In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we find a single common denominator to the lives of everyone mentioned there. Each one of them had a particular characteristic that denotes the kind of faith God loves. What was this element? Their faith was born of deep intimacy with the Lord.
Quite simply, it is impossible to have a faith that pleases God without sharing intimacy with him. What do I mean by intimacy? I’m talking about a closeness to the Lord that comes from yearning after him. This kind of intimacy is a close personal bond, a communion. It comes when we desire the Lord more than anything else in this life.
Here is an example: “By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4). I want you to notice several things about this verse. First, God himself stated Abel’s gifts were accepted. It wasn’t something Abel claimed or his dad said and best friend. Second, Abel had to build an altar to the Lord, where he brought his sacrifices. And he offered not only unspotted lambs for the sacrifice, but the fat of those lambs as well. “Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering” (Genesis 4:4).
What does the fat signify here? Ah, good question, I’m glad you asked. Regarding the fat, the book of Leviticus says, “The priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire, a pleasing aroma. All the fat is the LORD’s” (Leviticus 3:16). The fat was the part of the sacrifice that caused a sweet aroma to rise. This part of the animal caught flame quickly and was consumed, bringing the sweet smell. I know, I just saw you crinkle your nose at that, and I agree, the smell of meat can’t be all that sweet of a smell. But you have to remember that the fat here serves as a type of prayer or fellowship that is acceptable to God. It represents our ministry to the Lord in the secret closet of prayer. And the Lord himself said that kind of intimate worship rises to him like a sweet-smelling savor.
Abel’s actions are actually the Bible’s first mention of this kind of worship. That’s why Abel is listed in Hebrews 11’s Hall of Faith. He’s a type of servant who was in fellowship with the Lord, offering him the best of all he had. As Hebrews declares, Abel’s example lives on today as a testimony of true, living faith: “Even though he is dead, he still speaks . . .” (Hebrews 11:4).
So what are we supposed to do with this? It is said that you will become what you pursue. Well, we are to pursue our Lord with a relentless, lifelong, obstacle-defying passion–we are to pray, worship, pray some more and yes, become obsessive in our pursuit. Yes, become a fanatic. That’s what I have been talking about with all these emails I send. I realize that in the muddle of day-to-day life, we sometimes forget that Christianity is a living, vibrant relationship with a personal God. And we need to learn to know this God, our Father, intimately and to seek Him until are our desires are satisfied (I’ll give you a hint, it’ll take eternity).