
You can also write a check to New Life Church. Please include “Joshua Grubb, theMILL Missions: Germany” on the subject line. The mailing address is below:
11025 Voyager Pkwy
Colorado Springs, CO 80921
1. Culpepper, Alan R. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design. Fortress Press: Philadelphia (1983), 91-92.
2. -----, 117. It is interesting to note that there is no mention of Jesus actually teaching the crowd until later in chapter six when he arrives at the synagogue in Capernaum. What is important to note, then, is that the crowds had mostly gathered around Jesus because of the signs or miracles he had performed. Chapter six, therefore, is an important shift in Jesus’ engagement with his followers as he begins to explain the significance of those signs (see 131).
3. -----, 195.
4. -----, 196.