I don’t know about you guys, but my time seeking the Lord every morning is often a less than electrifying experience. In fact, that hour of Bible reading and prayer is sometimes the most difficult part of my day. My heart often feels cold, my focus is frequently hard to maintain, and I am always bombarded with temptations to respond to text messages, log on to Facebook, or turn on the TV. Pushing through the weakness of the flesh is hard work. Resisting worldly distractions is hard work. Seeking God is hard work!
And, to be completely honest, sometimes the payoff just doesn’t seem fair, does it? When you beat your body into submission (1 Corinthians 9:27) and seek after the Lord only to feel like you have made no real contact with him, you can begin to question whether the work is even worth it. You may start to believe he takes zero notice of your efforts to know him more fully. You might begin to think daily Bible reading, study, and prayer are a total waste of time.
The author of Hebrews wanted to guard our fickle souls from this dangerous way of thinking—thinking that is informed solely by what we feel. In the sixth verse of the eleventh chapter, he exhorts us to pursue God in faith: “And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
When I began writing this article, I had every intention of saying, “Don’t doubt God’s willingness to bless your pursuit of him. He always rewards those who draw near to him!” However, as I contemplate the teaching of the Scriptures on this matter, I cannot make such a statement in good conscience. Rather, I must say, “Don’t doubt God’s willingness to bless your pursuit of him, because he only rewards those who draw near to him in faith.” In other words, if you draw near to God in a posture of doubtfulness, you will not be rewarded.
Let us heed the apostle James’ warning:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).
The biblical writers taught that God’s willingness to bless our seeking is conditional. Don’t get me wrong; there are many ways in which God blesses us unconditionally. Our conversion to Christ is a fantastic example. Though we were dead in our trespasses and sins and unable to meet any conditions whatsoever, God made us alive together with Christ and gave us the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). However, the biblical fact of the matter is that the extent to which God rewards our pursuit of him is conditional upon our faith in his existence and character. He demands we believe he is there, and that he is a merciful Father who gives good gifts to those who ask him (Matthew 7:11). He requires we draw near to him with a heart full of unshakeable confidence in his generous disposition toward us.
We cannot make the grave mistake of letting our emotional experiences be the gauge by which we measure God’s faithfulness to reward us. Such thinking will lead to doubtful seeking which will hinder the rewards of his presence, power, and provision from manifesting in our lives. The blessings of God are not always immediately or experientially discernible. On the many days we don’t feel like he has blessed our seeking, we must, by faith, cast aside this conclusion and believe he has rewarded us—because he promised he would.