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.
Photo by Austris Augusts on Unsplash
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
My son loves to watch “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” on my iPad. I think he loves Daniel Tiger so much because he sings songs that are easy for him to learn. My son started singing one of those songs recently when I was hanging a shelf in my room. He wanted to help, but the shelf was too heavy and too high for him so I asked him to sit on the bed and watch. He sang, “Everyone is big enough, big enough to do something.” I couldn’t help but laugh and said, “You’re right.” I handed him the screws to hold and had him pass me my level. He was big enough to help with that.
So many times in our lives we feel inadequate and under qualified. We take ourselves out of situations God has placed us in because we think we aren’t the right person for the job. We underestimate the value that we bring and we use that as an excuse to not do what God has called us to. Esther felt the same way. She was just a girl who won a beauty contest and became the king’s wife. She had no authority, no royal blood in her and was an orphan. She was the least qualified to stand before the king and get justice for her people.
Like anyone else in that situation, she made excuses as to why she couldn’t do God’s will. Her uncle, Mordecai, was unwilling to accept her excuses and sent her word that said, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) He understood that when God calls us to do something, He qualifies us to do it. He puts us right where He needs us in order to do what needs to be done. It’s not up to us to use how we got into that position as a disqualifier. It’s up to us to recognize why God has us where He does.
Each of us are qualified to do something for God. There are none of us who are perfect. None who are sinless. None who haven’t made huge mistakes we regret. God, in His mercy, doesn’t allow our past to keep us from doing His will. Instead, He embraces it and uses it to qualify us to carry out His will. What we think disqualifies us, God uses to qualify. What we think should keep us from helping Him is the very thing He wants to use. He uses the broken and scarred to help heal those with fresh wounds.
Don’t ever fall for the lie that you cannot be used by God because of something you’ve done. If you have been forgiven by God, then you are just the person God is looking for. You don’t have to sit on the sidelines and watch. You can hold out your hands and let God use them to accomplish what He can only do through you. Who knows, perhaps you went through what you went through for such a time as this? He can use your scars to prove He heals open wounds. He can use your brokenness to show how He mends the broken-hearted. He can use you, no matter what.
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash
I ran several different events in high school for our track and field team. Besides working on our form, our coach gave us another bit of advice: never look back. Looking back costs you time, disrupts your form, and changes your wind resistance. We were told, “Even if you hear footsteps close behind, don’t look back. Just look straight ahead at the finish line until the race is over.” What was good advice for track is good for us in life.
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” (NLT). It’s hard to stay in a straight line when you’re not looking forward. My son is a perfect example. He’s constantly looking everywhere except where he’s going. I keep reminding him, “Look ahead or you’ll run into things, fall down and get hurt.”
We all need to be looking where we are going. What God has for you is not behind you. It’s ahead of you. Yes, your past happened, but it’s not where you’re going, it where you’re leaving. Think of Lot’s wife. She looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. The Angels told them to keep moving forward and not to look back. I don’t think it was an instant change to salt. I think she got caught up looking back, forgot to move forward, and was covered with the salty soot from the destruction.
In Philippians 3:13, Paul 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,” It’s hard to forget the past and the things that happened, but if we allow them to distract us from our future, we could end up like Lot’s wife. We could become stationary and get stuck in that place. We need to be looking forward to what lies ahead so we win our race. Learn from the past, but keep looking where you’re going or you’ll run into things, fall down, and get hurt.