Summary: Part one in a six part series on the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. This sermon discusses the hallmark of Abel’s life--generosity towards God.


Big Faith Series-Part 1

Hebrews 11:1-4; Genesis 4:1-7

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Pastor Brian Matherlee


What kind of faith is big faith?

Some time ago "Reader’s Digest" told the story about a company who mailed out some special advertising business post cards with a mustard seed glued to it with the following caption that went something like this: "If you have faith as small as this mustard seed in our (particular product), you are guaranteed to get excellent results and be totally satisfied." -- Signed, The Management

A few months later one recipient of this promotional piece wrote back to the company and said, "You will be very interested to know that I planted the mustard you sent on your advertising card and it has grown into a very healthy bush producing wonderful tomatoes!"

Read Hebrews 11:1-3

• The ancients were commended for being able to live life differently because of their beliefs.

• It was rare in times past and rarer still today to find people who will live confident and sure in the face of unfulfilled promises or counter-culture commands.

• The individuals in Hebrews 11 weren’t exceptional for any other thing than how ordinary they were and how extraordinarily they believed God.

The first person we encounter in the Hall of Faith is Abel. Hebrews 11:4 puts it plainly as to why he was included, “By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks even though he is dead.”

Abel is included in the Faith chapter for one reason—generosity.

Years ago on Candid Camera, children were used in an experiment about generosity. The children were placed by themselves in a room with a plate of cookies. On the plate were at least two cookies, there may have been more, but one of the cookies was very large. The adult left the room and the kids were allowed to take a cookie. You know, they all took the big one. One boy was challenged as to why he took the biggest cookie. Alan Funt, the host, told the boy, “All you left me to eat was the little cookie. I would have eaten the little cookie and given you the biggest one.” Without a blink the boy responded, “Then you got the one you wanted.”

Generosity is a tough thing to learn. The world commends individuals who give enormous sums of money to charity and worthy causes. These gifts are great. What Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have done by giving billions to charity should be commended. But, realize, they could never spend that kind of money anyway and they have billions left! The Bible commends those who give in spite of their circumstances and in consistency. I only know of one instance where someone was asked to give everything...the rich young ruler. And he was not asked to give everything away to impoverish him but to release him from the hold his riches had on his soul.

But let’s get back to Abel. What can we gain by a closer look at his story?

Read Genesis 4:1-7

1. God wasn’t an afterthought

a. Abel brought “some of the firstborn of his flock” & Cain brought “some of the fruits”

b. Abel showed faith in God by bringing the firstborn not knowing what the “nextborn” would be like. Cain on the other hand, it seems, held back some for what he needed and then gave God some. Abel was trusting God to continue to provide while Cain wanted to be sure his bases were covered.

c. Perhaps some of us have reached a point in our lives where we are so strapped financially by the choices we have made that giving to God’s work has ceased to be or has never become the first check we write each week or month and is relegated to what’s left instead of what’s best.

d. Abel understood putting God first was a source of blessing. Proverbs 22:9 says, “A generous man will himself be blessed”.

2. Giving was a defense against temptation

a. Abel experience fellowship with God, the favor of God, the peace of God.

b. Verse 7, “Sin is crouching at your door.”

c. Cain, on the other hand experienced anger towards God and sorrow (v. 5), loss of favor (v.12)-here the worker of the ground sowed murder into the ground and lost his means of living, and loss of fellowship and peace (v. 16).

d. God wasn’t asking Cain for everything. But Cain did need to give honestly and faithfully.

e. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

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