I’m sure all Christians would passionately insist they want to please God, but how many of us REALLY consider what the following means?
…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Heb 11) NIV
Most Christians would have no problem with the first part of that statement. The belief that God exists would be such a basic, undeniable thing that we might risk skimming over the next condition given in the quote. “That He rewards those who earnestly (or diligently) seek Him”.
Do we REALLY believe in God’s rewards as much as we believe in His existence? That He really rewards those who seek Him? OR do we spend more time trying to excuse our lack of reward – because we don’t want to admit that our seeking hasn’t exactly been earnest?
Please let me point something out – there are no escape clauses in that particular promise, and it does NOT suggest that God might be a denier of reward to those who earnestly seek Him.
This is an issue we NEED to take seriously. God promises to reward for a reason, and it is foolish, if not dangerous to push aside His promise.
His rewards relate to equipping and empowering His children for service. To deny ourselves His reward is to more or less to say we aren’t interested in serving Him, or that we are satisfied in serving Him in our own strength and abilities rather than His.
But beyond that, faith is NOT something we can take lightly. It’s something that we NEED to understand and exercise. It is at the heart of the message of the gospel, and the way that salvation became accessible to the Gentiles.
Paul wrote to the Romans saying that Israel failed to obtain righteousness because they pursued it through the Law, but a righteousness through faith has been obtained by the Gentiles. However, how can we assume that we HAVE obtained that righteousness by faith IF we fail (even refuse) to believe God and His word, which is the very foundation of faith in Him?
Believing in God’s existence, or even believing that Jesus died for our sins, is not enough IF we are rejecting everything else that God has made evident in His word. Faith in God needs to be far reaching, trusting Him in (and for) everything, not just to provide a get out of hell free card.
In Psalm 103 the Psalmist commands his innermost being to not forget any of God’s benefits. Those benefits are not due to some divine whim of God, that we can accept or not. He provides them for a reason, which is why none of them should be forgotten.
Paul said that Israel failed because they pursued righteousness through the Law. And yet it was God Himself who gave them that Law. Isn’t that unfair ?
I admit I was puzzled by that until I saw something in Jeremiah that shed a little light.
…when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices,
but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. (Jer 7) NIV
Israel were picking and choosing parts of the Law instead of heeding ALL of it. In particular they were happy to obey and practice the sacrifices, the burnt offerings given for atonement for their sin – but not the other aspects of obedience that would have prevented sin and made the offerings unnecessary.
In effect they were acting as if sin did not matter to God because they expected the relevant burnt offering would erase it’s consequences.
They didn’t take the WHOLE law seriously to the extent that they thought it wasn’t necessary to even try – as long as they could cover up their sin with the designated offering.
In the same way that Israel failed to obtain righteousness through a selective obedience, could professing believers today, who assume they obtain righteousness thorough faith also be in danger of missing out because their “faith” is no less selective?
They are happy to “believe in Him” (Jesus) so they “shall not perish but have eternal life”, and to be saved by grace through faith, but maybe aren’t so interested in being “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2).
Without faith it is impossible to please God.
So how selectively pleasing to Him are we willing to be?
Selective enough to avoid God’s rewards through which He shapes us as His handiwork, making us able to do those good works in His strength rather than attempting to do them in our own?