Looking Backward, Moving Forward

Occasionally at church I need to walk though the Auditorium while the lights are off. It’s really dark in there, but if you’re careful, you can get just enough light from under the doors to guide yourself between the rows of chairs, up the aisle, around the stage, and out the other door.

Walking forward in the dark is not easy–unless you really know the path.

It’s like walking blindfolded.walking-blindfolded

Some would say it’s ridiculous to even try!

Similarly, walking forward while constantly looking over your shoulder, or even walking backward while trying to make progress just does not make sense.

Yet, to a large degree, if we are not willing to look at where we’ve been, we may never find out exactly how to get where we’re going. We need to learn from the past in order to move to our future…but we don’t want to get fixated, or ‘stuck’ in our past.

Over the last 12 months, all of us have learned lessons.

Some have been really great ones: lessons about taking care of conflict before it grows old: lessons about self-control in our diet or exercise program: lessons about investing time in the really ‘important’ things (i.e., developing our faith) as opposed to only dealing with the ‘urgent’ things.

Other lessons have not been very enjoyable…in fact, some of them have been brutally tough: lessons about savoring every minute with a loved one because you didn’t know their end would come; lessons about trusting others and forgiving when they fail you; lessons about trusting God who is Sovereign over your life (even when circumstances seem out of control)…

Here’s the point: IF we want to Move Ahead into 2017, we have to take stock of what we’ve learned in 2016…and before that.

If we don’t slow down enough to do that, they’ll all become just a blur…a distant memory. In that case, we may be more likely to have to learn them again!

This would be similar to the ancient Israelites…time and time again God called out to them and sent them prophets to remind them to get on track, and stay on track with Him–and that this would be for their own good. He warned them of what would happen if they rejected Him and bowed to other ‘gods’, or if they trusted in men to rescue them, rather than trusting in Him.

Each time, they listened and followed…for a brief time. Then they started to pay attention to the people around them, and they’d forget the Lord.

Deuteronomy 8: 1-14:

“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

This happened, time and time again. Each time, God would allow them to experience the pain that their choices brought about. If they turned back to Him, He’d forgive and restore them. If not, then He’d send His discipline in some way…this would cause them to come back to Him in repentance.

For a time.

Then they’d do it again!

We don’t want to be like that and ‘forget the Lord’.

We want to keep the lessons we’ve learned clearly in our minds.

How do we do that?

By slowing down, taking some time, and remembering.

If you have a Journal you’ve recorded in over the year, look back at it. If you have a calendar–either online or a written one–take a look back over your appointments. If you keep notes in your Bible, take a look back.

If you don’t do any of those things, this would be a great time to start!

Just get a spiral notebook and record each day 1) The things that God taught you; 2) The things on your heart, and 3) The answers to prayer you’re asking for.

It is crucial, of course, that you spend some time in the Word of God each day, and in prayer. These are foundational building blocks of faith.

Take 1/2 hour now to do this. Encourage your family to do it this weekend.

If we want to ‘move forward’ into the New Year and make new strides, we need to build upon what we’ve learned, by the grace and mercy of God.

Let’s Go into 2017 in faith, we a renewed commitment to learn from the Lord and record what He does!

It should be exciting! Bless the Lord!

Published by Pastor Dave Johnson

Follower of Jesus, Husband to Lori, Proud Father to 6 great kids, Co-Pastor of Kalamazoo Community Church. Long-suffering Detroit Lions fan.

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