Faith is essential to pleasing God, and it is essential to salvation.
The Scriptures have quite a bit to say about this: “With the heart one believes into righteousness (Romans 10:17a),” and, “he who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16a).” We also read, “Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6a).” Clearly, faith, defined as “that which we believe to be true,” is an essential and vital Christian quality.
That being said, let us take a moment to consider more closely Hebrews 11:6… “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who would draw near to God must believe that He exists, and that He is rewards those who seek Him.”
Faith, undirected and unqualified, is insufficient to please God. That is, generally believing in anything and everything does not make God happy. The faith that God desires is of a distinct and particular nature.
For instance, faith in Zeus or Baal or Thor or Buddha or any of a thousand other idols and deities is not going to make our God happy, for God has told us, “You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).” The faith that God desires believes that He exists, and that He is God. It is a faith which embraces the Divine Creator revealed in the Scriptures, and which worships Him and Him alone, singing with His angels, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created (Revelation 4:11; ESV).”
Without that particular core belief, our faith is going to be inconsequential and counterproductive. Rather than being a faith that pleases God, like the faith of any idolater, it is going to anger God and bring His judgment. Faith brings life… if it is the faith God is looking for.
Which brings us to the second qualification of faith found in the text. God will only be pleased by those who believe He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
There are those few who, believing in God, nevertheless doubt His inclination to reward men. Such cannot and will not be pleasing to God, for they doubt His love and tender mercies, and will consequently fail to apply the lessons of the same to their own lives, or else they will lack the motivation to follow the commands of God.
There are many more who go to the other extreme and believe that God rewards everyone, or nearly everyone. But such a faith is likewise not the faith that God is looking for. If you think that God will reward you apart from your own behavior, then your faith must be based on something other than God’s revealed word, which teaches otherwise, and your faith is going to fail in pleasing God.
God specifically wants a faith that believes He rewards those who seek Him. The action of seeking God, actively and diligently trying to establish a relationship with God, and understand Him, is central to what God wants in His creation. As Paul told the Athenians, God has made man from one blood, and placed us here upon the earth, so that we should seek Him (cf. Acts 17:26-27).
God also wants a faith in the particular reward(s) He has promised. The man who believes God will reward Him with a million dollars simply for asking for the same is in error (cf. James 4:2-3). What God has offered as a reward to His servants is very specific. Jesus has a place prepared for His followers (cf. John 14:1-4) and those who seek for glory, honor and immortality will from God reap eternal life (cf. Romans 2:7).
The one who believes that God rewards those who seek Him, and who believes that the reward is eternal life, should be motivated to seek. They will be like Paul who said, “I count all things as loss for the sake of knowing Christ my Lord,” and who, with faith in Christ, sought diligently to become a partaker in the Lord’s resurrection (cf. Philippians 3:7-11). And if one is not actively and diligently seeking for God in Christ, then it is fair to ask whether they truly believe that God is a rewarder of those who do seek after Him.
Faith is essential to pleasing God, but we must always remember the unique and particular qualities of that faith He commends and commands: it is a faith that believes in Him and His word, and it is a faith that actively seeks to be pleasing to God through obedience to His word.
If you have a heart that desires to seek after God, the church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions or comments, we invite you to share them with us at chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.