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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Without Faith We Cannot Please God

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for 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 NKJV)

We all want to please someone, to have his esteem or friendship, to be in his good graces. So as believers we have in our hearts the desire to please and please our God. Here then we are ready to accomplish who knows what feat, to climb mountains, to travel rough paths, in order to receive his approval. Scripture, on the other hand, minimizes and makes everything tremendously simple, at least on the surface. To please God one must simply have faith, for without it "it is impossible to please Him". As a providential and benign Father, God has given us the gift of faith, the most important gift, which enables us to believe and grasp His promises, but also to honor His requests. The seed of faith can be nurtured and cultivated through the Word and the preaching of it, the only means of growing from faith to faith. Yet many continue to say that they have no faith, or not enough faith. To these I dare to ask if they then have any hope, for "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). The prophet also reminds us that faith finds valid support on hope, for if "those whoo wait on the Lord... They shall mount up" (Isaiah 40:31), those who believe go from hope to certainty first, and then certainty turns into demonstration of God's faithfulness.

Chapter 11 of the very letter to the Hebrews provides us with an extensive list of "heroes" of faith, people who have experienced how God truly keeps what he promises. Before meeting Abraham, for so many the father of faith, the book of Genesis introduces us to Noah: the only "righteous and blameless" in a society so perverse and corrupt that it deserved extermination. Noah's faith is exemplary and the writer credits him with a legacy of righteousness (Hebrews 11:7). Reputed to be the best human being on the face of the earth, because unlike his contemporaries he walks with God, to the point that he does not hesitate to do exactly any of the things he is commanded to do (Genesis 6:22). The faith he embodies is a total surrender and trust in God. Faith enables him to proceed to accomplish an abnormal work, from gathering the materials to the final assembly, to taking in and keeping the animals. And then to face the flood and wait for the waters to recede. When all is past, "Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma" (Genesis 8:20-21). His first thought is to thank God.

This cannot fail to please God. Indeed, He likes the sweet aroma of the sacrifice, sweet in that it is a pure and sincere expression of Noah's faith. I dare say according to God's heart. He remains the global rewarder, whose eye loses nothing and accompanies our wanderings, intervening from time to time to disrupt our crazy plans, as it was with that of building the tower at Babel. And out of the confusion he brings out of his country the wayfarer Abraham, who, unlike Noah, does not represent the perfect man or embody an above-average human being; he is one who learns on the journey to come to terms with the precariousness and mobility of his tent. And that is why his faith is migration, on a par with the mobile tent of the tabernacle that will later accompany Israel in the desert. The journey to which he is called is also discovery, self-discovery. His only compass will be the Word he has received. Abraham must open himself to trust and the future of adventure: "Where I will show you". This too is faith: "demonstration of things not seen". One man's faith will be the origin of a people and a spiritual lineage that reaches to the present day. And this broadens the horizons of our belief.

Our faith, in fact, can fuel hope and commitment from us and those around us. I am persuaded that we can do much to change things by starting from small daily gestures. Experiencing God's timely intervention, however, remains a strenuous experience of putting our faith totally in Him alone, after realizing that "those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:8), and then never backing down before the need of our neighbor. Likewise, each of us, "as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so let us speak not in such a way as to please men, but to God who tries our hearts" (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Probably a challenge stands before you. The flood, the Red Sea, the desert, the "giants" of Canaan, just a few biblical circumstances that remind us that what we have before us is yes a serious problem but also an opportunity to be seized. As Demosthenes stated, know that there is an island of opportunity within every difficulty. After all, "life is very simple. There are no problems, only prospects. When you have difficulties you have opportunities!" (H. Kaiser). Even today you can like David lift up God by faithfully bringing down in His name the giant, like Ezekiel cry out to dry bones and call upon the Spirit, like Elijah call down fire from heaven, like Jesus scold the storm, like Paul confidently face shipwreck... Only by and by faith please your God.


Weekly Bible Reading

Plan #46

November 07, Jeremiah 40-42; Hebrews 4

November 08, Jeremiah 43-45; Hebrews 5

November 09, Jeremiah 46-47; Hebrews 6

November 10, Jeremiah 48-49; Hebrews 7

November 11, Jeremiah 50; Hebrews 8

November 12, Jeremiah 51-52; Hebrews 9

November 13, Lamentations 1-2; Hebrews 10:1-18

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