“Without faith, it is impossible to please God. He that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him.”
This verse is loaded with principles. “He that comes to God” is a reference to prayer, whether one is coming for salvation or for some need. But the focus of prayer here is not on diligently seeking things – even noble things. It is on seeking “Him.” Most of the prayer effort of American Christians is an attempt to gain something from God, rather than laying hold of God.
Second, the disposition of the believer in this faith-driven, prayer-pursuit of God is quite different than our customary thinking. We see prayer and faith as the means by which we get God to please us. Our equation is that more prayer with more faith will harvest more answers in our favor. Prayer, for us, is about some acquisition. The emphasis here is the precise opposite. This is not faith that seeks pleasure from God, it is faith that seeks to please God. You are growing in your prayer life, when the cry becomes, “Father, I want to please you today!” And when the Father whispers, “That is my son … my daughter … I am so proud of them!” Heaven smiles. Hell fears. Prayer is no longer the context for transactions with God; so much as it is the relationship for transformation by God.
Third, notice that coming to God here is wrapped in faith. “Without faith” … “he that comes to God, must believe.” Faith is found on both sides of the approach to God. What then is the objective of faith? What must the believer believe? There are two things mentioned, but three implied. First, we must believe that “he is.” He exists. We are not talking to the walls. Second, we must believe that he is able to answer – that is implied by the term ‘reward.’ Third, the description of God as a rewarder suggests that He is a good God. He is arbitrary. He is not capricious. As believers, we do not struggle with faith in the existence of God – not usually. Nor do we struggle with faith in the ability of God. And herein is the problem. We struggle with faith in the character of God. If he exists – and He does; and if He is able to answer and meet needs – and He is; then, why are my prayers not answered? If he could, but he won’t – here is the character struggle.
From Genesis onward, the question of the Evil One is “Hath God said?” And his attack is always most effectively aimed at the character of God. “O, He told you that – did He? Well, He is holding out on you. He knows that in the day you eat of that fruit your eyes will be opened. You will be like Him.
You will no longer be under his thumb! You can’t trust him.” All the “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” in this world, with or without the finger-prints of the Evil One, is designed for one reason – to separate us from the love of God.
We do not have a ‘faith problem’ in prayer. We have a ‘love problem.’ Faith, you see, works by love. If I sense the love of God, if I am convinced in my heart, and not merely my head, that he loves me – then I am more than a conqueror! Consistently in prayer, we must learn to push back our driven need to rush into “God help me!” prayers. They are often only the noises we are making at the noises in our own hearts. They are frantic and faithless.
Those in ministry must learn to push back at the temptation to pray frantic “God use me!” prayers. And then, with earnestness, we must pray a simple but profound prayer, “God, I know that you love me!” You must pray it until you feel it. You must pray it until it settles into your heart. “He loves me! He really loves me! God loves me!” With that reality, comes deep peace and unspeakable joy. This is prayer’s true longing. To such reality, we must whisper back to heaven, “And I love you with all my heart, and all my soul and all my might!”
Now, take inventory. With a settled sense of God’s love, with a distinct awareness of his presence, sealed in a fortress of peace and experiencing a well-spring of joy – where are the frantic God help me pleas? Vaporized. It is not that working systematically through a list of unresolved personal needs is illegitimate – quite the opposite. Prayer’s purpose is to consider the will and wisdom of God for such needs, over an open Bible – but always in the context of his loving presence, never with fear raging at the door.
The brother of Jesus said we should edify or strengthen ourselves. How do we do that? By “praying in the Holy Spirit.” And how do we accomplish that with such effectiveness that prayer contributes to our inner strength and a personal sense of empowerment? We pray, “keeping ourselves in God’s love”.
Jesus, in Mt. 6 says there is a “reward” for praying. And the writer of Hebrews mentions God as a “rewarder” in connection with prayer. Dear friends, answers and rewards are not the same. God answers prayers. But the real pay-off is beyond answers. It is found in rewards. Rewards are what God provides when we “seek Him,” when the whole of our being is to “please him.”
Most of the time, we don’t even know what to ask for – and yet we should ask, we must ask. But when we ask, and yield to his will and way, he often gives, not what we would choose, but something much wiser, much greater, the unspoken desires of our own heart – not the flesh that would long for the tangible – but the heart, that longs for the godly. These rewards are beyond our imaginations.
Jesus said that we meet God in the secret place – but He rewards openly.
Public encounters with God, pay-offs that were not on our radar screen, are tied to the discipline of personal daily time that goes after God Himself.
In Hebrews, the word for ‘rewards’ can mean to be ‘placed on the payroll.’
We came to God looking for a loan. But we pleased Him; and He put us on His payroll.