Essays on Faith – Abel

The word faith conjures up so many different pictures in today’s culture. But what does it mean in regards to God? Hebrews 11 walks us through both definitions and depictions of faith and sends us back to the Old Testament for more context.

“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.” (Heb 11:4).

What made Abel stand out? Why does his faith still speak, though he is dead? Both brothers gave God an offering. What made Abel’s better? Abel gave God the best and first results of his labor. That is the only context in which his actions are even mentioned in the Bible. So, what does it mean to give God the first and best offering of my life?

My conditioned response is to first think about money and wonder if I have given enough. But money is one of the easier things to give. Compared to most cultures, it’s a renewable resource for us Americans and takes little time to give away. Although tithing challenges me on big items (like proceeds from the sale of my house) and small (like the first trickle of my new business income) it’s become such a normal part of my life that I don’t even think about it anymore. So, if the discipline of tithing is there, what resonates in my heart this week as an offering to God?

These questions circle through my mind as I struggle to take the time early in my schedule to write. It would be so much easier to cross a few things off my to do list so I can feel more accomplished and less stressed before tackling this blog. But that would result in just some of the fruit of my labor, like Cain’s offering.

This deliberate wrestling with these questions at the beginning of my week shows my struggle with priorities. My fledgling business is clamoring for my attention. My body, tired from recent stress and travel, just wants to turn everything off and turn in early. But my heart know that this is my offering to God. This fight to meditate and process and apply costs me something that I can’t replace. This is my first and my best this week. The remainder, though still important, fades into routine marching orders.

But what does this have to do with faith? Why is this story first in the Faith Hall of Fame of Hebrews? Why is Abel’s offering a significant example of faith? What does that word mean?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” By faith, I offer God something that costs me, something that I cannot replace. By faith, I accept the validity of grace I cannot see.

It takes faith to offer anything. It’s leaning in and leaning on. It’s taking a chance. If I give out of my bounty, I’m simply sharing out of my abundance. But when I offer my best, it costs me dearly. I’m vulnerable. I cannot replace my best and first.

What I offer God reveals my level of faith in God. When I offer him my first and best, I trust that He will make the rest enough, whether time, money, or some other resource. With offering my best and first to God, I’m placing my faith and the full weight of my life in his promises. And this is not on the grounds of merit, hoping to earn his approval with my doing. This is out of gratitude and humility. He is both my source and my goal. I stop and acknowledge that. And I offer back both first and best.

Writer Bio:

Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.

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White Noise

Last week I felt like I had an abundance of time. I didn’t have the motivation to tackle any new projects. I ended up spending a lot of time missing my former life in Orlando. Yeah, the one where all I wished for was just a little more time each day. I got exactly what I prayed for and now I don’t know how to handle it.

I remembered how I got to the point where my life was the constant whirl of a hamster wheel at top speed. When I’m busy, I don’t have to allow myself the time to feel discontented or lonely. Breathlessly running a couple of minutes late from appointment to appointment gave me a sense of purpose and inclusion. If I never spent time at home it didn’t matter that home was silent and empty. I filled my time with good things until even the good things reached the volume of excess, giving me an excuse to dismiss any tension underneath the surface.  

The stillness of my current schedule is uncomfortable. The white noise of busyness is gone. There is nothing there to mask the emotions that boil up and clamor for my attention, my processing. I don’t like dealing with emotions. They don’t follow logic. Oftentimes, they reveal deeper layers of work, understanding, pulling up lies, and relaying the foundation of truth in Christ. In a word, emotions are hard.

And it seems like whatever victories and blessings I delight in, old lies sit like landmines, just waiting to blow my progress to pieces. I’m still a broken soul living in a broken world, tripping over my same insecurities and imploding into my own graspings for quick fixes and patches.

Rather than call my dear friends that are now a thousand miles away or drive across town to visit my family and remind myself of the community that God has created us in, I turned on Netflix and grabbed a tub of ice cream to while away the time. That only resulted in delaying heartache and inducing a stomachache.

Today, I sit and sift through the feelings that are surging. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt 5:8) Stripping down to silence ushers in clarity. One by one, I hand each sensation over to God. I ask for his wisdom and his truth in them. And in this surrender, this unmasking, I start to see the things of God.

There is a time and a season to everything under heaven. My capacity to love God and others is directly related to my ability and commitment to deal and heal.

Fear of the future fades to faith that God is still in control – regardless of circumstances. My imagining the possible outcomes of my current path is foolish and fruitless. I could have never predicted my current situation ten years ago no more than I can control what the next ten months hold.

Inadequacy surrenders to finding my identity in Christ. When I lift my eyes to things above and look at all these little, daily moments in the light of eternity, I am filled with hope and peace. By grace, through faith, in Christ. My own standards of success and perfection mean nothing. I am in Christ. He is enough.

Grief gives way to gratitude for the depths of friendships I forged and still hold dear over thousands of miles. And the vastness of my grief at the now physical absence of these friends in my daily life shows me just how beautiful community is. I cradle the grief turned gratitude and allow it to touch all the edges of my heart. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt 5:4)

In this moment, the white noise of distraction and self-medication is cut off and I feel the full gamut. I let it all wash over me and into the hands of a compassionate God. It is both poignant and painful. Bittersweet and beautiful. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Phil 4:8)

Writer Bio:

Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.