I've encountered a number of people who say they are not interested in eternal rewards; they just want to please God. That's really ironic. It's ironic because it's impossible to please God or get close to Him without believing in and seeking the rewards He offers. The writer of Hebrews says this:
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.
The word "come" in the sentence above is the same Greek word that often gets translated "draw near." In this context, the author is not talking about becoming a believer or gaining eternal life. We know that because these words are spoken to believers. In addition, this chapter is focusing on a list of superstars of the faith who were certainly saved.
The author is encouraging saved people to endure difficult trials and to seek after God in spite of trouble. The verse shows that there is a reward for that kind of behavior. It tells us that if you don’t believe that God rewards those who earnestly seek him, you will not be able to please Him or draw near to him. If you want a better relationship with God, the first step is to believe that He rewards. Remember reward is different from the free gift of salvation. Therefore, you must believe that He not only gives salvation, but He gives some bonus above and beyond eternal life to those who are diligent.
Let us explore this idea with an analogy. It could sound cold and mechanical, but I’m married not because I’m a selfless altruist. I’m married because I gain benefits from the arrangement. Being married has some really great perks. Companionship, intimacy, teamwork, emotional support, financial stability, and dozens of other benefits await those who enter into and maintain a healthy marriage. The fact is, I wouldn’t be married if I didn’t get something valuable from it. I wouldn’t have gotten married if I didn’t believe it was rewarding. Many who find it difficult to stay married would admit they have come to believe their marriage is no longer rewarding (Heb 11:6).
The more I believe that my marriage has great rewards to offer, the more I will work on improving the relationship. I will seek intimacy and fellowship with my wife as long as I believe I have some reward to gain from it. If I stop believing I can get something from the relationship, I'm more likely to seek rewards outside the marriage. This single idea will diminish my relationship as much as any could. So why is it easy for me to stay committed to my wife? It's because I believe that we will be rewarded with greater companionship, intimacy, and emotional support if we diligently pursue an ever-better relationship with each other. I believe I will be rewarded for diligently drawing near to her. Similarly, I need to believe that God has something to offer me that is worth the work.
There are Bible teachers out there who would try to beat you up because you struggle to find the motivation to pursue God. Some pastors make you feel guilty for wanting some return on your investment. Some church librarians gripe at you for not working on your spiritual life for free.
As I read the Bible, what I see time and time again, is the mention of payoff. You're not expected to work for years with no paycheck. You aren't expected to compete when there is no prize. You're not asked to invest when there is no promise of return. Fortunately, you're not expected to diligently seek God without an eternal reward.
Notice what the verse says about what pleases God. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe… He rewards those who earnestly seek him." It would please God for you to draw near to Him. The only way you can draw near to Him is if you believe that there is a reward for doing so. He wouldn't expect you to believe it if it weren’t true. So that means it pleases God to reward you. Did you catch that? It pleases God to reward you. If you want to please God, do the things required so that He can give you a reward. Apparently, that makes Him very happy.
Once again you probably see the irony. People who say that they don’t need a reward, but just want to please God are creating a logical impossibility. The way for them to please God is by believing and gaining rewards.
So, if you want to grow as you draw near to God, it’s imperative that you believe that God has more for you. He has something more than just salvation. As amazing a gift as your salvation is, the reward you earn hereafter will only increase the value of your eternal experience. For those who claim they obey God simply to please Him, there is this simple reminder. You can’t please Him unless you believe in rewards.