“The Faith That Pleases God” (Hebrews 11 sermon)

What kind of gift makes your spouse happy? That’s important to know, isn’t it? Because people vary so much in what pleases them. For example, some women might be delighted if you got them a certain kitchen appliance for Christmas or for their birthday — but there are others that if you got them a kitchen appliance as a gift you’d be in “the doghouse” for the foreseeable future! One of the keys to a good relationship is knowing what kind of gift pleases the one you love.

And this is true of our relationship with God as well. What pleases Him? That’s an important question. Since you are here at church, I assume that means you probably have at least some kind of desire to please God. So what pleases Him? We see it in this passage:
I. Your Life’s Goal Is To Please God

Verse 5 says “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death … (for) before his being taken up he was he was pleasing to God.” Those last 3 words are the key here: “pleasing to God.” THIS is what we are shooting for. THIS is what we were made for: to please God.

God is the One who created us. He dreamed us up in the beginning. We wouldn’t exist without Him. He formed us and shaped us and gave to each one of us life. Psalm 139 says He formed us in our mother’s womb. When He breathes into us the breath of life, we live. When He takes it away, we die. Our lives begin and end in Him, and during the whole of our life, we are accountable to Him. We are here on this earth to please God. Many of us may need a conscious reminder of that: we are here to please God.

— We are NOT here just to please other people. This is the big mistake so many of us make — spending our whole lives trying to please other people. But the problem is, you can never do it. If you please one group, you are going to anger another. If you give in to one group, you offend another. You simply CANNOT please everyone. You can spend your whole life, running around endlessly in circles, and literally drive yourself MAD trying to please everybody. You cannot do it; you cannot please everybody!

God says the good news is, you don’t have to! That is not what you are here for. You are not here to please people. You are here to please GOD!
In Galatians 1:10 the Apostle Paul said, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Paul said, I am not just preaching the things that people want to hear; in fact, he was actually offending a lot of people with his teaching. But he said, I am here to please GOD. And you are too! You are not here to please people. God put you here on earth to please HIM! Remember that.

— But here is another angle on that: we are not here just to please OURSELVES either! See, some people would say, “No: I am not a people pleaser. I am just going to do whatever makes me happy, no matter what anyone else thinks.” Well that’s not right either. God didn’t put you here to please other people, but He didn’t place you here just to please yourself either.
— Jesus said in Luke 9:23 that to be His follower means that you “DENY YOURSELF, take up your cross daily and follow HIM.” “Deny yourself” means that as a follower of Christ, you are no longer free to do just whatever you want to do. You are not free to say: “where do I want to live, what do I want to do with my life?” No, when you become a Christian, you put to death your own dreams and aspirations, and follow HIM!
— I Corinthians 6:19-20 says “you are not your own; for you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God with your body.” The question for the genuine Christian should never be: “what do I feel like doing?”, but “What does GOD want me to do?” So many people give the advice: “Just follow your heart.” NO! The Christian is not to “follow your heart;” you are to follow Jesus! Every day we are to get up and say like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will but thine.” That’s why Jesus taught us to pray in our daily model prayer: “Thy will be done.” Not “my will;” “THY will.” God did not place you here to fulfill your dreams; He placed you here to fulfill HIS purpose for you. You do not exist to please other people; you do not exist to please yourself; you exist to please God.
II. You Please God By FAITH

It is in light of this goal of “pleasing God” that :6 becomes so important: if we were created to please God, then HOW do we do that? Verse 6 gives us the answer. It says: “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” So if you want to please God, the Bible says, you must have faith. Faith is God’s “love language,” if you will; that’s the gift that pleases God.

So that helps us. If we want to achieve our life’s goal and please God, we must have faith. So one of the first questions we need to ask, then, is, what IS faith? God conveniently gives us the definition of that in :1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is believing something — really being assured of it; really being convicted of it — even though you have never seen it.

Faith is how we are saved. Verse 2 says, “For by it, the men of old gained approval” — in other words, this is how they were saved in Old Testament times. And the New Testament teaches us that this is how we are saved today too: Ephesians 2:8 says “for by grace are you saved by faith.” And as we saw, “faith” is believing in something we haven’t seen.

I Peter 1:8-9 explains this I think as well as any other set of scriptures:
“And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your FAITH the salvation of your souls.”
It says there: you have not seen Jesus. And yet, you love Him — you worship Him; you sing songs to Him — in spite of the fact that you have never seen Him at all! This is exactly the definition of saving faith: you believe in this Jesus whom you have never seen, and you love and worship and obey Him anyway. If that is what you are doing, then you can be confident that you are saved by your faith!

Some people feel really bad because they have never seen Jesus. I don’t. Jesus said, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:29). I have never seen Jesus. Not even close. But I love Him. I pray to Him. I sing to Him every morning. I try to serve Him. And you know what First Peter 1 says? When I love Him whom I have never seen, I will receive as the outcome of my faith, the salvation of my soul! And you will too!
— You didn’t see Him walk here on this earth
— You didn’t see Him die on that cross
— You didn’t see Him rise from the dead
— You can’t see Him sitting in heaven right now.
But even though you haven’t seen Him, if you believe in Him so much that you really love Him, and commit your life to Him, and worship and serve Him, you will receive as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your soul. Don’t be troubled because you haven’t seen the Lord. That is what saving faith is: it is believing in Him whom we have not seen.

AND LET ME ADD THIS: although faith is believing in something we haven’t seen, the Christian faith is not a blind faith. There are very good, well-grounded reasons for a person to have faith in Christ.

In our last MasterLife class one of our young ladies was telling us how some people at her job cornered her, and were attacking her faith. One of them said, what’s the difference between what you believe, and the old mythical Greek gods on Mt. Olympus? Nobody believes in them; why should you believe in Jesus and the Bible?

Folks, I hope you understand just what a ludicrous statement that is. Christianity is indeed a “faith;” we have never seen Jesus. But it is not a “blind” or unreasonable faith.

You want a blind faith, take Mormonism. The Book of Mormon teaches that lost tribes of the Jews settled in America years ago, and built these large cities, and had these huge battles, and did all these things — and yet there is ZERO archeological evidence that any of these things ever happened. ZERO. There have been no cities unearthed where they said they were; no weapons have been discovered from the battles that supposedly took place, and so on. There is NOTHING to corroborate that faith.

You want a blind faith; take Hinduism. When I was in a boat on the Ganges River in India several years ago, the guide in the boat told about how a Hindu goddess tripped in heaven and fell out of the sky, and the spot where she landed on earth gushed out water and that is how the Ganges River started. I looked that man in the eye and asked him flat out: “Do you really believe that actually happened?” He never would answer me. THAT is unreasonable faith.

You want a reasonable faith, take Christianity. Every year that goes by, archeological digs uncover more and more historical artifacts that corroborate that what the Bible says is accurate and true.

Let me give you just one example from our daily Bible reading this week. We read in Jeremiah 38 how the prophet Jeremiah was persecuted by some of the officials in Jerusalem. One of those officials was named Gedaliah, the son of Pashhur. Who knows if this was a real guy or not; maybe they just made it up. Well, on August 9, 2008, the Jerusalem Post printed a story that archeologists had unearthed a 2,600 year old clay seal, bearing the name of Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, an official in Jerusalem!

And we could spend all hour giving examples like that. History and archeology continually reinforce the accuracy of the Bible. And even Jesus Himself, I Corinthians 15 says, was seen alive by 500 people at one time, who at the time I Corinthians was written, were “still alive to this day,” bearing witness — many of them going to their deaths under torture, testifying that they had seen this Man alive!
— Now does that “prove” it? No.
— Is it still “faith.” Yes.
— But is it “blind, unreasonable” faith? Absolutely not. Not when it is corroborated by credible witnesses who were known to their contemporaries. Not when it is continually attested by history and archeology. Christianity is the most reasonable, the most accurate, and the most historically grounded faith on the planet, hands down.

Blaise Pascal, the great mathematician, had it right: “There is enough light for those who want to believe — and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.” It’s not “blind faith,” but faith is believing — on the basis of good evidence — this God and this Jesus whom we have never seen.
III. Faith That Pleases God Is Based On His Word

This is SO important: faith is not something that we just sit around and “dream up.” We don’t just decide, “I think I am going to trust God for this,” and believe it. Biblically, faith is always a response to the word of God. Look at the examples here in Hebrews 11:

— :7 “By faith Noah, BEING WARNED BY GOD about things unseen, in reverence prepared an ark …”. See, Noah didn’t just sit around and say, “You know, I think I’m gonna believe God for an ark!” No, he’d have never come up with that in 100 years. It had never even rained before!! No, Noah didn’t come up with the idea for the ark, GOD did. And Noah responded to the word God gave him, with faith.

— We see the same thing in :8, where it says “By faith Abraham, WHEN HE WAS CALLED, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out …”. Again, Abraham didn’t just decide to go out and “claim some land” he wanted to have. GOD TOLD HIM to go, and Abraham just responded to God’s word with faith.

— In :11, Sarah didn’t just dream up that she was going to have a child. God TOLD her she was going to have a child. The faith she had was based on God’s word coming to her first.

— In :17, Abraham didn’t just decide to go offer up his son one day — God COMMANDED him to do it. He was responding to the command God first gave him, with faith.

And we could go on and on throughout this passage and others. Biblical faith is NOT you just deciding to believe whatever you want, and “claiming it” from God. It is important that you understand this, because you hear this kind of teaching a lot from so-called “faith” teachers: claim whatever you want from God. He’s given you a blank check; you just write in there whatever you want. You “name it and claim it.” That is very common teaching. But that is NOT Biblical faith. Biblical faith is when God tells us something in His word first, and then we respond to His word with faith and obedience. I hope you see the difference. In the false teaching, we’re trying to tell God what we’re believing Him for, but in Biblical faith, God shows us in His word what He wants us to trust Him for.

See, if I had “name it claim it” faith, I might say something like: “I believe in God in so much, that I believe that He will give me the power to step down from this pulpit, walk outside, and run a 26-mile marathon without ever having practiced one day! I really believe it!! God can do anything!” And that would indeed be an amazing step of faith, wouldn’t it? It would be really miraculous if God did that. But I think what you would find when you left this church and drove down the road a bit, would be my body lying on the pavement somewhere — because although I might have had “faith,” it wasn’t BIBLICAL faith; what I was “believing God” for, wasn’t based on His word.

See, faith that we just “dream up” like that is not what pleases God. The kind of faith that pleases God is when He gives us HIS WORD and we believe on it, and act on it.
IV. Faith That Pleases God ACTS!

And this idea of ACTING on what God says in His word is another vital element of Biblical faith. If you notice, ALL of the people you read about here in this great chapter, DID SOMETHING because of their faith:
— :4 Abel offered a sacrifice
— :5 Enoch walked with God
— :7 Noah built the ark
— :8 Abraham left his home and went to the land of promise
— :11 Sarah had a child
— :21 Jacob gave orders about his bones
— :24+ Moses turned his back on the riches and power of Egypt
— :31 Rahab hid God’s spies to Jericho

One after another, every single one of these people DID something in response to God’s word.
NONE of them sat there and did nothing.
Which reminds us: FAITH ACTS. Faith responds to God, with belief in the heart, and action in the life. And if you don’t act on it, it’s not really faith.
James makes it clear: telling us 2 times in Chapter 2: “Faith without works is dead.” (:17, :26)

So that tells us that if you are not DOING anything about what you say you believe, you don’t really have faith. Faith is not just SAYING you believe something. Faith believes God’s word, and then DOES something about it.

SO if all this is true: In what areas of your life are you pleasing God? Where in your life are you responding to God’s word with both faith and action? Think about some different areas of your life:

— Verse 25 here says that because he believed God, Moses refused to “enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” Are there things in your life that you might want to do, or partake of, but you don’t — and the only reason you don’t is because you believe in Him whom you have not seen, and you know that He has told you not to do it? We should all be able to point to things like that in our lives. If you’re just living however you want to live; if you’re just sleeping with whomever you want to sleep; if you’re just drinking whatever you want to drink; doing whatever you feel like doing, you do NOT have faith in God. Faith ACTS by turning away from the passing pleasures of sin.

— Hebrews 11 also speaks about Daniel, who believed in God so much, that he refused not to pray, even though he would be thrown into a lion’s den for doing it. What kind of faith & action do YOU have in your relationship with God? Do you give the first part of your day to Him in His word and prayer — even though you can’t “see” Him, and maybe a lot of times you don’t even “feel” anything — yet you do it by faith, because you believe in Him even though you can’t see Him?

— And like our evangelist Don Sunshine talked about last week: you say you believe in salvation in Christ; in heaven and in hell — are you acting on that by sharing the gospel, starting at home, just like Acts 1:8 says, as God gives you open doors? Maybe you don’t know what to say when you start to speak; maybe you don’t know how they are going to respond; but you do it by faith anyway. Are you pleasing God by acting on what you believe, and sharing your faith with others?

— What about the way you give? You know, what you do with your money, is one of the most practical tests of what you really believe. Someone said, “Show me your checkbook, and I’ll tell you what you believe” – because you put your money in what you believe in. What does YOUR checkbook show about what you really believe? Tithing can be one of the best acts of faith; it shows you really believe that God gave you everything you have, that you trust that He is going to keep giving you what you need, and that He really is the Lord of your life like you say He is. Just like Abel’s gift here in Hebrews 11:4, it’s a act of faith and obedience that pleases God.

— Then some of us want to believe in God — just as long as He doesn’t call us out of our “comfort zone.” But what if He calls you to “step out” in faith, in some area of your life, like He did Abraham in :8, when He called him to pack up his belongings and move to a land of promise that he had never seen? Abraham put his faith into action, and stepped out when God called Him. What about you? Are you content to “believe in God”, just as long as He doesn’t call you out of your “comfort zone”? But if you really have faith in Him, you’ll go wherever He calls you: to that job, or that ministry, or that mission, or that place where He wants you to go to glorify Him. And if you don’t go when He calls you, how can you say that you have faith?

— And most importantly, will you commit your life to “believe in Him whom you have not seen”? No, you probably never will see Jesus here on this earth. And no, I can’t “prove” Him to you beyond a shadow of a doubt, because God didn’t give us “beyond the shadow of a doubt” proof. He didn’t intend to. He wants us to believe by faith; that’s what pleases Him. When you “don’t see Him,” as I Peter 1 says, but love Him and believe in Him, THAT is faith; and that is what pleases God, and makes you right with Him. But it’s not enough just to say you “believe;” you’ve got to act on it. The kind of faith that pleases God acts on it, and applies it to your life.

In Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick, he writes of a former whale ship captain named Bildad, who retired and now owned a ship business. He was supposed to be a Christian, a Quaker, but he was well-known for being hard-hearted, and for working his men so relentlessly that when they returned from the end of a journey, most of them had to be carried from the ship directly to the hospital! And Melville writes: “How now in the contemplative evening of his days, the pious Bildad reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do not know; but it did not seem to concern him much and very probably he had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man’s religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another.” (Melville, Moby Dick, p. 66)

See, that’s exactly the mistake that so many people make: they think their “faith” is one thing, and what they actually DO in their home or their business or whatever is another. But God says here in Hebrews 11, NO! What you really believe, you are going to live out in “this practical world.” There is no such thing as a faith that doesn’t do something. Faith acts. And if your faith is going to please God (which is what you were made for) then your faith will be a faith that ACTS, and applies itself in every single area of your life.

Where in your life are you pleasing God? The answer is: only in those areas of your life where you are exercising FAITH in what God said in His word, and where you are acting on it. And this passage makes it clear: “without (this kind of) faith, it is impossible to please God.”

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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