[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. —Hebrews 11:6
Hebrews 11 is familiar to most Christians as the faith chapter. It first defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). Then it follows the testimony of faithful witnesses who received the gift of faith and acted boldly in the conviction that God exists and whatever He says is true. Christians living by faith have much to learn from the imperfect, yet faithful, lovers of God commended in Hebrews 11. How did they know it was God speaking to them? How could they act with such confidence?
True Faith Is a Gift of God’s Love and Grace
The assurance and conviction that is true faith and is pleasing to God has its beginning with Him. Faith is a gift of grace God gives to us out of His love. A person could think that their self-confidence, imaginings, positive thinking, or risk-taking constitute faith. But these are only counterfeits to God-given faith. Without God’s sovereign grace and love, every person is spiritually dead. We cannot, by our own strength, give ourselves spiritual ears to hear God’s Word, eyes to see Him, or a heart of faith to trust Him. Our deadness in sin prevents us from believing that God exists—
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:4-9).
True Faith Believes God Is
God takes pleasure when His gift of faith in us is exercised by drawing near to Him. He is pleased when you believe that He is the one true God who exists eternally. As Francis Schaeffer says, “Faith turns on the reality of God’s existence….We must never forget that the first part of the Gospel is not ‘accept Christ as Savior’ but ‘God is there’” (The God Who is There, 163).
As we draw near to God, He opens our ears to hear His Word with the deep conviction and assurance that He is true to every word and every promise He has made. We begin to hear His welcoming voice. Through Scripture He calls to us, saying, “Come to me, draw near to me, find refuge in me, shelter under my wings, rest in me that your soul might live.” God is there, He is true, and He is the infinite treasure worth every moment of our pursuit of him.
True Faith Seeks God Who Is Good
God rewards those who earnestly seek him, not those who just seek Him. “To seek the Lord is used in general for any inquiry after him (Acts 17:27). But here this word seek, which literally means ‘to seek out,’ indicates that the person is diligently seeking God. So, a faith that is not diligent is no faith.”¹
What might the diligent seeker expect the reward of true faith to be? First, God Himself is the desire of our souls and the reward of our longing heart. We know when we come to Him, we will have personal communion with Him. This is our greatest joy! Second, His reward is on display in His goodness to the diligent seeker. He is intrinsically good, His mercies never end, and His lovingkindness toward us is from eternity. Third, just as faith is born out of God’s love, so hope is born out of faith. Hope is a great reward from God. As John Calvin explains,
Hope is nothing less than the firm expectation of the things that faith believes to be truthfully promised by God….Faith is the foundation on which hope is built: hope feeds faith and keeps it alive. And just as no one can expect or hope for anything from God without first believing his promises, in the same way the weakness of our faith (which, weary, must not falter) must be supported and preserved by persevering hope and expectancy.²
Hope is built up in us as we exercise faith, especially in meeting God in his Word and by prayer. And we find that our Great Rewarder pours upon us blessings too wonderful to contain: true worship in spirit and truth, forgiveness of sin and the reality of a joyful life in Christ Jesus, growth in grace and knowledge of Him, and ever-increasing faith to live as His hope-filled children, to persevere in suffering, to conquer sin, and to love His appearing.
¹ John Owen, Hebrews:The Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway), 221.
² John Calvin, Truth For All Time (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust), 85-86.
What other kinds of “faith” can masquerade as the true faith described in Hebrews 11? (See examples in Psalm 40:6-8; Isaiah 29:13; Titus 1:16)
What evidence of true faith would you look for in your life in view of Hebrews 11:6?
Is there something you believe God is calling you to do by faith that you have not obeyed? Pray, asking Him to increase your faith in His promises.
Betty Dodge is wife to Rick, a mom to adult children, and grandmother to seven. She is a Bible teacher for women and children, as well as a regular contributor to the Fighter Verses Blog. One of Betty's greatest joys is seeing God working in believers as they learn His Word and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.