Faith and Faithfulness:
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that ‘without faith it is impossible to please God because the one who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him.” Interestingly, the word which is translated faith here (pistis), can equally be translated faithfulness. And though the two words faith and faithfulness are obviously related in English (as in Greek), we often tend to think of the notion of ‘faith’ as mere intellectual assent to a set of propositions, which is divorced from ‘action’ consistent with that belief (faithfulness).
The Bible speaks of God himself as being faithful (pistos). When we say that God is faithful, we mean that we can trust God because God always acts according to his word. He is not capricious. But when the bible speaks of humans being faithful, it does so (apparently to us at least) in two distinct ways. It speaks of ‘the faithful’ to refer to people who believe, but it also speaks of individuals being faithful in the sense of being trustworthy, loyal or dependable. I would like to suggest that these two senses, distinct though they may be are not as separate as they seem. Jesus was faithful (dependable, loyal etc) because of what he believed (pisteueo, the verbal form of pistis) about his father. Likewise the things that we truly believe are the things that we live out in our daily lives whether we like it or not.
If we are to live lives that are pleasing to God then, we need an integrated faith that encompasses both sides of the Heb 11:6 coin, as it were. James speaks of a type of faith that is disintegrated; where belief is divorced from action. The demons believe in God, but do not please him. In order to please God one must believe first that God exists, but also secondly that God is the type of person who rewards the pursuit of himself. The implication is clear. It is possible to believe in God but not be pleasing to him because we do not seek him. This is the type of faith that James says the demons have, dead disintegrated impotent passive, in a word faithless (as opposed to faithful) belief. If one does not actively, diligently, earnestly seek God, then it is clear that one does not really believe God. One has no faith.
Faith and Reward
To truly believe (in this holistic sense) that there is a God (one side of the ‘coin’ if you will) changes everything! Nothing is necessarily what it seems to the human senses and perceptions. If there is a God, then there is also an unseen Spiritual world, more real than the physical one and more important, to which the physical world itself may be said only to roughly and incompletely correspond. If there is a God, there is an eternity and we may live for things beyond this present life. Stuff does not have to make sense in this life. If there is a God, then there is a judgment, and sin matters. If there is a God, people created in his image matter. Compassion matters. Mercy has meaning. If there is one who rewards (the other side of the coin), and rewards what is done in secret (which we learn from the sermon on the mount), then what is done in secret matters—and matters more in fact that what is done in the open. God sees what is done in secret and rewards accordingly. If God is a rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek him, then it is surely worthwhile to earnestly and diligently seek him. And yet we cannot be said to truly believe this unless we act accordingly—that is unless we actually do earnestly and diligently seek him. Because if we truly have faith in that proposition; if we truly believe it, this faith will be evidenced in our faithfulness to it, this belief evidenced in our daily life.
The Rewarder and the Reward
I say all this for two reasons. The first is to make the point that faith matters. What we believe about God matters. That is to say, theology matters. The second is this. Faithfulness matters. My point here is not to search for yet another excuse to condemn ourselves for not having the type of devotional life that we feel we ought to—most Christians think that they ought to pray more, or study the bible more; in short lead a more consistent Christian life—rather I hope to fundamentally reorient this feeling of ought. The point is not that I ought to pray more, but rather that the God that exists is a God that can be known, and hence that prayer is real. Here is the compelling truth about the God we serve. He wants to be sought. He yearns to be found. He desires to reveal himself. This is surely the reward for those who seek—nothing less than intimate access to God’s own heart.