“Never Look Back”
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Brother JR used to say about nostalgia, “I don’t want to live in the past, but it is nice to visit for a while!” There is something very important about recalling the past. God gave us minds to store our memories for a reason. In fact, memory was a vital part of Israel’s life and worship. In their worship, Israel was to be reminded of their history as slaves in Egypt and of God’s mighty acts of deliverance and grace. They were to remember lest they forgot. (Deut. 4:9, 23; 6:12; 8:11, 14, 19; 9:7, etc.) Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Memory is a powerful tool and can be of great use to us. But memory can also function as a prison or a poison.
In a moment of panic, when Israel was hard pressed between the Red Sea and their captors, their present danger perverted their memory. By contrast, their past as slaves seemed preferable to whatever catastrophe they would face that day. (Ex. 14:11-12)
We also can be guilty of allowing the pain of the present to distort our memory of the past. This distortion may tempt us to fall back into a lifestyle of sin. (Heb. 10; 2 Pet. 2:22)
Sometimes, we see the wickedness of the present and compare it with a past that never existed. The Preacher exhorts us, “Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecc. 7:10) The past was not better than the present. Though there may have been some bright moments, we should not be so naïve to think that the arc of human history has been anything but a total rejection of God’s truth. (Rom. 3:9-20) While we can see standards of morality shifting, sin has always plagued this earth since Genesis 3.
Other times, we can grow so fond of the past that we begin to mentally “live” in the past at the expense of our future. Faith looks to things “hoped for” in the future. (Heb. 11:1) It is, by nature, forward thinking and so must be forward acting. For a Christian to live by faith, he must “hope” for a brighter future, (Rom. 5:3-5) namely, the resurrection. “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience.” (Rom. 8:24-25)
Remember Lot’s wife who, when escaping from the destruction of Sodom toward God’s salvation, “looked back” and was destroyed for it. (Gen. 19:26) We cannot afford to be like Lot’s wife – frozen in the act of looking backwards. An unhealthy fixation on the past will immobilize us in the present and cost us our eternal future.
Our Lord said of our devotion to Him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 9:62) When it comes to our commitment to the Lord, we can never look back or second guess our decision to follow Him.