Forget what lies behind

Recently I had the honor of teaching a group of girls about the danger of longing for things of this world, when God is calling us ahead into deeper relationship with Him. To help reinforce the lesson, I asked each girl to stand against a wall. Upon my word I asked them to walk a straight line while turning their head to look behind them. 

At the end of the exercise each agreed this was not an easy task and acknowledged their line was less than straight. Thinking over the demonstration at home that evening, I realized it could have been so much more effective had we taken it outside rather than the smooth, flat, level floor of our classroom. I wondered, ‘how would their lines and answers have changed had we been outdoors? How much different would their response have been regarding the difficulty of their feit? Would anyone have fallen or tripped over the bumps, holes, and unevenness of the ground?’ Undoubtedly yes, but even in the safety of our classroom, I witnessed the uneasiness, lack of confidence and waivering that looking back and moving forward at the same time brought to them. Such a simple truth when you look at it through a physical demonstration such as this, and we concluded exactly what God’s word teaches us, looking backward while moving forward possesses the ability to harm us. It sounds so elementary doesn’t it? Yet – take this exercise and turn it from physical action into thoughts, specifically thoughts of your past, and we negate any danger within without giving it a second thought. 

We find ourselves in situations where something happens, hurt enters our lives, and when it does we allow ourselves to think on old memories of the places where God has taken us, and when we do, we see them with a fondness in our hearts and begin to long for those things all the while forgetting the work of God that it took to remove us, and the pain that we experienced while in those situations…we look past it only remembering our current pain and frustration. We then become confused and our path to God becomes like the exercise I described above, we become unstable, we stumble, we wander, and find ourselves slipping farther from Him and closer to our sinful past. God’s word has a lot to say about doing this and warns us of allowing our hearts to be persuaded.

Ecclesiastes 7:10 says; 

Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

Luke 9:62 states;

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

We see scriptures similar to this throughout His word and we read entire stories such as the Israelites wandering the wilderness, and Lot’s wife, both great examples of people being lured by their love for the world, or thoughts of their past. As we study His word, we read these stories and we see the obvious pain and danger that looms in looking back, yet applying it to our own situation…the danger just doesn’t appear that obvious. 

Look at the story of Lot and his wife found in Genesis 19.

Lot and his wife lived in the evil city of Sodom and Gomorah. God, disgusted with the sin of the city chose to destroy it, but before doing so He remembered Lot, Abraham’s nephew, a righteous man. He lived within the city gates. God sent his angels to speak to him. Lot invited them to his home. While there, they warned Lot of the coming destruction of the city. Lot went and spoke to his sons-in-law to warn them only to hear them laugh in disbelief. Lot then gathered his daughters and wife to flee the city, yet they hesitated. They loved that city, it was their home. Seeing the hesitation, the angels grabbed them and pulled them out telling Lot to flee to the mountains, and giving a warning to them all to not look back. As they fled, Lot’s wife couldn’t resist the temptation to look back at the city she loved, and as she did, she was changed to a pillar of salt…

She looked back to the place God was taking her from, and she had a longing in her heart for the things in her past, she looked back in complete disregard to what the angels spoke. God tried to save her, and she left physically, but mentally she was still in Sodom and Gomorah.

What about the Israelites? 

 God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery. After many pleadings and the plagues that God sent, Pharoah finally agreed and the Israelites were allowed to leave. Finally free and moving on to their promised land, one would think they would be so in awe of God’s mighty work that, that would be enough to captivate their focus and keep their eyes on Him, yet not long into their journey we find them grumbling longing for their days of slavery stating that atleast they were fed while under Egyptian rule. Seriously? The God of the universe makes a way for them to escape slavery, they finally have what they have desired for so long, yet we find them so quickly to curse their own blessing. 

Again, so obvious to us as a reader that their behavior is out of line, and unthinkable, yet if we were to allow ourselves to be honest in self reflection, we would realize that we do the exact same thing. Philippians 3:13 states:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

Forgetting what lies behind. The saying, ‘Easier said than done,’ may be a severe understatement when applied here, but God encourages it. How often does God convict us of sin, how often does he pull on our heart strings and reveal a path out of our current situation, yet our love for sin, our love for things of this world persuades us to stay, OR we see that path and we start down it, we commit to a change yet as we go down it, people and things start to draw us back…it is at that moment that we fail to forget our past and we are like Lot’s wife, we look back with longing in our heart, and when we do so, how hard is it to keep walking the path ahead with our neck turned around in want of the things of old? We give the enemy a foothold and it gives him the opportunity to entice us back into the bondage of sin that God initially set us free of. We stop trusting His plan, and we choose to allow ourselves to think maybe, just maybe it wasn’t so bad living our life of sin. We don’t see the end result God has in store. We don’t immediately see the goodness in God’s plan, and we turn away forgetting that God gave us a promise and to realize the goodness of His promise, we are required to have faith. Faith in the unseen hand of God, Faith that He is going to do what He said he would do, Faith that His plan is greater than anything we could ever do on our own. 

Isaiah 43:18-19

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

The God that makes paths in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, that same God is doing a work in you, it was not a mistake that he pulled you from the sin of your addiction, relationship, rebellion, finances, whatever it be, it wasn’t a mistake at all, and just because His path and river isn’t flowing or going in the direction in which you expect, that doesn’t mean you have made a mistake. What it means is, He is doing a new thing, and His ways are higher than yours, and you must be faithful, and trust Him. He gave us His word:

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

That my friend is a golden promise! One in which I am clinging to. If you are struggling today, wondering if you are on the right path, wondering if you have made the right decision, or you find yourself longing for the sinful things of your past, STOP! Turn your eyes to Him – trust Him, and pray these scriptures of promise back to Him. Make up your mind today…Choose Him.

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