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.
Without faith, we cannot please God. And faith in what? That God exists. That's the first thing. But I just noticed something that I had never noticed in this verse before. It doesn't end with just believing God exists, but also having faith that God cares and will respond to us.
The Message version words it helpfully:
It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.
All this time I've believed and had faith that God exists, that God is there, that he is real. And I am seeking him. But where my faith has faltered, and where I think many people's does, is in really believing that God will actually come through if I earnestly seek him.
And so I've half-heartedly sought him, afraid that I'll just be wasting my time, that nothing will happen, that he won't be found and I'll just be left disappointed.
But to approach God, I can't just have faith that he is there - I know that - but also have faith that I actually can draw near to him and that he will draw near to me.
Why do we find it so hard to believe? The Bible is full of verses telling us that - come near to God, and he will come near to you. Seek, and you shall find. Call on [him] and [he] will answer. 'You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart'.
And therein lies the rub - that's risky, that 'all your heart' business. We are used to our hearts being breakable, fragile things. The thought of giving all of it - well, that's scary.
But if we want to approach God, that's what he requires. Not that we do enough good deeds and pray the right prayers. But that we earnestly seek him. That we give all of our hearts.
And our faith that he will respond.