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The Tragedy of Looking Back

Wil Addison
Director of Special Initiatives for AFA

If you are a Christian you have been saved from deep and dark sin. You have been redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. There has been a high price paid to secure your salvation. When we are made alive in Christ we are not promised an easy life. One of the main struggles we have as Christ-followers is not being lured back into things we did in our former life. 

If we are not in a place of strength in our walk, the very real temptation is to look back at some of those things and have a false sense that things weren’t so bad in our life before Christ. We forget the fear we lived in, the addictions we were bound to, the constant trouble we faced. 

There are times when we look at the world around us, especially if you are on social media or a big watcher of television, and you see the best of people’s lives. It seems like all is well and you look at yourself and it seems that you’re surrounded by chaos. It seems that our family or friends who are not serving God are living it up, doing what they want. We may even think ‘man I did have fun back then; it wasn't that bad.” 

Consider the words of Asaph in Psalm 73 

We have these thoughts at times but what do we do to combat them? 

When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end (Psalms 73:16-17 NASB). 

We have to get into the presence of God. We have to be renewed in our minds through His Word! 

Instances that show the tragedy of looking back. 

Why is this such an offense? Could looking back be good at all? 

David looked back on the victory he had against the lion and the bear as he was getting ready to fight Goliath. 

The Lord told His people at times to set up monuments as a remembrance of what He had done for them.

We remember our past in sharing our testimonies with the aim of encouraging others about the power of God. 

It’s a matter of the heart. Are we looking back with an affinity for our former life? Or does our looking back at what God has brought us from thrust us forward and cause us to praise Him who delivers from the bondage of sin? 

Following are some instances that show the tragedy of looking back. 

Then the two men said to Lot, Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, Up, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting. When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, one said, Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.” Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your lovingkindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, for the disaster will overtake me and I will die; now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved.” He said to him, Behold, I grant you this request also, not to overthrow the town of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the town was called Zoar. The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:12-17, 19-26 NASB). 

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers (Philemon 1:23-24 NASB). 

Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas (Colossians 4:14 NASB). 

[F]or Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10 NASB). 

The separation caused by Demas’ desertion of Paul was not merely spatial but spiritual. Demas left Rome because he fell in love with the world. In other words, Demas chose the corrupt value system of the unsaved world over what heaven values. As the NLT translates it, Demas “loves the things of this life” (2 Timothy 4:10). We don’t know the details of Demas's situation, but it is evident that Demas decided that what Satan had to offer in this life was better than what God had to offer in the next.” (Quoted from a Got Questions article on Demas) 

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world (1 John 2:15-16 NASB). 

Sadly there's no record of Demas coming back from the world. 

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, Follow Me.” But he said, Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:57-62 NASB). 

When we come to Christ we are called to give all. The world will present opportunities for us to take our eyes off Jesus but this is equivalent to putting our hands to the plow and looking back. If we look back at the world and don't focus on the work of the harvest we will plow crooked lines that will not yield the harvest. 

It’s a tragedy when one takes his eyes of Jesus. It is a path that leads to tragedy. The writer in Hebrews 11 underscores the great history of those who became champions because of their faith in God and His promises. Character after character is spoken of with admiration, not because they had an easy life but because they endured not ever being able to see what they were hoping for. But then we read chapter 12. The writer is in essence saying because of the faith of those spoken of those he just named, a great cloud of witnesses surrounds us. Let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us. 

How do we succeed and keep from looking back? By 

[L]ooking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith (Hebrews 12:2). 

He is the one who authored and originated the faith talked about in all those heroes in chapter 11. They were not looking back at the world. They were looking towards the promise: 

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen and welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country which they left, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13-16). 

This is what God deserves from us: 

Lay aside - To put away, stow away or renounce  

Every weight - bulk, encumbrance burden 

Sin - missing the mark, sinful deeds 

Entangles - easily surrounding, encircling, easily distracting  

With endurance - with steadfastness, patiently waiting for 

Let us run - exercise myself, make progress 

Race - The contest, a struggle (In the soul) 

Lying before us - to be set, before, already there. 

We can do this because we fix our eyes on the one who already completed the race! 

Let us look to Jesus the originator and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him (because He was looking forward as well) endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).

This article was originally posted on The Stand.

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