What is “Pleasing Faith?” What sort of faith does not please God?

Posted: September 15, 2012 in Faith, Jesus Christ
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“But without faith it is impossible to please Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Faith is an absolute requirement for coming to God, for pleasing Him. What sort of faith allows us to please Him?

We quote Hebrews 11:1 as a general definition of faith, but Romans 4:3 sheds more pertinent light on what sort of faith it takes to please God.

Romans 4:3 “What does scripture say? ‘Abraham took God at his word, and that act of faith was accepted as putting him into a right relationship with God'” (The New Testament: A Translation by William Barclay).

Abraham’s “act of faith” was to believe the words of God. Simply, faith is believing what God says. That belief, that faith, is what pleases God, putting us in a position to have a right relationship with Him. Even in our human relationships, trust in what a person says is foundational.

Trust is never simply an intellectual agreement. It is visceral and intangible and always affects our emotions and actions. This is why it is so devastating when a spouse discovers the other has been unfaithful. That trust which had enveloped his or her soul has been destroyed. That trust which gave him or her life had suddenly been exposed to be based on a lie.

Abraham shows us that this belief, this faith is a deep conviction which resides in our core being, effecting our will and our mind, and even our emotions. His great love for his only son was laid aside to show his trust in this great invisible God. His core trust and faith resulted in obedient action. This is why James declared that faith that does not result in works is not true faith at all, for it is useless for LIFE!

(Jas 2:20) Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

Adam and Eve were forced from the Garden because their trust and faith in God had been shallow, and void of works that demonstrated their trust in His Word. They decided to live by sight when they chose to disobey and eat the fruit. Their action demonstrated a faith that was not pleasing to God. They believed in God, certainly, just as Satan and his minions. However, when it came to trusting His WORDS and acting upon them, their faith fell short of pleasing God. In fact, their “faith” resulted in their death!

Adam and Eve became the first example of man choosing to walk by sight rather than by faith. Mankind has continued in the footsteps of the first Adam, proving that Adam and Eve’s faithlessness was not an aberration, but a trait inherent in every human heart.

Failure to trust the Word of God, failure to walk by faith resulted in a barrier between themselves and fellowship with God. That broken trust ruined their relationship just as it does a marriage.

Satan is the foremost example of faithlessness (faith that does not please God). Satan believes God exists, but his faith is dead because it does not lead to right actions.

James 2:19-20, from the New Living Translation (NLT), forcefully points out the futility and foolishness of Satan’s faith: “Do you still think it’s enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! Fool! When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless?”

“Pleasing Faith” Believes and Obeys the Word of God

When confronted with the choice to eat or not eat the fruit, what evidence did Adam and Eve have? All they had were the words of God. Notice the classic definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” What is the “evidence of things not seen?” God’s words. The rest of the chapter provides examples of men and women who followed God based solely on His Words to them.

Hebrews 11:36-38 list various trials that they went through for their faith. Notice verse 39: “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise.” Even though they did not receive the promise of God, they still believed Him, followed Him, and gave their life for Him, trusting that the sovereign God could and would keep His promises even beyond the grave.

Consider closely Abraham’s decision to sacrifice his son, Isaac. When Abraham raised the knife to sacrifice his son, the only evidence things would work out was the word of an unseen God. Abraham could believe God—take Him at His word—or believe all the evidence he could see that the son of promise would die before God fulfilled His promises. Abraham could not “see” what God was going to do. As far as Abraham was concerned, Isaac was dead. The only “evidence” he had that it all would work out was God’s words—the promises God made to him.

God also needs evidence.

God wanted to know what was in Abraham’s heart. (Genesis 22:12) God said “Now I know what is in your heart.” He knew and recorded for all eternity the “evidence” that Abraham walked by faith, not by sight. Therefore, Abraham became the “Father of Faith” for all who would please God must have faith to believe that He is!

To walk requires action and effort. So even the phrase “walk by faith” demonstrates that living faith requires action and effort. As Hebrews 11:6 declares, “Pleasing Faith” believes that God rewards those who DILIGENTLY seek Him. Our evidence is God’s words. God’s evidence is our actions.

We are just like Abraham. So says Galatians 3:6: “You have exactly the same experience as Abraham. Abraham took God at his word, and that act of faith was accepted as putting him into a right relationship with God” (William Barclay). Just as Abraham had to choose between believing God and believing the circumstances he could see, God also has to put us into exactly the same position. He must find out what is the true intent of our hearts—the depth of our faith. God needs to “know” that we will trust Him, no matter what.

“Pleasing Faith’s” Source

Where do we get this “pleasing” faith? Ephesians 2:8 answers: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” We cannot work it up—that would be our effort, and Romans 8:8 says that we can never please God in our flesh. Further prove this faith comes from God is the correct application of Galatians 2:20:

(Gal 2:20) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Paul exchanged his life for Christ’s life. Paul was dead, and Christ lived through him. This life of faith was only possible through the faith of Christ! Christ’s faith was Paul’s faith! This is truly an exchanged life!

Consider when God first started working on us. One year we were clueless, the next year things were making sense. We read the Bible and understood it, but more importantly, we believed it. Where did that belief come from? It was, as Ephesians 2:8 says, a gift from God. The real miracle is not that we understood, but rather that we now believed those words we understood. And this happened only because God made it possible.

What was the evidence that we believed those words? We began living by them. Our new works and actions were the evidence of our faith. Just like Abraham, our actions showed our desire to begin a right relationship with God motivated by His gift of faith. “Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was declared right with God because of what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, he was trusting God so much that he was willing to do whatever God told him to do. His faith was made complete by what he did—by his actions” (James 2:21-22 NLT).

Are you willing to believe and obey God’s Word?

To test our faith, God’s pattern is to bring us to a point—a brick wall or a Red Sea—that seemingly allows no escape. That is where He can find out what is truly in our hearts—hearts of belief or evil unbelief.

(Heb 3:12)  Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

Paul had this experience and recorded it for us in II Corinthians 1:8-10:

We should like you, our brothers, to know something of the trouble we went through in Asia. At that time we were completely overwhelmed, the burden was more than we could bear, in fact we told ourselves that this was the end. Yet we believe now that we had this sense of impending disaster that we might learn to trust, not in ourselves, but in God who can raise the dead. It was God who preserved us from such deadly perils, and it is he who still preserves us. (Phillips translation)

Even though all human hope was lost, God came to the rescue to teach Paul—and us through Paul—that God can be trusted.

“I am God! I can be trusted. . . . I alone am the God who can be trusted” [Isaiah 65:16 (CEV)].

What areas of your life are not “pleasing” to God? What areas of your life are being lived by sight? Is your faith pleasing to God, or is it lifeless?

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