Hebrews 11:6 NIV 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.
We know this verse. It was probably one of the earlier ones memorized as we began our journey in Christian life. We were probably taught that we must work hard to have the faith with which God will be pleased. So, much of our Christian life has been spent trying to do just that. Sadly, what we never heard about was the freedom in this verse – but that’s all changing right here, right now.
It’s not some deep, hidden secret that only the most intelligent can find. Instead, what I found as I continued my recent Hebrews feast, savoring the words like tasty morsels, were verses that have been skipped, ignored, or at least mishandled – those leading up to and following verse six..
Hebrews 10:39-11:1 NIV 2012 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. 1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
The faith we need is to believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Period. (Read more in Faith Gone Wrong.) To help even more, Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us that this faith is not of our own efforts, our own working it up. This gift from God comes by His grace. In other words, God graces us (gifts us) with the faith to believe in Christ (also a Gift), apart from our efforts. Hint: Gifts are only gifts if they are freely given without cost to the receiver. Because we have received the Gift of Jesus Christ, we belong to those who have faith and are saved.
Skip a few verses (I promise to include them in a future post), and read verses 5 and 6 together, because it is the only way to understand the possibility of the impossible in verse 6 already working in us.
Hebrews 11:5-6 NIV (2012) By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased 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.
Isn’t it mind-boggling that Enoch – so soon after the creation of the world, and so long before Jesus came as Messiah – already knew about Him and His future coming . . . and believed? For that alone, Enoch pleased God. With something God gave him in the first place, Enoch pleased God. Because of his faith, Enoch was promoted to heaven!
Wait a minute! The Bible tells very little about Enoch. Besides this mention in Hebrews, he’s listed in the begats, where we find he lived 365 years and had children. That means he also had a wife – at least one. It also means he had to work to support them. And that he interacted with people day in and day out, with good days and not-so-good days. He was not continually alone with God. He was a living human being, just like us, involved in the stuff of life. He was no more perfect in his flesh than we are. He needed a Savior, just like we do. By grace, he had faith in the promised Messiah1,and that’s why God was pleased. Period. By that same grace, we also have faith in the promised Messiah, and God is also pleased with us. Period.
For all these years, we have focused on what seemed impossible, and maybe it was. When we focused on trying to have faith – or have enough faith, or the right kind of faith, or great faith – with which God would be pleased, we missed the simple truth that what He requires to please Him, He provides in the first place. Ours is simply to receive. It was possible for Enoch, and it’s possible for us today. In fact, in Christ, we have already received this glorious impossibility. And, even now, God is pleased!
1 Jude 14 states that Enoch prophesied about Christ’s coming.
Photo credit to Mark J. Lehman, http://misusingecards.blogspot.com/