Summary: This sermon talks about the fact that faith is more than something that is just in our head. It is expressed in our giving and in our living.
November 11, 2001 Hebrews 11:4,5
“Calling the first witness”
A defendant was on trial for murder in Oklahoma. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no corpse. In the defense’s closing statement the lawyer, knowing that his client would probably be convicted, resorted to a trick. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all," the lawyer said as he looked at his watch. "Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom." He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened. Finally the lawyer said, "Actually, I made up the previous statement. But you all looked on with anticipation. I, therefore, put it to you that there is reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of not guilty." The jury, clearly confused, retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty. "But how?", inquired the lawyer. "You must have had some doubt; I saw all of you stare at the door." Answered the jury foreman: "Oh, we did look. But your client didn’t."
Last week, we began a court case. Unlike the lawyer in the example I just gave, our task is to erase doubt about the guilt of our client. Our client is God Himself. The charge that we wish to prove is that God is worthy of our trust. A life of faith in Him, though it may go against everything we see and feel, will produce miracles. Obedience to Him, though scary and costly, will give you the most exciting ride of your life. Taking the risk of doing exactly what He commands is the only way for us to be pleasing to Him.
So far, we have listened to the opening statements recorded in verses 1-3 and 6. After opening statements, the judge makes a statement that goes something like this: “You may call your first witness”. That’s what we’re going to do today. We’re going to start building our case. We’re going to listen to witnesses tell their story and give evidence to the trustworthiness of God. Let’s get our first witness to the stand. He’s got a story to tell.
1. Abel – Faith expressed in how we give (vs. 4 & Gen. 4:1-5).
— A giving faith gives you the ability to worship.
Both Cain and Abel brought a sacrifice to God. Sacrifice is the forfeiture or giving away of something that is highly valued by the giver for the sake of one considered to have a greater claim or value. Both of them were attempting to worship God. Only Abel was successful in his attempt because God only accepted the offering that Abel brought. The Bible says that Abel’s offering was better than Cain’s. What made it better? Why did God accept one offering and not the other?
There are only two possibilities. Either it was what they brought – the substance of the offering, or it was how they brought it – the attitude that they had in their worship. The Bible doesn’t tell us what the real difference was in the account of Cain and Abel, but it does tell us what the Lord requires in offerings and offerers.
As far as the substance of our offerings goes, the Bible tells us that we must bring our best. In Malachi 1, God accuses the Jews of robbing from Him because they had not brought their best to God. They had brought the blind and lame animals as sacrifice. These were animals that they could not sell or even give away as gifts to other people. And yet they were giving them to God supposedly as an expression of their love to Him. They were giving Him the leftovers, not the best. The Bible also tells us that in order for offering to be a true act of worship and receive praise from God, we must bring our safety. It’s got to put us in some level of danger. The widow who received praise from Jesus for her offering gave everything that she had to live on. Others had given more, but they gave out of their surplus. She gave out of her need. Some can give millions and receive no recognition in heaven. But others can give $10 and get God’s attention. And in the substance of our gifts, we must bring our selves (Rm. 12:1). The gift that we bring, no matter what it is, is only supposed to represent the fact that we have already brought ourselves. God has a right to it all! When I came to Christ for salvation, I turned over my whole life to Him. I died to myself. I gave Him everything. The offering that I bring, whether it be time or talents or treasure, is only a means for me to say that I relinquish my control over every portion of my life. He has me, and He can do whatever He wants to with me.