When I was in high school, I ran track. One of the races I ran was a relay race. We would constantly practice handing off the baton. In the race, you could look back while you were standing still, but when the person handing you the baton said, “Run,” you took off and waited to hear, “Hand!” At that point, you opened your hand behind you and they would smack it on your hand to ensure you got it. The rule was you never looked back. If you looked back, you were likely to slow down, trip or even fault by stepping out of your lane. The person receiving the baton was blind to the exchange and had to trust the one handing it off. Their job was to keep their eyes ahead and run like crazy once they got the baton.
Paul used a similar story in Philippians 3:12-14. He wrote, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 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). One of the hardest things for us to do is to forget the past and to look forward. When we’re constantly looking backwards, we can’t give our full attention to what lies ahead. We’re likely to go slower, trip again or step out of our lane.
Proverbs 4:25-27 says, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” Where are you looking? Are you being sidetracked by your past? Remember that the things that happened in your past often qualify you for the future work God wants to do through you. If we’re wallowing in pity or shame, it’s hard to focus on handing the baton of freedom to others. God has ordered your steps, but it’s up to you to walk in them. Quit looking backwards and look straight ahead. There are some amazing things yet to be done, but you can’t accomplish them by looking backwards. Learn from your past, find freedom in Christ and run like crazy toward the goals and freedom God sets in front of you.