Abel: Faith expressed through thanksgiving

Living the faith life is something that we do. It is not a blind faith. It is a faith based on the reality of God’s Word. In verse four of Hebrews eleven we find the example of Abel. Through Abel’s life, we learn that our faith is to be expressed through thanksgiving. Hebrews 11:4 reads, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.”
When we have faith in God, and when we live the faith life, it results in thanksgiving and praise to God. Unfortunately, the thanksgiving and praise we bring to God is often times superficial. Often times, our motives for praising God are not totally pure. There has been much debate over why God accepted Abel’s offering and not Cain. The most common idea is that Abel’s offering was the right kind of sacrifice (a sacrifice of blood as for a sin offering) but , yet Cain’s sacrifice (being not of blood) was not the right kind of sacrifice. Though this may very well be true, I do not think that it is the most significant matter here. You see, in Genesis four, there is no indication that the offering was an offering for sin. As a matter of fact, it is more likely that the offerings of Cain and Abel were offerings of thanksgiving and praise, rather than offerings for sin. The issue here is motive and heart, not the actual sacrifice itself. The reason Cain’s offering was not accepted was because his praise was superficial. It was not genuine. It was not real. How many times do we go to church and sing hymns of praise while at the same time, our minds are preoccupied with other things? How many times do we sing songs of praise without any attention given to the words that we are singing? How often do we simple go through the motions of worship rather than worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth? I see it all the time. The expressions on people’s faces as they worship is often blank as if they are not even there. I have seen churches grow accustom to a certain way of doing things to the point that they tend to worship their method rather than their Maker. You see, when we are living the life of faith, our worship and thanksgiving is genuine and real. When we are not living the faith life, our worship and thanksgiving is meaningless. So, what can we learn from the life of Abel? What was it about Abel that caused him to be accepted by God and listed here in the hall of faith?
Notice two things as to how thanksgiving is expressed. First of all, thanksgiving is expressed through character. In our text in Hebrews eleven, we find that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God because of his faith, not because of the sacrifice itself. In Genesis 4:4 it tells us that, “God had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” Notice the order here. God had respect toward Abel first. In other words, the offering itself was not the vital thing here. It was the faith of Abel. It was the character of Abel. Both here in Hebrews and in Matthew 23:35, we find that Abel was a righteous man. He was a man of character. So, when he came to God to worship, he came with a pure heart. You see, when it comes to worship, God is not concerned with our method and our ways of expression and even our style of music. God is most concerned with our heart. When we come to God for thanksgiving and praise, where is your heart? What is your motive? Are you just go through the motions or are you expressing worship through a clean heart? Someone who has character is someone who does the right thing, even when no one else is around. Your character is who you are. Who are you on the inside? What preoccupies your mind? What do you do when no one is looking and you are all alone? My friend, we are never alone. God is always there and He sees all that we do and He knows rather our worship is pure or not. Let me ask you this: Based on your character, based on who you are and what you do when no one is looking, is God pleased with your offering? Does God take pleasure in your praise of Him? True thanksgiving is expressed through our character.
A second way in which thanksgiving is expressed is through obedience. The phrase, “God testifying of his gifts…” is very significant here. It is in this phrase that we have indication that Abel offered the right kind of sacrifice. It could be that Cain was not listening. It could be that Cain was not obedient to God concerning the offering. Yet, Abel was. His offering was accepted by God. God testified of Abel’s gifts. You see, we cannot truly worship God and give Him thanksgiving and praise unless we are obedient to His word. Thanksgiving is not expressed just by singing a song or giving a testimony. Thanksgiving is expressed by our obedience to God’s Word. The scripture says to be doers of the word and not just hearers. We must do what it says. We must be obedient to God and His Word. God will never accept our offerings of thanksgiving and praise unless we are living in obedience to God’s Word.
Not only is thanksgiving expressed in two ways, but thanksgiving is also rewarded in two ways. First of all, thanksgiving is rewarded by God’s acceptance. Wouldn’t you like to know that God approves of you? God approved of Abel because he offered a sacrifice by faith and He came to God with character and in obedience. Being approved and accepted by God should be the goal of every believer. We should live for His acceptance. It is just like a child who strives to be accepted by his father. We should strive to please God and be accepted by Him, we do that through purity and obedience.
Secondly, thanksgiving is rewarded through leaving a legacy. Abel’s life speaks to us today even though he no longer lives on this earth. He left a legacy for us to follow. His name is recorded in the hall of faith. When we bring glory to God in the way that we live and in our obedience to His Word, we live a legacy for other generations to follow. The question is, are you leaving a legacy? Are you living the kind of life that God is so please with that He compels others to follow you? Are you a person that other people could pattern their life after? Thanksgiving is rewarded through leaving a legacy. Leave a legacy by living a life totally surrendered to God in obedience to His word and demonstrated in your character. It is when you live such a life, that the offering of your life is accepted by God.

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