One of the most remarkable verses in scripture tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Clearly, we can see what a high value God places on faith. So much that not only will God be pleased when we exercise faith, but He will also reward our faith! A great illustration for this principle can be seen in the life of Hannah, the mother of the prophet, Samuel.
Hannah was married to a man named Elkanah, who loved her dearly. Unfortunately for Hannah, she was unable to have children, which in the Hebrew culture was considered a tragedy, even a curse. It says in the book of First Samuel, "But to Hannah he [Elkanah] would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb" (1:5-6).
It’s very likely that because Hannah was barren and could not produce an heir, Elkanah took a second wife, named Peninnah, so that she could bear him children, which at the time was an acceptable custom.
So here we have Hannah, who is already suffering because of her own personal tragedy of not being able to have children, and to make it worse, Peninnah is provoking her and making her miserable. Can you imagine Peninnah mocking and teasing poor Hannah?
One year, while Hannah and the rest of the family were worshipping at the tabernacle in Shiloh, she makes a vow to God. She said, "O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life" (1:11).
That’s a bold promise! Hannah told God that if He blessed her with a son, she would willingly give her son back to God! There is a truth here regarding stewardship for all of us as well. Nothing that God ever blesses us with is every truly ours, but simply on loan from Him to use for His glory and the benefit of others. Rarely will God bless us if we ask things of Him with selfish motives. But when we make a request of God and we are willing to surrender that desire to Him, like Hannah did, then many times we open the door for God to bless our request. Hannah understood this principle and in faith she called on God to answer her prayers.
"So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, 'Because I have asked for him from the Lord'" (1:20). Because Hannah asked in faith, meaning that she believed that the impossible was possible with God, and because she was willing to surrender her child to God, He granted her the desire of her heart.
But here is where Hannah's faith really kicks in! You see, if you are anything like me, I would be starting to have second thoughts about my vow right about then! It's only natural. I can imagine Hannah completely overjoyed and thrilled with the birth of her son. She thinks he's the most beautiful baby she’s ever seen, and to him she's the center of his universe. Every time she holds him, in the back of her mind, is the constant nagging reminder that she promised to give her beloved and long-awaited child back to God! Can you imagine? The temptation to break her promise must have been unbearable.
However, instead of giving in, Hannah says, "For this child I prayed and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord" (1:27-28).
So, when baby Samuel was weaned from his mother, she took him back to the tabernacle at Shiloh, where she had originally made her vow, and left him in the care of the priest, Eli.
Now that is faith!
Then comes the best part of Hannah's story! You see, whenever we step out in faith to serve God, He always rewards us. Remember the opening verse: "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
So look what God did.
"And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile the child Samuel grew before the Lord" (2:21). I have a feeling Peninnah wasn’t mocking anymore!
What a remarkable story. Because of Hannah's faithfulness and willingness to surrender her deepest and most heartfelt personal desire to God, He blessed her with five additional children! And not only that, but Samuel became one of the most important prophets in the Bible! Imagine what she would have missed out on if she had broken her promise to God and tried to keep Samuel for herself?
Remember this truth and cling to it when life is beating you down: God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He rewarded Hannah, a heroine of faith, and He will reward you if you surrender your desires and have faith in Him.