11:4 “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”
Hebrews 11:4 (ESV)
Lines like this float around in sport: “Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.” Do you think this is true? If not, what’s your go-to line?
When it comes to chasing eternal championships, there’s a more definitive answer, and today’s Scripture shows us. It contrasts two brothers’ journeys. Both knew that God must play a part, that He should be acknowledged … and that faith and obedience should play at least some role. (Check out the backstory found early on in the Bible in Genesis, Chapter 4.)
The older brother, Cain, sought success by pleasing God one way, driven by good duty to be sure, but also by consumption and convenience. He worshiped to get something from God more than to give something back to Him. Spiritually, he was a minimalist. Appeasing God and getting back to work was more of Cain’s approach.
The younger brother, Abel, offered God a sacrifice that cost him differently. He offered a life, not just a gift. He believed that from death comes life (not just the other way around). He did not give to impress God (or others), but simply gave out of a trusting obedience that reflected God’s great worth in his life (“I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24 NIV).
Note six crucial words in the text that point us to one conclusion on winning in life. Let’s take a good, strong look.
FAITH: Because our deepest, highest, richest purpose in life is found beyond ourselves, faith in something other than “me” is key. Fully trusting the One who made me, knows me best and loves me still must form the baseline of every move I make, every thought I take.
SACRIFICE: Sacrifice is the practice of self-denial for a greater benefit. It is the obedient evidence of faith. Its aim is the gifting of Another. It is the deepest expression of my gratefulness and my surrender. It is best seen in Jesus’ life and death and imitated accordingly.
ACCEPTANCE: God accepts us by faith in Him, in what He says, in what He offers. He eliminates all doubt in His acceptance of us when we come to Him by faith and trusting obedience. Hallelujah for this!
COMMENDATION: The Bible clearly states that people can be “commended,” counted as righteous. Not because of our work, but because of faith in His righteous work for us, in us. Hallelujah for this!
RIGHTEOUS: This is the declared status God gives us by faith in Him. No other title or banner will mean more for eternity than this! Jesus sees to it that it gets delivered. Hallelujah for this!
ONE CONCLUSION: Ultimately, offense doesn’t drive championship living. Defense doesn’t either. What drives championship living is faith-driven, sacrificial, acceptable worship of God in all we do.
Cain struggled because he wanted to set the worship definitions. Abel won because, by faith, he didn’t. He simply obeyed God by faith.
One more thing ... God’s Word says that living a life of expressed faith in God carries an incredible shelf life. Our faith voice speaks long after we are gone. God sees to it. What a win! Be encouraged.
Reflect: What’s your faith look like? What’s your worship look like? Like Cain’s or Abel’s? Do words like sacrifice, acceptable, commended and righteous scare you or thrill you?
What does championship living look like to you?
A prayer to consider: LORD, faith is the standard. I want no other championship-living options. May it live and grow rich in me. Keep pointing this out. I want the Cain in me to die and the Abel to live on. For Your glory and my joy and confidence in You, Amen.