Have you ever found yourself going through the motions? You were doing a good thing, the right thing, but your heart wasn’t into it? We have all been there. We do what needs to be done. We do it out of obligation, but we really don’t want to.
In Genesis 4 we read of two men who came to worship God. Both men offer a sacrifice. Outwardly their actions were very similar. But inwardly their hearts were very different. Cain evidently did not want to worship. He was going through the motions. His worship was seemingly out of obligation and not out of delight. Abel on the other hand was worshipping out of joy. He wanted to worship.
As a result, we read that God approves of Abel’s offering but rejects the offering Cain submitted. And it goes downhill from there for Cain. God approaches Cain encouraging him to repent and turn his heart back to God. But he refuses, embraces his sin and anger, and eventually kills his brother.
This story is picked up by the author of Hebrews and referenced in chapter 11. It gives us insight into some of the characteristics of authentic faith. Cain’s negative example helps us to see that authentic faith is sensitive and repentant. Cain shows us how not to respond to God by being callous and unrepentant. As a result, we see the importance of being sensitive to God’s Word and the Spirit in our lives. It is important to be continually listening to God and following His leading in every aspect of our lives. Furthermore, when we sense God’s conviction of sin in our lives we must be quick to repent and turn from our sin and embrace God’s forgiveness and grace.
Abel provides us with a more positive example of authentic faith. We see in Abel someone who joyfully worshipped his Creator. Genesis 4 notes that Abel brought the firstborn and the fatty portions of his flock for a sacrifice. In other words, Abel offered the best he had to give. Worship was not an obligation or a duty. It was a delight.
Even the most seasoned Christian can experience times in which our spiritual life seems dry and cold. Our reading of God’s Word or our times in prayer seem devoid of life. We sing the songs in worship but our hearts are not into the words. So, what do we do in seasons such as these? The simple answer is we fight! We fight to regain our joy and delight in God. We continue to pour over Scripture, we beg God in prayer to awaken our souls, and we continue to gather with other saints to worship our God and Savior.
The fight will not be easy. But we know intuitively that in order to develop a strong relationship or to learn a skill or trade you must work at it. In a similar manner we must be willing to put in the hard work that is sometimes necessary to find our joy and happiness in God. To move our souls from worshipping out of obligation to delight.
And so, take some time this week to reflect on the examples of faith in Genesis 4 and Hebrews 11:4. Allow the Spirit to reveal to you areas in which you may need to grow and fight for the joy God calls you to possess.
For further reading on the topic of fighting for joy in God check out When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper.