I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
A Life that is Rewarded
D. Bruce Lockerbie, in a book entitled Thinking and Acting Like a Christian, wrote about a world-class athlete who was a runner. One day she was invited to compete in a road race in Connecticut. On the day of the race she started driving and following the directions to where she had to compete. However, she got lost and had to stop and ask a gas attendant for directions. She told him that she knew that the race started in the parking lot of a shopping mall.
The gas station attendant happened to know of such a race just up the street and he directed her to it. When she arrived, she was pleasantly surprised that there were fewer people in the race than she had anticipated, making it easier for her to potentially win the prize.
When she got to the registration desk, she was again surprised that the officials were ecstatic that such a world-class athlete had entered their competition. They had no record of her having registered but they told her that if she would hurry and put on this number that they gave her, she could actually make it for the start of the race.
When the lady ran, she easily beat everyone in the competition and was some four minutes ahead of the guy that was in second place. It was only after the end of the competition when she didn't receive the sizable prize and performance money that she'd anticipated, that the runner finally found out that she had entered the wrong race. The one that she'd been invited to was several miles down the road. She had gone to the wrong starting line, run the wrong course and had missed out on the chance to win a valuable prize.
The truth is that most of humanity is in the wrong race in life. They don't know Jesus Christ as their Savior and are running for things that won't last for eternity. And their finish line is eternal destruction in Hell, separated from the God who created them and wants to give them eternal life.
But, almost as sad, are the Christians who know the Lord, yet still are on the wrong track in life. If they are truly believers in Jesus Christ, they will finish the race and end up in heaven. However, they will be disqualified for the prizes that the Lord has waiting for those who desire to give their lives to Him and serve HIm with all their hearts. Instead, they live their life for worldly pleasures and accomplishments. They lay up for themselves treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupt and where thieves can break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-21). These things may bring temporary pleasure and satisfaction now. But in eternity, they won't last and will make us spiritual paupers if they are our main concern.
The Apostle Paul, comparing life to a race and to the Olympic Games, has this to say:
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable" (I Corinthians 9:24).
If we are a genuine Christian we will love the Lord and want to please Him in all that we do. All of us who are looking forward to Christ's return desire to one day hear the words from Jesus: "Well done thou good and faithful servant!" And we want to work for something imperishable. But have we ever asked ourselves: "What does it take to please God?" "What kind of life does the Lord truly reward?"
Hebrews 11 is known as the great "faith chapter" in the Bible and discusses this very subject. Verse 6 of that chapter tells us this:
"But without faith, it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
That verse, in a nutshell, is the answer to our question. However, what does a faith in the Lord that pleases Him actually look like? Let us examine this and see what the Bible tells us.
I. The Object of God-Pleasing Faith: Jesus
There are many things in this world in which people place their trust. Some in riches and possessions. Others place their trust in another person. Some have faith in government and hope that it will solve all of their problems.
However, when the Bible talks about faith, it is referring to trusting in the God who created Heaven and Earth and all that is in it. And specifically, in the New Testament, it is placing your faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life to save you from your sin and rose again for your justification (John 3:16 and 36; Romans 10:9,10). It is trusting in the grace of God apart from works to save you and give you a relationship with a holy God (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Jesus Christ must be the object of your faith if you want to have eternal life and dwell with God forever. And He is also the one whose power it is that allows each of us to live a life of purpose that pleases God.
Jesus told his disciples in John 15:5 that:
I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing."
In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul tells us:
"Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure."
Paul also said:
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).
And we can't leave out what this great Apostle said in Galatians 2:20. He tells us:
"I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
If we believe what these verses say, then the Christian life is not what I am able to do for God. It is rather what God through Christ is doing through me. The Helper, who is God the Holy Spirit, is living inside of each of us who are believers. We are His temple (I Corinthians 6:19,20). And His job is to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ ( Romans 8:29).
As we follow the Spirit's leading we also must not quench his fire inside of us or grieve Him by sinning (I Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). We, rather invite Him to fill us. By that, the Scriptures mean allow Him to take complete control of our life (Ephesians 5:18).
It is the Spirit in us who leads us to serve and become like the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2). The writer of Hebrews tells us to fix our eyes on Christ. Jesus is our Savior, our Lord and the center of our life.
II. The Focus of God-Pleasing Faith: God's Promised Future
In continuing to look at the book of Hebrews, we can see the focus of God-pleasing faith. It is the dynamic future that the Lord has promised to those who believe. The author of this book is writing to a group of persecuted Hebrew Christians who are tempted to abandon their faith and go back to their old way of life in Judaism to escape it all. The writer tells them in chapter 10 that they mustn't shrink back from their faith but endure because God's promises are sure and He will soon act upon them. He tells his readers:
'For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.'
It is in this context that we get the great faith chapter in this book, sometimes called the "hall of faith." He gives example after example of those who trusted God for a better future and were able to do great things and endure major hardships because of their faith. He begins by giving a definition of faith. The writer tells us:
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
In other words, we have a God-given present assurance of a future reality. The reason we can have faith in the first place is that God always delivers on His promises.
All who have faith, put their future into the hands of a trustworthy God. We see in verses 13-16 that the people talked about in this chapter died in faith without having seen the promise come to pass. However, by faith, they saw them come to pass in the future. They were actually looking for a better country. They desired a country whose builder and maker was God Himself (11:16).
"At the end of the chapter, the author brings the reader up to date and says:
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect."
Though many of God's past promises have already come to pass, there are yet more and greater ones to come to which all of God's people are to share. There is the end of sin and it's awful consequences. There is a New Heaven and a New Earth, where there will be no more mourning or crying or pain. And there are many more. Our faith sustains us and compels us to continue on in this life and follow God's will for us as we await the consummation of our faith when Jesus returns in the future.
III. The Work of God-Pleasing Faith: Diligently Seeking God
We have to be careful when we talk about faith and works to clarify that works have never saved anyone or brought them favor with a holy God. Ephesians 2:8,9 tells us that:
"For by grace are you saved, through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast."
However, just as fruit comes from a living fruit tree, so works are the result or the fruit of a living faith. Following Ephesians 2:8,9 we have 2:10 which tells us:
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them."
The first and foremost result of a saving faith is a heart that diligently seeks God and desires to know Him better. It is a heart that greatly desires to learn more about Him and wants to do His will.
The Greek word for "diligently seeking" comes from the word ekzeteo. It means to zealously seek for something with all of one’s heart, strength, and might. It presents the picture of one who seeks something so passionately and determinedly that he literally exhausts all his power in his search.
Diligently seeking God is not so much what you do to get to know Him as much as it is why you are doing it. It is having a heart to know God. As an example, when a man pursues a woman he is interested in, he doesn't give a half-hearted effort. It is a diligent effort to get to know her and win her affections because he genuinely desires her. He cares for her. So it is with God if we genuinely care for Him.
It takes effort for any goal. And someone who has a heart to seek after God will give it his full attention. We see this kind of zeal in Philippians 3:7 where Paul says:
"But whatever was an asset to me, I count as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."
"It was C.S. Lewis who said: "Christianity if false is of no importance. And if true it is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important."
The trouble with most Christians is that they treat Christianity and God as if he were moderately important. He is added to their week like you would add a task that needs to get done. They go to church, read their Bibles and pray, then they put a check in the box saying they've accomplished the task and move on to the next. Christianity becomes a boring religious ritual and not a vibrant dynamic relationship with the living God.
Keeping God's commandments are not a burden to be born if you truly are diligently seeking Him. Neither are the other works that accompany faith. They are like a hunger that must be satiated and a thirst that must be quenched.
Scripture teaches us that one day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ that we may receive rewards for the things done in this body, whether good or bad (II Corinthians 5:10). I am wondering how many Christians will be surprised at how few rewards that they will get for their service because it was done out of obligation and not out of a genuine love and desire to honor the Lord. I bring this study to a close with another C.S. Lewis quote. In his book The Weight of Glory he writes.
"If we consider...the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures...like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
God wants to give so much to the person who is totally sold out to Him. A person with a genuine faith in Jesus Christ that diligently seeks him is a very rare person indeed. Most in this world don't seek Him at all. However, the ones that do will find that their hunger and thirst for God will be filled. They will be rewarded greatly for their efforts to know Him better. May we be among those rare and special persons who have a faith that genuinely and diligently seeks after God. We will never be disappointed with what we find!
© 2018 Jeff Shirley
Jeff Shirley (author) from Hesperia, Michigan on September 16, 2018:
Thanks Bill. Yes, I do want to hear those words from our Lord. God bless! I appreciate you stopping by!!
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on September 16, 2018:
The example you used of the woman running the wrong race was powerful, Jeff - and the application just as powerful. I hope many will evaluate their lives in light of the scripture and listen for those blessed words, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."