When I was younger, I had a really cool sports car. It liked to get up and go, and I had a heavy foot. It wasn’t long before I was caught going over the speed limit. I went to the judge and asked to take defensive driving so that it wouldn’t go on my record. I took the class from a friend’s dad who taught them on Saturday’s. I was embarrassed to be there, but I did it. However, I didn’t learn my lesson. Less than a year later I was back. Over lunch, he said, “Let me tell you a little secret. You need to start looking 30 seconds up the road instead of right in front of you. If you learn to do that, you’ll make better decisions and see things before they’re right in front of you.”
In Matthew 4, we read where Jesus was tempted by the devil. The devil tried to get him to turn stones into bread, to jump off the Temple to prove He was God’s son and bow down to him in exchange for the world’s kingdoms. In each case, Jesus refuted him with the Word of God. Satan was trying to get Jesus to go for things in the moment to satisfy the human nature of wanting things now. Because Jesus knew the Word of God, and was guided by the Spirit, He didn’t go for what was right in front of Him. Instead, He looked down the road at the purpose for which He was sent, trusted God’s Word and made the right decision.
Psalm 119:105 says, “Truth’s shining light guides me in my choices and decisions; the revelation of your Word makes my pathway clear” (TPT). Others versions will say it is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. Knowing God’s Word is critical for us believers. One of the ways it helps us is to help us look forward down the path, so we can make the right decisions. It’s light shines on our present situation as well so that we can see what’s really going on and choose wisely. The wisdom and perspective it gives will help us in all areas of our lives. In order to put it in our mind and heart, we must study it, learn it and memorize it. God has given us all we need in it, but it’s up to us to open it up and use it to help us in our present and down the road.
I’m going to tell you something, but you have to promise not to laugh. Years ago, I lived near the local YMCA. I had a membership and would use it to exercise. They had their treadmills right up front facing the window towards the parking lot. I went in and started jogging on one working my way up to running looking outside. There was a TV in the room, but it was four machines over to the right and up in the corner. As I was running, something came on that made me look. I started watching TV while running. My right foot missed the treadmill and landed on the side, which is stationary. I went forward, hit the front of the machine, fell backwards on my rear onto the now sprinting speed treadmill. It shot me off backwards. I did a backflip when I hit the floor. I jumped up, like nothing happened, because people were in there jogging next to me. I got on the treadmill, ran for about 10 seconds, turned off the machine, walked out and never went back.
I’ve never been able to get on a treadmill without thinking about that moment since. Falling shook my confidence in those machines even though it was my fault. As a former runner, I should have known better than to look anywhere but straight ahead while running. Looking anywhere else distracts you from the goal and causes you to drift, losing precious time. In this case, I lost my pride too. The same feelings happen when we take our eyes off of Jesus and fall. Sometimes our fall is public and we feel like we can’t face those people again. Sometimes there’s a constant reminder of it that causes us to hang our head in shame even though we’ve been forgiven. And almost all the time, you have feelings of being a second rate Christian because of it. I’m here to tell you those feelings of shame and condemnation are not from God.
Proverbs 4:25 says, “Look straight ahead with honest confidence; don’t hang your head in shame” (GNT). It’s time to pick up your head and start running again. Your sin and your past is no longer remembered by God. It has been cast as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). There is a robe of Christ’s righteousness around you and your relationship with God is based on that and not your past failures. It’s time to get back on track and to start moving ahead with confidence. You’ve stayed in the swamp of despondency long enough. God still has a plan and a purpose. Nothing you do could ever remove that from you. It is irrevocable according to Romans 11:29. So fix your eyes straight ahead on Jesus and start running once again.
When today draws to a close, the whole world will celebrate another year gone. But this isn’t just a year passing, it’s also a decade (and a score as my son will tell you). It’s a time for looking back as well as ahead. Where were you in 2010? What was happening in your life? Are you better off now than then? Are you where you thought you’d be? Had you given any thought to where you wanted to be ten years later? A lot can change in a decade that is out of our control, but there’s also a lot that you and I can control. Looking forward and dreaming about what God wants to do through you is one of those things.
We know Jeremiah 29:11 says that God knows the plans He has for us, but do we know the plans we have for ourselves? As a Christian, it’s important to be proactive with our lives. We can’t afford to just go with the flow. You were created with purpose on purpose. Unless you set goals, make a plan, create practical steps to achieve and measure your progress in that plan, you may find yourself in 2030 no where near where you want to be having lost a decade. Where do you want to be 10 years from now? What are some major things you want to accomplish? What would you like God to do through you in that time?
The Golden Rule In Matthew 7:12 tells us to treat others the way we want to be treated. Do you have a goal for how you want to treat others going forward? Romans 15:2 says, “Our goal must be to empower others to do what is right and good for them, and to bring them into spiritual maturity” (TPT). Think of ways you can empower others in your life, and do something daily to do it. You don’t have to do something big, but through your consistent, small actions, you can make a world of difference in the lives of people around you. Seek God on what He would like to do through you to empower others each day so that you can help them reach their goals and spiritual maturity. In ten years, you can change countless lives, but it starts with a choice, a plan and an action.
My wife and I took a road trip this weekend. The two of us were in the front seat and our toddler was in the back seat. All throughout the trip she would talk to him, play with him and occupy him while I drove. There were a couple of times when she was playing with him when a car in front of me had braked. I too applied my break. When I did, she would look up or turn around to see a car in front of me with their brake lights on and she would let out a yelp and brace herself with the dashboard. We laughed because it was unusual for her to do that.
After doing this a couple of times, I told her, “I got this. Trust me. I knew he was going to brake and I was prepared.” I explained that I had taken defensive driving classes plenty of times (don’t ask why) and that they taught me to look 10-20 seconds ahead to where I was going. As a passenger though, she wasn’t occupied with what was ahead. She kept getting startled and scared by what kept popping up in our path because she wasn’t looking ahead. She was looking behind mostly or right in front of us.
I think a lot of us live life that way. We are either constantly looking back while our lives are moving forward or we are so concentrated on what is right ahead of us that we fail to look ahead. We get caught up when something pops up that we didn’t expect and let out a yelp. We see brake lights in our path and grab our dashboard in fear. We get preoccupied with everything around us without looking ahead to where we are going.
When we do that, I can hear God say, “I got this. Trust me. I knew this was going to happen.” Instead of trusting Him though, we become a backseat driver to Him. We tell Him He should have braked earlier. He should have warned us. We question why He’s taking this road instead of that one. We tell Him to slow down or to speed up. Our lack of trust in who He is and in the plan for our lives begins to show up when we do this.
It kind of reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. The son who had left was returning home after he squandered all that was given to him. While he was walking, he was so concentrated on what he would say. He worried if he would be received and was practicing over and over what he would tell his dad when he got home. He was doing this so much, that he wasn’t even looking ahead. He didn’t know where he was, but his dad did. He was still a long way off when his father saw him and ran to him.
God is always looking far off ahead of us. He knows our path and His plan for our lives. While we are looking down or behind, He is looking ahead and preparing. When things happen suddenly, it may cause you to grab the dashboard and scream because you are unprepared for it, but He is not. Trust Him to do the driving His way. Just because where He is taking you doesn’t make sense at the moment, it doesn’t mean He has fallen asleep at the wheel. Trust Him with your life and try not to be a backseat driver.