“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” – Mark Twain
“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” – Hebrews 11:6
We all know that it takes faith to please God. We cannot say a simple prayer of salvation without some measure of faith taking place. We even have the courage to call ourselves a “Christian” because of that faith in God’s desire to forgive us, and thus begin the life-long process of becoming Christ-like.
But it seems to me — if my own walk with God is any indication of this process — that the moment we begin our walk with God we move immediately from the realm of faith and into the realm of self-justifying good works, while at the same time calling it a walk of faith. As such, we leave our theology of faith in place but move onto an actual lifestyle of pleasing God by those things that we do or accomplish throughout the day, month and year.
For instance, how many of us measure our success during the day by how much Scripture we’ve read and how long we’ve prayed, raise your hands? (Mine is already up, if you must know.) Now, don’t you feel a bit more satisfied with yourself — and you just KNOW God feels the same — when you’ve started the day by reading a few chapters in your Bible and saying your prayers? With such actions God is very pleased, right? I’m sure He is — sort of.
At one time, I was convinced that the amount of time I spent studying the Word and praying for my family (and if I felt particularly holy, my enemies) and calculating how much money I’ve given to the church was what pleased God. Furthermore, I became an expert at measuring my walk with God by the simple standards I’d so meticulously set up for myself.
Then I read about Abraham. Here I found a man with glaring faults just like mine. But when God said Abe would have as many descendants as there are stars, and this before he even had one child, then “Abram believed The LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Gen. 15:6).
Abraham was NOT righteous because he read six chapters of Scripture every day, spent fifteen minutes in prayer, made it a habit not to yell at the kids, went to church three times a week, didn’t cheat on his taxes, voted and drove a “green” car made in America. Nope. All Abraham did to please God was believe God, and God gave Abraham a credit on his account called “Righteousness.”
Furthermore, it was through the faith of Abraham — and the wickedness of the nations in Canaan — that the Israelites gained entrance into the Promised Land. Deut. 9:6 says, “You must recognize that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not-you are a stubborn people.” And here I thought God was doing all these marvelous things in my life because I was such a good guy and had memorized Romans 12. I read that Abraham was a man just like me, but Abraham pleased God. And I figure that if Abraham could please God, so can Jim.
However, I think I first need to do some housecleaning. I need to throw out the idea that my own studying, teaching ability and giving habits make me acceptable in the sight of God. My degrees, titles, and extensive sermon preparations don’t please God. God knows all my thoughts…yes, even those thoughts. Then He sees my faith and says, “On the basis of that one thing, that very limited and almost immeasurable amount of faith that only I can see, I call you righteous in My sight.” What about all those other things I mentioned. Don’t they count? Yes, but only in that they are tools that may help to increase our faith.
I need to learn that the only daily devotion that pleases God is the exercise of my faith in His marvelous grace.