November 27 – By Faith or by Sight – Live Today Trusting God

To fully follow God, we must leave the past behind, look ahead with anticipation and finally…live today trusting God.

Abraham and Sarah faced a series of defining moments which included obstacles that had to be overcome. Two of these are shared in Hebrews. The first was related to God’s promise in Genesis for a nation to come from Abraham. He was 75 when they left home. Now he’s 99, Sarah is 90 and they have no kids. Suddenly, they find out they’re going to have a child. We discover that when they found out, they laughed (Genesis 17:17; 18:12). Yet the promise maker became a promise keeper. “And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.” (Hebrews 11:11)

The second obstacle to overcome was related to this child. God now requested Isaac to be sacrificed. What!?! Isaac, their only hope and dream, was being tied up and placed on an altar by Abraham. The Hebrews author writes, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” (Hebrews 11:17-19)

Abraham was willing to obey and sacrifice Isaac, believing God would raise him from the dead. He was willing to give everything to God. What a humbling thought. In the story’s original account in Genesis, we learn that, just when Abraham raises his hand, an angel appears and stops him. He provides a lamb to be sacrificed. Thousands of years before Jesus died on the cross, we see God painting a picture of it for us. Just like God provided a sacrificial lamb in Isaac’s place, He provided Jesus, His only Son, in our place. God is a promise maker and He is a promise keeper. Fully following God means trusting God in the moment.

There are only two ways to live – by faith or by sight. To fully follow God, you must live by faith. When we do, it changes our lives and countless others. Hebrews 11:12 says, “And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:12)

Remember great opportunity rests inside great uncertainty. What is seen is temporary and uncertain. What is unseen is eternal and certain. God, His Word, and people will last forever. Nothing else is certain. So how will your defining moments be defined? By what is certain or by what is uncertain? What does it look like for you to fully follow God today? What do you need to leave behind? Do you need to focus on what is ahead? Where do you struggle to trust God right now? Wrestle with these questions. Invite someone you trust to give you feedback on what they would write about you.

Nick Cleveland

November 26 – By Faith or by Sight – Look Ahead with Anticipation

Years ago, we traveled by van to Florida. The anticipation was electric for the boys. We were on Burbank Road pulling onto the Dix Expressway (1 mile from home), when our youngest at the time genuinely asked, “How long until we get there?” We laughed…“22 hours, buddy!” For Abraham and Sarah, while the anticipation was real, the journey was long. Hebrews says, “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10)

Abraham, his kids and grandkids were all waiting to possess what God promised. We hate to wait, don’t we? Waiting in line for our food or even for the end of the pandemic. Abraham and Sarah lived in tents as foreigners who didn’t belong. They couldn’t wait to get there, wherever “there” was. For Christ followers, this is a picture of our life today. You were designed for a different destination. And this life is a journey.

But you know what gets you through a season of waiting? Hope. The confident anticipation of what is on the other side. For our kids, it was Florida. For Abraham, it was a destination that will not disappoint. Abraham was longing for a location that would last forever – a real place called Heaven. One second after you breathe your last breath, you will spend forever somewhere. There aren’t countless destination options. One is separated from God in a real place called Hell and the other is connected with God in a real place called Heaven. Abraham had confidence looking ahead. Do you? Real faith is confident that, no matter what problems you experience, the destination you expect is for sure. Hope in heaven drives peace on earth. Hope sets our minds on things above and things that last forever. What you set your mind on is what you live for.

What do you live for? Too often, our focus is on what doesn’t last, so we become disappointed when it disappears. Abraham was looking ahead with anticipation to what would last forever. To follow God fully in a season of uncertainty, we have to focus on what lasts. Will you look ahead with anticipation and decide to live for what lasts?

Nick Cleveland

November 25 – By Faith or by Sight – Leave Your Past Behind

When Vicki and I moved here 18 years ago, we felt the uncertainty of not knowing anyone. Maybe you know that feeling of moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar. It’s precisely what Abraham and Sarah did, leaving friends, family, and ways of life when they responded to God’s call and moved. Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)

Faith is more than just belief; it’s accompanied with action. To fully follow God, you must leave your past behind. We don’t always get a detailed description of what’s next. Faith is taking the first step when you don’t know exactly where the path leads. In Abraham’s case, that was Ur – his homeland. Ur was filled with idolatry- worship of created things and not the Creator. It was a place of selfishness. It represented security and comfort, but Abraham had to leave the past behind to fully follow God. And so do we.

We must leave behind our old way of thinking and living and journey toward a new way of thinking and living. Paul told the Corinthians that “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation the old is gone and the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) God is inviting us to a new life and the journey begins by giving up our unbelief, selfishness, pride, sin and worship of anyone or anything other than God. Giving up our way of life for God’s way is the biggest obstacle to living by faith.

What do you need to leave behind? God’s way is the best way and He is calling you to leave behind your way and fully follow Him to a new destination.

Nick Cleveland

November 24 – By Faith or by Sight

Uncertainty. We all face some level of uncertainty, don’t we? Life is filled with uncertain moments like…when you get that text from a boss or significant other that simply says, “We need to talk,” or the moment a test or exam is handed out in class and the only thing you’re certain of is your name. No doubt the phrase “uncertain times” has become a bit of a catch phrase to describe our current reality. No matter if times are certain or uncertain, there are only 2 ways to live life…one is by faith and the other is by sight.

Last year, I took my sons to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We enjoyed our visit, but one experience stood out to us. It’s an exhibit called “A Game for Life” that features you sitting in a locker room, listening to virtual holograms of famous coaches like Vince Lombardi and players like Joe Namath. It’s a picture of what it’s like to live by faith in a world consumed by sight. When you live by faith, you can fully follow God even when life is uncertain.

In Hebrews 11, the author writes more about today’s central character than anyone else. While he lived thousands of years ago, I think you’ll be able to relate to some of his defining moments. His name is Abraham and he is considered the Father of Faith, because faith defined his defining moments. He faced many tests and they were turning points where he discovered that great opportunity is often hidden in the middle of great uncertainty. God makes a promise to him that is recorded in the opening of the Bible, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’  So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…” (Genesis 12:1-4a)

 Abraham’s response to God’s promise shows us 3 ways to fully follow God when times are uncertain:

Leave the past behind, look ahead with anticipation and live today trusting God.

Which one do you struggle with the most? We’ll take a look into each one of these in this week’s posts.

Nick Cleveland