In this passage in The Gospel of John, Jesus is trying to communicate the true nature of God’s work. The disciples think it is performing miracles – healing people and providing food out of thin air. In short, they think it is circumstantial. They are asking, “How do we gain the ability to produce the outcomes you produce?”

Which is, in the end, the right question. But they are thinking about it from the wrong angle. They think “outcomes” are synonymous with “circumstances”. And Jesus tells them “outcome”, in this sense, is synonymous with belief. 

The result of participation in God’s Kingdom is not that we will learn how to manipulate circumstances, people, or emotions. It is that we will believe. Trust is the true end, the real treasure.

The work of God is ushering people toward trusting Him. Toward love. Toward belief.

From a superficial standpoint, this is a bit of a bummer because it is acknowledging there will be suffering. There will be trouble. But in a spiritual sense, this is freeing because it is telling us we do not have to master any circumstance or setting. God is available through it all. Your suffering ushers you to God. Your success, properly perceived, ushers you toward God. All we encounter, all we are, and all we do is meant to be a catalyst to push us into further relationship with the God of the Universe. And, by extension, each other.

“Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”
– John 6:26-29