Faith and God's Glory
by Ed Vasicek
As I write this article, I am in the middle of my second week of teaching at Camp Emmanuel. Camp is a frantic time for me. It is hard to keep up with my other responsibilities; sometimes I find I have dropped the ball. But camp is worth it. Besides a sense of call, one reason I am in the ministry is to impact lives for Jesus Christ, and camp has deeply impacted lives as few other ministries do. I have been teaching camp and serving on the camp council for twenty seasons. Although my efforts are not as great as some of the other camp pastors, together we offer a neat time of ministry coupled with wholesome fun and helping campers develop Christian friendships. Some life-changing decisions are made at camp every year.
This year, the camp theme centered around faith and used the acrostic POW. "P" represents "People of Faith," the "O" stands for "Object of Faith," and the "W" stands for "Walk of Faith." I taught about "People of Faith." As I told my colleagues, without me, camp would have been a giant "OW!" Somehow, I did not convince them. Oh well. But back to faith.
We can learn much about faith by seeing it in action. Since Hebrews 11 is considered "Faith's Hall of Fame," I chose to address some of the spiritual celebrities mentioned there, including Abel and his counterpart, Cain. In 11:4 we read, "By faith Abel offered God 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." The funny thing is that when we read the account in Genesis 4, the term "faith" is never used. Yet, putting two and two together forces us to conclude that Abel's action of offering a member of the flock, as opposed to Cain offering a grain offering and then killing Abel in jealousy, serves as an example of faith in action. Whatever Cain did could be understood as "anti-faith."
Since God made garments of skin, necessitating the killing of an animal, for Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:21, it seems apparent that God had also instructed them about offering an animal sacrifice to temporarily cover their sin. When I look at Genesis 4, I get the impression that presenting offerings to the Lord was a regular practice. This does not seem to be their first time doing so. Hence we can presume that both Cain and Abel knew they were supposed to present a blood sacrifice for their sin.
But Cain chose to offer a grain offering instead. God, in response, rejected Cain's offering, not because Cain did not know better, but because his offering demonstrated a lack of faith. He did know better. Cain became embittered, and God warned him, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it" (Genesis 4:6-7). Rather than heed God's warning and repent, Cain became bitter and killed his brother in the field.
From this event, we can get a good illustration of what faith really is. The picture is not a complete one, for faith is a many-faceted jewel. But the story of Cain and Abel certainly illustrates one prominent facet. Cain had a choice to either serve God according to his own judgment or to trust God's opinion about His own. So many times this is exactly what tests of faith involve: when the rubber meets the road, will you embrace God's perspective or your own? When it comes time to choose a church, will you start with checking out their doctrine or the feeling you get from the music? If you find yourself single while your friends are married, will you consider dating and marrying an unbeliever? Or perhaps you've been married for years and it is getting old. You've met a great person at work—what are you going to do? It's old-fashioned to say that homosexuality is wrong or that women should not be pastors—are you going to "revisit" (rationalize) the Scripture or submit to its obvious meaning?
As someone who takes Bible interpretation seriously (I am a real Felix Unger when it comes to interpreting), I constantly come across Christians who approach the Scriptures with a pre-existing agenda to find what they are looking for, rationalizing their way out of uncomfortable beliefs. That is not the way of faith. Faith is cautious and does not jump to conclusions. It considers balancing truths and sometimes holds off when matters are unclear. But where the Scriptures are clear, faith does not seek to rationalize.
You see there is more at stake than offerings, sheep, and grain. The real issue in faith is God's integrity. I've recently mentioned in sermons that it gets me angry when people do not believe my words are at least an attempt on my part to be honest and accurate. I make mistakes. I might be a fool, but I expect to be viewed as at least a sincere fool. Since I do not have a reputation as a liar, I resent it when someone assumes I am one. Wow, how that makes me seethe! Sure, I can state the obvious. I have told lies and distorted things over the years, yet my reputation is not characterized by lying. So if you assume a priori that I am speaking falsely, I will resent that. God, on the other hand, doesn't lie. He has a perfect track record. Period. Neither does He err nor make sincere but wrong judgments. This is why "without faith, it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6). If you do not take Him at His word (another definition of faith), then you are, in essence, insulting Him and dishonoring His name. Our lack of faith shouts out, "God, you are a liar and really do not know what you are talking about." And folks, that is no way to approach the Almighty. But who among us hasn't done just that? Praise the Lord for a Savior who died a substitutionary death on the cross for our sins! How absolutely disrespectful we are to God when we choose not to trust Him!
I believe all creation exists to glorify God and honor His name. When we lack faith, we dishonor Him and cast our doubts upon His reputation. When we trust His judgment above our own, when we go to His book for direction rather than trying to make the Bible support our agenda, then we truly honor Him. It is as though we are broadcasting this message to the observant hosts of heaven, "God is trustworthy, all-wise, and faithful." Cain, God wants an offering from the flock, not grain. So offer sheep despite your preference for grain. Trust Him. It's not rocket science. It's about a submissive, teachable, trusting attitude that acknowledges our limitations and His infinite wisdom. Faith puts God's judgment above our own, above the opinions of our day; it operates even when we do not have a complete understanding.
For Christians, Jesus Christ is the final sacrifice. But we are challenged in Romans 12:1-2 to offer ourselves as "living sacrifices," renewing our mind and constantly flushing out the toxic thoughts of the world. Faith says, "Yes, Lord. Your way is the best way."
Reprinted from the August 2003 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.
Highland Park Church
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Kokomo, Indiana, USA