Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Simple Science of Pleasing God

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

~Hebrews 11:6 (NIV).

How do we truly ‘please God,’ breaking down faith into understandable components? Let’s take a glance at Hebrews 11:5-6 and the paraded example of Enoch.

Verse 6 of Hebrews 11 is classically linked with verse 5—the example of Enoch as an ‘exemplar of faith.’ In the tradition of Elijah’s being taken into heaven (2 Kings 2:1, 11) it’s perhaps not as well known that Enoch too was earlier “taken” up into heaven (Genesis 5:24). And still there exists a great deal of ancient conjecture as to the rationale for his exemplary works of pleasing God (a.k.a. faith). He appears in one tradition to have been an ‘exemplar of repentance,’ and in another more famously a ‘preacher of righteousness.’[1]

Notwithstanding all this conjecture, it appears the writer to the Hebrews was centring on this point: “Christians must replicate in their experience the enjoyment of the pleasure of the Lord that was a hallmark of Enoch’s life.”[2]

To believe God exists—in each moment—is to acknowledge his Presence, felt or not.

It is to ‘walk with God’ as Enoch did (Gen. 5:22, 24)—acknowledging the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) that “God is one”—and steadfastly holding to that belief. We may doubt our hope and surrender occasionally to fear, needing to draw near to God and doing so, but to doubt God’s existence is simply not faith. We walk with God (humbly; Micah 6:8) through thick and thin and we’re saved in the process. It’s as simple as that.

Reward is the third component of verse 6. It’s demonstrative of relationship. We become rewarded because God acknowledges us in communion—in covenant with him, no less. There is no stronger basis for relationship than covenant. It’s actually contractual and God has never (and will never) break this covenant (though we have!). Ah, the grace of God to forgive us.

This is notionally a cause and effect relationship i.e. of direct certainty, but with our human ‘looking through a glass darkly sight’ (1 Corinthians 13:12) we often don’t attribute this rewarding of our faith until well after the faith-held events have occurred—if at all. How must that hurt God (if we pretend he thinks like us, which indeed he doesn’t!). This only helps us to be even more thankful for our relationship and standing with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ.

And to receive this reward we run to him in devoted service—turning from the focus of our problems and turning to God’s agenda in the midst of our lives.

The very best thing for any human being then is to be steadfast and firm for God—to walk with God (in step and in time with him) as Enoch did, and to take pleasure and delight in the “arrangements” of God. And this is most fundamentally, faith.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] William L. Lane, Hebrews 9 – 13 Word Biblical Commentary (47B) (Dallas, Texas: Word, Inc., 2002), S. 337.

[2] Lane, Ibid.

No comments: