And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
The importance of faith cannot be understated. As the Hebrew author points out in today’s verse under consideration, one cannot please God without faith. Specifically, one’s faith in God must center on a belief not only that he exists but also “that he rewards those who seek him.”
Whether one truly believes that God rewards those who seek him is just as much a foundational building block of the Christian religion as one’s belief in God’s existence. I’ve encountered many professed Christians over the years who, when asked about their faith, claim to believe in God…and yet live lives not much different from those who deny God’s existence and have no motivation to uphold his standards. Why would anyone who says, “Yes, I believe there is a God,” or even, “Yes, I believe in the God of the Bible,” commit adultery, continually spew vulgarities from their mouths, always lie, steal from others, or be continually cruel to anyone (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Colossians 3:5-14)? Why would someone who has said, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God,” spend years without darkening the door of a church building for Sunday worship (Hebrews 10:25), never open a Bible (Psalm 1:1-2), and pray only as a last resort (Colossians 4:2)? Why would anyone who claims to believe in God deny what his Word says about the importance of repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38; 17:30; Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21)?
The answer is simple. They believe that God exists…but they don’t believe that “he rewards those who seek him.”
Satan’s logic is simple, deceptive, and very alluring. “I know the Bible says __________________, but let’s be real. You really don’t think God would punish you with an eternity in hell for something as insignificant and minor as that, do you? Come on!” He used this same line of attack on Eve, if you recall (Genesis 3:1-6). God had given a clear and understandable edict, but then Satan came along and basically said, “God didn’t really mean that. You can go ahead and do the opposite, and it’ll be okay.” Why did Eve give in? She didn’t truly believe what God said. She didn’t believe that God would reward her if she continued to seek him.
The book of James, immediately after Hebrews in the New Testament, sheds light on the importance of this aspect of faith which believes that God basically keeps his promises. James writes:
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” (James 2:14-20)
The works under discussion are basically acts of obedience to God’s will. Why does one choose to obey God? Because one truly believes God means what he says. When one reads in the Bible that the reward of heaven is waiting for the faithfully obedient child of God and the wages of sin is death in hell, and one also reads in one’s Bible that God wants us to do this and not do that, why would anyone choose to sin against God…if they truly believed that God means what he says? Indeed, I know that whenever I have chosen to sin – knowing ahead of time that God does not want me to do this – it is always because at that moment, I have chosen not to believe that God means what he says. Instead, I’ve deceived myself into thinking that God will make an exception for me…but he won’t unless I truly repent.
Thus, the Hebrew writer is spot on. Want to truly draw near to God? Really believe that he rewards those who seek him.