If you’ve ever run a race, or at least watched a race, you know that the number one thing you shouldn’t do is look over your shoulder behind you. Why? First, when you look back, it creates wind drag and slows you down. Secondly, it’s hard to run in a straight line if you’re looking back. When you step out of your lane, in most races, it will disqualify you. Thirdly, and I think most importantly, it creates a negative mindset. What is driving you to look back? Fear. You’re afraid that someone else is gaining on you. That mentality distracts you from running your own race. You are no longer running to win. Instead, you are running to avoid losing, and that’s not the purpose of running a race.
In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul uses this same imagery when he compares living the Christian life to running a race. He wrote, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (NLT). Paul is reminding us that we are all in a race, and rule number 1 is to forget the past and don’t look back. The enemy tries to give us a negative mentality that tells us our past disqualifies us from serving God, being used by God or that we are not even worth being used by God. He wants you to think that way so that you will focus behind you on who you were rather than who you are becoming.
His encouragement for us is to press on and to keep our eyes on the prize even though you aren’t going to become the perfect Christian. Not one of us are capable of living this life without sinning or failing God, but we can’t let that keep us from running our race and looking forward. Those words “press on” are intentional. It means we keep going even when things are hard. We keep trusting in God’s grace for our sins and in His strength when we are struggling to advance. Our future is not in our past. It’s in Him, so we need to look ahead and keep our eyes on Him. Our heavenly prize is waiting for us, so we need to take captive every thought that tries to get us to look backwards. Don’t let them get a foothold in your mind. You are destined to win, empowered by His grace and will be victorious through Him.