There are a lot of things that consume our attention. So many crises. So many priorities. So many things to do. As a result, we tend to get stretched too thin and when that happens, we just can’t do justice to all those competing priorities. We start doing “good enough” and justifying it with the fact that we got the job done. However, we know in our hearts that we are capable of so much more. God knows that, too, and won’t settle for less.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” – Genesis 4:1-7, ESV
I know there’s debate on whether or not a blood sacrifice was required. I don’t want to get into that. One of the things we can determine from the language is that Abel brought his best but Cain did not. When confronted, Cain was told he knew what the expectation was, but he didn’t meet it. This is consistent with the rest of Scripture where we see God asking us to give Him our hearts and to give the very best we can. When we offer anything less than the best, that we’re not giving of ourselves fully. We’re striving for “good enough” and with God, that’s not good enough.
It’s real easy here to become defensive and say, “But I’ve got so much on my plate!” If that’s our response, that we’ve got our priorities out of place. We may not want to face that truth, but truth it is. God is supposed to be the priority and we get the order of our other priorities from Him. So if He’s not the priority, we’ve gotten our priorities from someplace else. That means He’s not first, no matter how we may try to justify that He is. So now we’re stressed, overwhelmed, and outside the will of God. This is not where we want to be.
The solution is simple but it means abandoning the idea that we can handle things. We can’t. We never could. But we don’t like that truth, either. The solution is to set things aside and go to God and say, “Lord, I know I’m out of your will. I know you’re not the priority in my life. Show me my priorities. Give me the strength to embrace Your plan. And give me the courage to say no to those people for those things important to them but needing to either be slid down the list or dropped off of it altogether with respect to what I can do right now.” Then we have to stick by that, even when it’s painful. And yes, even when it isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair. We must accept this truth, too. If life were fair, we should be struck down for our sins, like Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10) for offering God worship other than what He said was acceptable. Something to consider.
But what if it’s not a problem with being overwhelmed? Then we’re in Cain’s position. Then the only solution is to humble ourselves and to yield to God. It means putting ourselves aside and changing our self-centered focus to a God-centered one. It’s the same thing as the previous situation, only the person we’ll be saying no to the most is ourselves. No, Lord, I won’t pursue my dream to be an aerospace engineer but instead pursue working with youth instead. No, Lord, I won’t seek to take my talents to Broadway but instead will humbly lead worship at my local church, because that is Your desire. No, Lord, I won’t take that vacation to the beach because this money needs to go to help others. You get the idea.
So as you mark out another week of life, seek to do you very best, especially where God is concerned. If you find yourself unable to do so, turn back to God and ask for help. He will help if your heart’s desire is to let Him be the priority of your life. And then He’ll help you put the rest in order.