In Hebrews 11, we learn about faith from the Bible’s Old Testament heroes. One crucial detail stands out in their lives: they placed their whole confidence in God, entrusting themselves into His hands. The actions and accomplishments of these men and women proved that faith pleases God, and He rewards those who seek Him: “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” (Hebrews 11:6).
The author of the book of Hebrews points out two critical convictions of believers. First, “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists.” Those who desire to draw near to God must have a deep-rooted belief that He is real. Such belief is not mere intellectual knowledge but a wholehearted devotion to His presence and participation in every part of one’s life. Without a genuine conviction that God exists, it is impossible to have an intimate relationship with Him. Second, the Lord’s followers must believe “that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This aspect of faith trusts in the character of God as a good, loving, generous, gracious, and merciful Father (James 1:17; Psalm 84:11; Lamentations 3:22–23). These two certainties are the groundwork of saving faith—a faith that pleases God.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God, because faith is the avenue by which we come to God and trust Him for our salvation. In His infinite goodness, God provides the very thing we need to draw near to Him: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). God gives us the faith required to please Him.
Hebrews 11:1 gives a definition, or at least a good description, of the faith that pleases God: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” “Confidence” is the translation of a Greek word that means “foundation.” Faith is the foundation that undergirds our hope. It is not a blind grasping in the dark, but an absolute conviction that comes from experiencing God’s love and the faithfulness of His Word. The term translated “assurance” is also translated as “evidence” or “proof.” With our natural eyes, we cannot see the realities of God’s kingdom, but by faith we receive the evidence or proof that they exist.
We’ve established that without faith it is impossible to come to God. It is also impossible to live for God—to follow and serve Him daily and persevere until the end—without faith. The entire Christian life is lived out by faith: “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17; see also Habakkuk 2:4; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). The apostle Paul affirmed, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Scripture refers explicitly to Enoch’s faith as pleasing to God: “It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—‘he disappeared, because God took him.’ For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5, NLT; cf. Genesis 5:24). How did Enoch please God? Through living by faith. Enoch walked by faith in God. He obeyed the Word that had been revealed up to that point and lived in the light of its truth. Walking by faith means consistently living according to God’s Word (John 14:15). Without faith, it is impossible to believe God’s Word and obey it.
Scripture says that it is impossible to please God through works of the flesh: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8, ESV). We can’t earn God’s approval through good works. Only based on what Jesus Christ has done for us can we become holy and able to live a life pleasing to God (1 Corinthians 1:30). Christ’s life in us produces the righteousness that pleases God (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 2:13; 3:9).
Without faith, it is impossible to please God; in fact, we cannot even begin to approach the Lord and experience a personal relationship with Him without it. Faith is the atmosphere in which the believer’s life is lived. We are called “believers” because we are continually putting our faith, trust, and confidence in God. By faith the Christian life begins, and by faith it perseveres until the end.
The champions of the Old Testament like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Joseph, Rahab, Gideon, and David all lived by faith. As they looked toward their future hope, they relied on God to fulfill His promises (Hebrews 11:13–16). And they obeyed God’s Word even when they did not understand it. This kind of walking by faith—accepting as truth the things we cannot yet touch, feel, or see, and then acting on them in obedience—is the prescription for living a life that pleases God. We may not see ourselves right now as God does—holy and made righteous by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But when we accept the evidence in God’s Word (Romans 10:17) and reach out in response to experience fellowship with Him, then we begin to live by faith, and that pleases God.