Don't Look Back

Bible Book: Luke  9 : 62
Subject: Looking Forward; Dealing With The Past
Series: Opening The Windows of Heaven
 [Editor's Note: This sermon can also be titled "Opening the Windows of Heaven Through Forward Vision."]

Don't Look Back

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

We have been learning that certain types of behavior can open or close the windows of heaven on our lives. Tonight we look at how to open the windows of heaven by looking forward rather than backward.

The incredible black pitcher named Satchel Paige was known for pitching in pro baseball well into his fifties - beyond that of any other baseball pitcher in any era. He once told a reporter, "Don't look back, somebody might be gaining on you." That is a reminder which is profitable for everyone. Even God tells us that looking back improperly can be devastating.

Living life each day is a little like driving a car; it is always best to look through the windshield more than you look through the rearview mirror. No one drives a car constantly staring out of the rearview mirror. In fact, most new cars have a rearview camera that sends the image behind the driver to a screen on the automobile’s dash. When the driver switches the car from drive into reverse, the rearview camera comes on; however, once the driver moves from reverse into drive the rearview camera image goes away. Who needs a view out the back of the car once you are going forward? Sadly, however, when it comes to living, a lot of people live in the past. They either major on their success in the past, their failures in the past or on what someone has done to them in the past.

In our lives for God, we can open the windows of heaven by knowing how to keep our major attention on the windshield of life rather than on the rearview mirror of the past. Though considering the past has some advantages, those who keep bringing up the past hardly ever move forward. To have heaven opened to us, we must look to what God has in front of us.

Now, let me state that even God often told His people to "remember" certain things, truths or requirements that He had given them in the past. Certainly we must do that as He instructed. Remembering properly can assist us in many ways, but there is also a danger in majoring too much on that which is behind us.

Paul was excellent at moving forward rather than allowing the past to serve as a kind of anchor holding him back from God's best which lay before him. He was able to glance at the past but keep his gaze on the present and the future. He could recall the past but always recommit to what God had for him in the now and now, and even in the sweet by and by.

So, let’s look at our text today and consider how too much concentration on the past can be damaging and how keeping our focus outward and upward opens heaven’s windows.

Note first that ...

I. We must never be Content with Yesterday's Successes

Paul penned in Philippians 3:4-6: " ... though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless ..."

Paul had known many successes in his life, but he wanted to lay those things aside that he might reach for new horizons and new heights in his walk with God. In fact, Paul counted all previous accomplishments as rubbish or trash as compared to that which God had waiting ahead of him. He did this in order that he might grow closer to Christ and serve Him more faithfully.

F.B. Meyer's commentary on Philippians tells of a conversation between Mr. Wrigley, of chewing gum fame, and a man on a plane. The man on the plane noted that Wrigley had many billboards, radio and television ads about his chewing gum. He asked Mr. Wrigley, “Why advertise so much? After all, you have the bestselling gum on earth.” Mr. Wrigley asked, “This plane we are on is moving really fast, isn’t it?” The man acknowledged that it was. “Well,” Mr. Wrigley continued, “why not cut off an engine and save some fuel.” The man got the point. You don’t quit advertising for the same reason you don’t want a pilot to turn off one of the engines on a plane. Just because the plane has built up some speed, that doesn’t mean you can stop the engines.

You remember, I am sure, how King David made a mistake when he was supposed to be at war. He decided to stay at home in Jerusalem while other kings were out with their soldiers in the battle. It was at this point that David first saw Bathsheba bathing, and ... well ... you know the rest of that story.

It is dangerous to become satisfied. One must keep going forward. A Christian can never become satisfied with what has been accomplished because God always has something else for us to do. To sit down is to fall back. We are to stay on fire for God by always looking forward. When we keep our focus on moving forward with God we close the windows to the devil and open the windows of heaven open upon our lives.

Note also ...

II. We must never be Controlled by Yesterday's Sufferings

I have observed many Christians who have been hindered in any meaningful forward motion in their walk with God because they concentrated too much on yesterday’s hurts and sorrows. Many have allowed a harmful, hurtful past experience to hinder a wonderful, useful future.

If you desire to close the widows of heaven, simply keep your attention, thoughts and conversation on some wrong that you suffered in the past. Hold a grudge and you can be sure that it will weigh you down regarding any forward motion for Christ. A grudge is like dragging a large sack of rocks while trying to run a marathon.

You remember that Jeremiah determined that he was not going to preach for the Lord anymore. His preaching seemed to be bringing no positive results; in fact, it was causing him a great deal of pain and leading to many frightening experiences. He had suffered enough harsh treatment and decided to sit down and quit. The weight of his hardships in the past had brought him to the point of giving up. Yet, he found that God’s call into the future was like a fire in his bones. He could not stop because God was in the future. He could sit alone with his misery and memories or he could stand up and walk with God into tomorrow. He decided on the later and how incredibly blessed we are all because of it. That is what every Christian must do. If only the sadnessess and sorrows of yesterday could be overcome by the burning zeal of God’s tomorrow we would never let our hurts hinder our hopes. If we keep our focus on His promises our prospects are always bright.

Paul suffered so much in the cause for Christ - he was arrested, imprisoned, beaten, ship-wrecked, stoned, criticized, hated and berated, but he never let that stop him. That is why God used him so greatly. Satan desires nothing more than to imprison us to our past. He wants to chain us to wall of defeat and keep us from walking on into the freedom of God's future.

I have known some Christians with great gifts who were of little use to God’s kingdom because they could not let go of what someone had done to them. A wife whose husband left her, a man whose son died young, a preacher who had been mistreated in a church, all of them and many others are sitting on the sidelines because they concentrated on the rear window of life instead of God’s bright windshield into the future.

  • If all you do is nurse your wounds, you will never experience healing or help anyone else find healing
  • If all you do is recount your sufferings, you will find very few people who feel that it adds anything to their lives to be around you

Listen, God has a future and a hope for you. He has plans to bless you and not to curse you. Don’t let the weight of yesterday's hurts keep you from the wings of God’s tomorrows.

Now, think about this ...

III. We must never be Confined by Yesterday's Sins

Paul was desirous to go onward for God. He never thought that the good he had done was enough, but he also never thought that his weaknesses and past failures were to be a hinderance. Some people focus so much on what they used to do for the Lord that they fail to see what He has planned for them to do right now. Others who have sinned let failure keep them for any usefulness for God in the tomorrows that He has laid out for them. How foolish, and what a waste!

You were a sinner when God found you. No one here today is being used of God because of our own greatness. You were bought with a price and only the blood of Jesus makes you worthy of serving God.

Yesterday’s sins must not confine us or keep us from that which God has for us to do in His name today. Of course, sin can hinder us if we don’t deal with it properly. Let me share three important truths with you in this regard.

A. The Sin that Weighs US Down

First, we must get rid of the sin which does so easily beset US. Hebrews 12:1-3 speaks clearly about this. We are not to keep on sinning but are to lay aside that which hinders us and run the race Christ into the future He has for us. You may have a weakness I don't have to deal with, and I may have a weakness that will never trouble you. We must look at that which is slowing us down and lay it aside, otherwise we will never step forward properly into God's tomorrows.

B. The Sin that EASILY Weighs Us Down

A Little boy and mother went to see the movie of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. They arrived late and saw the witch giving Snow White the poisoned apple. When they came around to that point in the movie again, the mother took the boy by the hand and started to leave the theater. The little boy was looking back at the screen as the witch held out the apple for Snow White to take it. The little boy said out loud, "Snow White, if you eat that apple again you are crazy!"

Friends, we must not go back to previous sins - the ones which are easily committed. There is a sin or sins to which we are easily tempted. For one person it may be one thing and for another person it may be altogether different. What sin easily besets you? Don't let that hold you back.

Look at Genesis 19:26 and consider Lot's wife. It was in looking back that her demise occurred. That is what happened to God’s people in the Wilderness. They looked back to Egypt and lost their chance at the new life God had for them in the Promised Land. Forty years they wandered around in a desert and died there, with the Promised Land of milk and honey just a few miles away. They were so close to victory but they failed because they were focusing on the yesterdays rather than fixing their eyes on God's tomorrow.

Don’t go back to that which you have escaped. Everyone has a kind of Egypt - a place where you were held captive. There is a sin which easily besets us and it may appear that you cannot escape. I want you to know that there is nothing you cannot overcome through the blood of the Lamb of God. But, you must focus on what God has in store for you and view its promise as greater than anything else you have ever known in order to have victory. You will never leave the desert of your past habits and ways unless you can spiritually see God's bright, beautiful and blessed tomorrow for your life.

Also ...

C. The Sin That Can Weigh Us Down TODAY

Some people feel that something they did in the past hinders them from serving God TODAY. We must not let a sinful past and Satan's lies keep us from serving God right where we are today. When God forgives, He forgets. When He washes something away, He leaves the spot white as snow. Sure, I know some people will never forget or forgive the past, but God will and does bury out past so as to never be seen in His presence again - and that is what is important.

Think about Simon Peter for a moment. When Jesus needed Peter most, Peter denied Him - not once but three times. Then, after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter was restored and forgiven by our Lord. Who did Jesus select to preach the great Pentecost sermon? Yes, Simon Peter. I'm sure a committee would never have chosen Peter for that job. A group of disciples would likely have met and agreed that Peter had absolutely no right to preach the first sermon of the New Testament Church. Yet, God had other ideas. He saw Peter as a perfect example of grace.

Now don't get me wrong on this. I'm not saying that we can live any way we wish and then expect people to trust us, but I am saying that you have no right to use past failures to be an excuse for not moving forward in your service for God. It is not necessarily true that sin disqualifies us from service, it is remaining in sin or not accepting the forgiveness of God that keeps us from becoming what we can be and should become.

Conclusion

A little girl was praying the Lord's Prayer and she came to the part where she was to say, "Forgive us our trespasses." By mistake she prayed, "Forgive us our trash baskets." Indeed, we need a trash basket into which we can place the past. The sins of the past, the hurts of the past, and even the successes of the past must be laid aside so that we can be carried forward by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In Switzerland, in a church graveyard near the base of a great mountain, I have read that there is a special tombstone. It is the tombstone of a man who died on a mountain climb. The words upon it are: "He Died Climbing." Let that be our spiritual epitaph.

This very night, let us turn off the rearview camera by putting our entire lives in drive. Pull life out of reverse and switch to drive! When we do, we will discover that the windows of heaven will be opened upon our lives and work for Christ.