There is a “secret” to faith. There is something that can help us guard this mystery of faith and continue to have faith in the midst of God’s sometimes difficult call on our lives.
Would you like to know what it is?
It’s to consider the reward of faith.
“He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
How was it that Moses was able to choose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasure of sin. How was Moses able to value the riches of Christ above the treasures of Egypt? If only we could unlock the secret of being able to make such choices, then surely we would discover the kind of faith manifested in the lives of the saints of Hebrews 11.
Providentially, the writer of Hebrews has unlocked this secret of faith for us. Moses was able to value the treasures of Christ above the treasures of Egypt because he looked to his reward (verse 26).
What is this reward, then? It is nothing less than God Himself. If you want to please God, you must have faith, because it is impossible to please God without faith, which is trust in Him and obedience to Him (verse 6). And if you want to have true faith like those saints who have gone before us, then you must believe that God is the rewarder of those who seek Him (verse 6).
God rewards those who seek Him by giving them what they seek: Him!
If you were looking for some other kind of reward, such as crowns or recognition or kingdoms or power or glory for yourself, or the double-sized salary or house (but probably not wife) that some TV preachers promise, then not only are you wrong but you’re selling yourself way short.
God Himself is the Grand Prize. He is your Reward and your Inheritance. He, after all, is Heaven. When God rewards us by giving Himself, He is not rewarding us because we have been so good, but He is rewarding us in His Son, with whom He is well pleased. It is the reward of Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, the perfectly obedient man, that we receive, if we are united to Him by faith (which, again, means obedience).
When Jesus says, in the last chapter of the Bible, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work,” I believe that His reward is nothing less than Himself. Based on how well we have trusted and obeyed Him, He will give Himself to us. This is why Hell will be such a terrifying place, because those who have put not trust in Him and have rejected Him and have lived an earthly life without Him will be rewarded in eternity with a life that is completely without Him.
Thomas Aquinas wrote, “Behold the Lord God comes . . .; behold, his reward is with him.” “This reward is nothing other than God himself, because man ought not to seek anything apart from him—Genesis 15:1: ‘I am your protector and your exceeding great reward’; for God gives nothing other than his own self.”
Isn’t this the lesson of both Christmas and Easter, of the Incarnation and Crucifixion and Resurrection? That God gives Himself to those who love Him and obey Him, that is, those who have faith in Him?
Both in this life and in the life to come, we will receive either more or less of Him, according to our obedience to Him, which is our faith in Him. This is why faith and obedience (which are practically equivalent, remembering also that obedience = love) are so important.
Faith, then, is ultimately about our relationship with God. Like love, its close companion, it is not an objective force of its own but a measure of our trust in and relationship with God. Because of this, faith and obedience or faith and faithfulness are synonymous. Notice that all throughout Hebrews 11 the saints who are listed are not reckoned to have faith only because of something they thought or believed. In every case, their faith was shown by obedience and something they did. (This also means that disobedience and unbelief are related: look for their linkage in Hebrews.)
Faith is the same for us: we are required to trust in God and His promises, and to faithfully obey. The saints listed in Hebrews 11 faced the truest tests of faith: suffering and death. Notice that even in the brief mention of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph the faith that is ascribed to them was what they did at the point of death.
Moses’ faith was severely tested, not just because of the threats of pharaoh but also because of the temptations of earthly treasures. Why does the writer of Hebrews say that Moses chose to suffer affliction than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin? To our knowledge, when Moses was in Egypt he was not violating the commandments of God we normally think of: he wasn’t fornicating, stealing, murdering, getting drunk, being unjust, etc.
But if he had chosen to remain in a life of pleasure, when God was calling him to a life of service and one that would mean giving up the “good life”, he would have been sinning by not obeying God.
I fear for Christians in the U.S. I believe that in many ways God is calling us to suffer affliction for Christ, but we are too content and intent on valuing the treasures of America above the treasures of heaven and of Christ. We spend our money on building our palaces first, while the Temple of God, His Church, is in decay. We give the firstfruits of our time and talents to our hobbies and leisure-time pursuits, and meanwhile there are people in our town who do not know Christ and there are those in our church who need our encouragement and lives.
The secret to faith is to have Jesus Christ, your reward, so completely before your face every day that you live in such a way so as to seek that reward, which is to seek Jesus Christ Himself. Faith is the substance of things hoped for (which is God Himself) and the evidence of things not seen. Faith is seeing Him who is invisible (verse 27). It is choosing to obey God, whom we have not seen, in spite of the temptations to pleasure and ease in this life that we have seen. It is to seek God by seeking to please Him by obeying all that He has commanded, even when our ears are hard of hearing and our hearts are just plain hard.
The most difficult thing Jackie and I have ever had to face was the death of our infant daughter, Veronica Marguerite, 13 years ago. She died, apparently of SIDS, when she was but 5 ½ weeks old. And it (excuse the expression, Mom, but it is literally true) hurt like Hell.
But in the middle of this pain and suffering, God spoke to us. Even while waiting in futility in the emergency room to see if the doctors could resuscitate Veronica’s bluish body, God told me to bring my Bible and read Job 1:21-22 to Jackie: “’the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”
In trying to make sense of life through the pain and eyes reddened and irritated by 3 days of crying, God made one thing absolutely clear to me: no matter what else happened, God had not changed. The same God who said He loved me and Jackie and Veronica still said He loved us. The same God who had proven Himself faithful for decades to me was still proving Himself faithful.
Was my faith and Jackie’s to be based on nothing more substantial than my earthly circumstances? By the grace of God, the answer was “No.” Whatever else happened, we knew, in the end, that God was still who He was and that He is the rewarder of the faithful by promising, and then giving, Himself to us. By faith, we have received back Veronica from the dead because I believe that we will, by the power of the one Who Is Faithful, see her again in heaven.
However weak your faith is today, whatever circumstances have shaken your faith in God or in other Christians or people, practice seeing the One who is invisible and yet very much present and faithful. Practice seeing Him by having faith, that is, by seeking Him and being obedient to all He has told you to do.
“Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, so that after you have done the will of God [had faith], you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and not tarry’” (10:36-37). God’s promise to you, God’s reward to you, if you have faith by being faithful, is that He Himself will come to you.
Prayer: O Lord, I ask that You would make us patient in suffering and faithful in adversity and that, forsaking all others, we would set aside the treasure of earth for the far surpassing glory and treasure of Your Presence with me. Above all, I thank You for Your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of His Word and the example of His life; for His steadfast obedience, by which He overcame temptation; for His dying, through which He overcame death; and for His rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom. Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may see Him and make him seen; and through Him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. Go back and look at one of the examples of faith from Hebrews 11 in detail. Put yourself in the place of that person and try to understand his faith. Then ask God for that kind of faith in the circumstances of your life, and seek to put this faith into effect today.
2. If you could think of one thing that would help you to have Jesus Christ constantly before you each day, so that you could better see the reward of your faith, what would it be? What can you do to bring this aid to memory and faith into your life today?
Resolution: I resolve to seek God today and find Him by faithfully listening to what He is telling me and faithfully doing it.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day