Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach God must believe God exists and that God rewards those who seek God. (Hebrews 11.6)
In my professional work I occasionally hear the phrase “table stakes,” poker terminology for the minimum requirement to get into the game. If you don’t have the prescribed amount, you can’t play. Conversely, if you intend to play—and if you hope to win—you have to bring what’s required to the table. My colleagues use the term to signify how much a client will need to risk to achieve desirable results. It may be dollars, but more often it’s measured in commitment to the solution we propose, as well as trust that we know what we’re doing. In the same way, the Hebrews writer defines the table stakes for believers. Without faith, he/she says, you can’t get in the game. And lest we mistake the word “faith” as our cue to start haggling about what “faith” is, the writer lays it out in no uncertain terms.
We bring two things to the table: belief in God’s existence and belief that God rewards those who seek God’s will and ways. At first glance, it doesn’t sound like much. Of course, we believe there’s a God. Certainly, we believe that God honors those who walk uprightly. Yet the closer we draw to the table—to the point of letting go our doubts and fears about putting our faith on the line—the higher the stakes get. We will have to commit to the solutions God provides long before the results are proven. We will have to trust God knows what God is doing, despite every logical sign God doesn’t even exist. Suddenly, we see faith for what it is—a high-risk way of life that asks much of us at times when we feel tapped out, when we have so little faith left that we can almost hear God question, “Are you in, or are you out?” If we’re wise we’ll stay in the game no matter what, fully committed to our belief that God is there, fully trusting that our desire to please God will be rewarded. Those are the table stakes.