“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6, NKJV)
If you are like me, and you have years of experience listening to sermons from a multitude of preachers, you've probably heard this scripture quoted before. You probably heard it said like this, “Without faith it is impossible to please God. So if you don't trust God, you have little or no faith.”
And then they follow it up with, “Jesus rebuked those who had little faith. So, you have got to work on your faith.” Have you ever heard this before? To make matters worse, I've even heard them go so far as to say, “Are you pleasing God with what you do?”
I've heard this on more than one occasion many years ago and from several preachers. At the time I heard it I reasoned that since I encountered this sermon before from different people at different times and places, it must be true. When I was a young Christian I wanted to have more faith. I wanted to be pleasing to God. I read several books about faith. I heard many sermons about faith. I truly wanted more faith, so I diligently sought after God so that I could be more pleasing to Him.
I didn't realize it at the time but my efforts to increase my faith and seek after God only led to disappointment. The disappointment didn't come from not finding God; rather it came from my perceived failure to please God. I was always judgemental toward myself and my lack of spiritual growth. I thought that I could always do better in many areas of my life.
Later in life I was critical of myself for the lack of faith in certain circumstances. The area that caused the most pain in my life was my lack of faith concerning finances. I reasoned that because I was afraid to tithe or sow my finances I didn't have enough faith. And I assumed through the voice of past sermons that because I didn't have enough faith in the realm of finances my life was not pleasing God.
Perhaps your current situation is similar to what mine was, except it might not be in the realm of finances, but in the area of healing, relationships, spiritual growth, or just trusting God's direction. In either case, our goal is to have faith and to be pleasing to God. However, wrong thinking led me down a road that was never meant to be taken.
The human mind has the capacity to build thought upon thought and it can descend into negative thinking. In the world of psychology this is called “spiral thinking.” Professional therapists know that this spiral thinking often leads to depression or negative self-image. If educated professionals can reason this out, then you can be sure that the devil knows this information as well. This gives the enemy an edge to cause destructive thinking in the human life, by suggesting a thought. All that he has to do is get the thought process started and then our own human mind takes over from there.
Rest assured that God knows this information as well. That's why He said in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” God knows that if you take the first thought captive then it diminishes the chance of spiral thinking from ever occurring.
Romans 12:2 says, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” By virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ we are spiritually equipped to be renewed in the mind and transformed by this renewing. The first step in being transformed takes place when we comprehend God's Word more clearly so that the renewing of the mind can take place.
It took me many long years of mental and emotional suffering before I came to my senses. I got tired of constantly judging myself and my lack of faith. I truly wanted to be pleasing to God. Then one day I began reading the Bible with great intent. I immersed myself into the very scriptures that I felt were beyond my standards (Hebrew 11:3-6). I put aside what I've been taught about that passage and tried to understand it anew.
Looking at that scripture I considered the context, cultural background, the author who wrote it, who he wrote it for, and what the subject was all about. This is what I found. Paul, a Jewish scholar and the author of Hebrews, was writing to a Jewish audience. Right away this tells me that whatever he is about to say about faith should be regarded from the context of the Jewish culture.
The entire book of Hebrews is meant to relay the story of redemption and atonement through Christ; referencing the cultural understanding of priests, the Law, covenant and men of faith. The book lays the grounds for the priestly ministry of Christ. In Chapter 1 Paul shows Christ's superiority to all of creation. In Chapter 2 he speaks of Christ's role in salvation. Chapter 3, he goes on to show that Jesus is greater than Moses. Chapter 4 is about the believer's rest though Christ. Chapter 5 is showing that Jesus is the perfect High priest. Chapter 6 is a warning about falling away, or rejecting the grace of God. Chapter 7 is a comparison to Melchizedek. Chapter 8 speaks of the superiority of the New Covenant. Chapter 9 is about the meaning of the mediator's death. Chapter 10 is the perfection of His death and the fulfillment of the Law. Chapter 11 is a faith chapter and shows how it played a role in people's lives. Chapter 12 is about Jesus as our example and finally chapter 13 is a summary of Jesus, the one who never changes.
The overall theme of Hebrews illustrates that faith in Christ and His redemptive work is where salvation comes from. The big picture shows that Christ's faith pleases God and that our acceptance of Christ, or our faith in Christ, is pleasing to God. By the time Paul gets to Chapter 11:6 the faith he is speaking of is the kind that believes that God does exist and that He is exactly who He says He is. Why does Paul then say, “Without faith it is impossible to please God?” Because it takes faith to believe that Jesus is the embodiment of the unseen God who became the priest that atoned for our sins. He said it to show that it pleases God to believe in Christ; to encourage Jewish people, who like us, want to please God too.
After examining scriptures closely I acknowledge that it takes faith to believe that Christ is my atonement, and because I believe, it pleases God. In this context faith does not equate to trusting God as some preachers would suggest. Therefore you cannot conclude, after considering the whole book of Hebrews that faith is about you trusting God in various situations. The underlying meaning of the book of Hebrews shows that God understands that we are not always capable of pleasing Him; this is why He sent Jesus to fulfill the Law on our behalf, so that through Christ's sacrifice we become pleasing to Him.
As Christ represents mankind before the Father, we, by virtue of having faith in Him, inherit all the good things that Christ deserves. The Father sees us through Christ and we are pleasing to Him. Jesus' faith becomes our faith, and that too is the faith that is pleasing to the Father.
Let us all aspire to consider scriptures in greater detail so that our mind is renewed. Understanding God's Word more clearly will translate into being transformed into the image of Christ, the very person whom we seek after. This pleases the Father.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 tells us “…bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” This means we take the thoughts that come into our mind and subject them to Christ's obedience, because it is His obedience that pleases God. Christ's obedience and Christ's faith is our assurance that transformation can take place; it is our assurance that we are pleasing to the Father. Choosing Christ is pleasing to God.
Hebrews 11:6, NKJV
Check out Joshua Ray’s book "Your Church Won't Teach You This: Get the Inside Scoop on Interpreting the Bible" on amazon.com. For further reading about renewing the mind Joshua Ray will be publishing a book series on amazon.com called “Renewing the mind.” Watch for his book release next month.
Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Faith News Niagara and Joshua Ray are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.
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My efforts to increase my faith led to disappointment... not from finding God; rather it came from my perceived failure to please God.
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