Faith and God’s Rewards

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” (v. 6).

- Hebrews 11:3-7

Christopher Hitchens, the late atheist journalist and noted writer, once said that “faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason.” One does not have to be an atheist to agree with him, for there are many religious people and even many Christians who would agree that faith and reason are opposed. Yet while this view is common, it manifests ignorance regarding what Christian theologians have said throughout history about the relationship of faith and reason. Great thinkers such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas have distinguished faith and reason, but they have not declared them enemies. In fact, faith and reason live together harmoniously when both are rightly exercised. Since all truth is God’s truth, faith and reason are ultimately friends, not enemies.

Today’s passage tells us that it is an article of faith that the Lord created the world out of that which is invisible (Heb. 11:3). Indeed this is so, for faith pertains to unseen realities and none of us witnessed the creation of the universe. But the right use of reason also leads to the conclusion that the Creator made the world ex nihilo—from no preexisting substance. The laws of cause and effect tell us that there must be a self-existent cause, a first mover that is not itself an effect but the primary cause of all other things. Because the heavens declare God’s glory (Ps. 19:1), a truly rational examination of the universe will never lead to atheism.

Belief that God exists is the inevitable result of the right exercise of reason, but it is also part and parcel of Christian faith. But true faith is not exhausted by the mere belief that there is a Creator. Faith also believes that this Creator “rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Christian faith is trust in a person who has made certain promises, and these promises include His pledge that He will reward everyone who follows His instruction (Deut. 28:1–14; Matt. 6:1–6). We cannot really trust God if we do not believe what He promises, just as we cannot really trust other human beings if we doubt what they say.

Certainly, this does not mean that our good works or even our trust itself earns our right standing with the Lord. Christ Himself is the One who does this. Faith is simply the instrument by which we lay hold of Christ, and this faith is outwardly demonstrated by the obedience to God that is born of trust in His name (Isa. 29:13; Heb. 11:4–5, 7; James 2:14–26).

Coram Deo

Christian faith is more than just belief that God exists. It does not take any special gift of faith to believe in the existence of the Creator, for many people have lived and died believing that God exists even though they never became Christians. Biblical faith involves believing also the specific promises of God. We must believe God, not simply believe in God. Ask the Lord this day to strengthen your faith in His promises so that you will continue to trust in Him alone.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 19:7–11
Matthew 7:15–23
2 Corinthians 5:6–9
1 Thessalonians 4:1–12

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