The kind of faith that pleases God
Hebrews 11 is the famous “faith chapter”. There the writer talks about what faith is and gives us some great examples of faith.
The two verses in particular that define what faith is are vss. 1 and 6:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. -Heb 11:1
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. -Heb 11:6
That’s from the ESV translation. I want to focus on vs. 6 Let’s look at it in the new DLNT translation, to get a better idea of the original verbs and tenses:
And without faith it is impossible to please Him. For the one coming-to God must believe that He is, and He becomes the rewarder to the ones seeking Him out. -Heb 11:6
You will see that the main difference is found in the last clause. First, the more accurate translation stresses that God “becomes” the rewarder, not merely that He “rewards”. This is not an esoteric difference, because it implies the passage of time.
Many times in our walk we have to sow in faith, and there is a time lag before we reap the harvest. Just as it is in the natural, as any farmer or gardener will tell you, rewards do not come instantly. For much of our sowing period, we’re putting in the work but it may not seem that God is rewarding us for it. But we press on in faith, knowing the reward will come in time. In this sense, God “becomes” the rewarder. Thus the original text adds a little color to the grammar to stress this delay between sowing and reaping.
But the second difference is even more powerful. Whereas the ESV simply has “seek”, the DLNT has “seeking out”. And for good reason. The original verb in the Greek is Ekzeteo – to seek out. The writer could have merely used “zeteo” – to seek. But the “ek” is added for emphasis. This word means “out”. We still say “eke out”, as in “eke out a living”, implying a laborious, tedious process, often not highly rewarding. Because the writer opted to include the intensive, we can conclude that he is trying to convey something more than routine seeking.
First, he is saying that there are going to be times when our seeking after God will not be comfortable. We will have to go out of the box to lay hold of Him. We will have to leave the comfort zone behind, because He is calling us to something much greater than ourselves. This alone will separate mere curiosity seekers from those hungry for God. The Gospels are rife with Jesus dissuading those merely looking for a sign or a heady religious experience, and with warnings that following Christ is going to cost us in the natural. We need to get it settled then, that we do indeed want God. That’s the first thing this tiny prefix tells us.
Secondly, the writer is telling us that even when we have to go out of our way, even when it’s hard, and even when the reward for our effort seems small, the kind of faith that pleases God still holds fast to Him, and maintains that our reward will come in due season, because faithfulness and lovingkindness are intrinsic parts of God’s character. We realize that the whole enterprise turns on God’s character, and because we will not allow any slander to stand, we will hold fast to our faith in His goodness and our ultimate reward!
So this little verse packs quite a punch – more than we might have seen on its surface. It is saying that we need to be serious about following God wherever that might lead us, and that our reward might seem delayed. It is saying that for now the reward might seem small – barely enough to sustain us; that this is what we should expect at times, and that when we encounter that test, we need to fall back on a determined, persistent faith that pleases Him greatly.
When things get tough we can remind ourselves of God’s wonderful character and His ability to reward us, and we will gain renewed strength for the task before us.
Galatians 6.1 is on point here:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. -Gal 6:9
Maybe this little insight will help you next time you are seeking to know God better, or to know His will for your life. Stay on course, and immerse yourself in the love and promises of God. Everyone who asks, receives, everyone who seeks, finds, and to everyone who knocks, it is opened.