One of my brother’s favorite expressions was, “You can’t get very far going forward if you’re looking in the rear view mirror.” It didn’t take a lot of research to conclude that if you happen to be driving a car, the statement made perfect sense. But he always had more in mind than operating a motor vehicle. He liked using the analogy to highlight the value of focusing on the future regarding life in general.
Clearly, innovations, new discoveries, and protective maneuvers almost always emerge from forward-thinking individuals. If we spend too much time ruminating about how things used to be, we can easily be blindsided by unexpected obstacles in the path ahead. But there’s another perspective to be considered. If we ignore the lessons learned from ground we’ve already covered, we can find ourselves overwhelmed and unprepared for the twists, turns, and detours that await us.
No Experts Needed ~
Speaking of the things that may lie ahead, it doesn’t require assembling a panel of experts to conclude that being a follower of Jesus in the America of 2022 is likely to be more challenging than ever. Policies and practices that are an open mockery of God’s principles and judgments are already entrenched in the culture and they’re incessantly promoted. Barring a major national awakening and revival, the prevailing moral landscape isn’t likely to improve any time soon. Dealing with our own sin nature and the temptations that come our way is difficult enough in friendly surroundings, but the trends in the environment surrounding us now are anything but friendly. Plunging into this uncertain new year without beefing up our internal spiritual resources would not be wise.
Crisis situations have always confronted God’s people. The qualities they were called upon to demonstrate will undoubtedly be needed again – and yet again. For instance, many of us may find ourselves in need of a level of courage we’re not used to exhibiting. Circumstances may engulf us that call for a deeper confidence in God than we’ve been accustomed to. Just believing that God exists isn’t enough when the foundations of our lives are being threatened. Victory in the crucial battles looming ahead is certain to call for unshakeable confidence that God is not only aware of our situation, but that He is actively present and working in and through us.
Looking in Another Direction ~
A fresh vision is needed as we continue to traverse the year ahead, not just regarding Jesus’ overall commission, but of God’s purpose for us as individuals. Strange as it may seem, a key to moving ahead with the kind of courage, confidence, and commitment we’re going to need may be found by taking a preliminary look in the other direction. The earthly path Jesus traveled is rich with lessons that can strengthen us for tomorrow’s challenges, but so is the path we’ve already taken and the journey He’s been on with us.
When others were wrestling with whether or not Jesus was really the promised Messiah, He directed them to take a look back at what He had already done. His claims about who He was were established on more than just the principles He taught. They were supported by the unshakeable foundation of the works He had already done that could only be done by God. He said,
Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. (John 14:10–11 NKJV)
When the Apostle Paul was confronted with opposition from all directions and needed faith and courage to stand his ground against future attacks, he looked back at what God had already done for him. And when he sought to encourage his young protégé, Timothy, he shared those recollections with him:
But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! (2 Timothy 4:16–18 NKJV)
A Principle Involved ~
But it’s a couple of thousand years later now — and we’re not apostles. We haven’t seen the risen Christ or any of the miracles Paul experienced, so what does that have to do with us? Well, there happens to be a principle involved that doesn’t change. If looking back at the things God had already done had a strengthening impact on their faith, we can expect a similar outcome. That look at the past reminds us that not one step on this journey has been taken alone. Jesus didn’t grant us a new birth into His family, only to desert us and leave us as orphans. He made an immutable promise that applies to all of us. He said,
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16–18 NKJV)
When the future looks shaky and bad news seems inevitable, fear begins to infect our faith and undermine our confidence. Doubt lends credence to anxiety, worry dismantles peace, and the obstacles we imagine seem insurmountable. When that begins to happen, it’s time to shift our vision toward the rear view mirror and ask a few questions. How many willful sins have we committed that God has forgiven? That’s a good place to start, but there are more . . .
- How many things have we dreaded in the past that God protected us from?
- How many seasons have we faced when we were sure there wouldn’t be enough to get us through, but somehow He did it for us?
- How many shackles had He already broken when we finally brought them to Him and learned what it’s like to be set free?
- How many foolish decisions have we made that He ultimately reconciled?
- How many dark, haunting specters of impending doom have we watched flee from the light of His presence?
A Classic Example ~
And the list could go on and on. As the year continues, it will demand of us the kind of faith that undergirds courage and confidence, and the foundations for that kind of faith aren’t found in trying to prophesy the future. They can be found, instead, in the rear view mirror. Look at some important examples that God gave us in the Book of Hebrews of what that looks like to Him:
And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. (Hebrews 11:32–35 NKJV)
2022 may continue to demand more than many of us have to give, but God is never intimidated by threats like that. A few minutes of gazing in the rear view mirror will remind us that it isn’t the light that flees from the darkness; it’s the other way around. When challenges sap our strength, the faith that overcame will overcome again. When losses break our heart, the love that carried us through before will rise up to do it again. When new storms descend around us, the hope that refused to die will prove invincible again.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Circumstances may engulf us that call for a deeper confidence in God than we’ve been accustomed to. Just believing that God exists isn’t enough when the foundations of our lives are being threatened.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Victory in the crucial battles looming ahead is certain to call for unshakeable confidence that God is not only aware of our situation, but that He is actively present and working in and through us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Looking at the things God has already done for us in the past reminds us that not one step on this journey has been taken alone. Jesus didn’t grant us a new birth into His family, only to desert us and leave us as orphans.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When the future looks shaky & bad news seems inevitable, fear begins to infect our faith & undermine our confidence. Doubt lends credence to anxiety. Worry dismantles peace. Obstacles seem insurmountable. It’s ‘time’ to shift our vision.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When challenges sap our strength, faith that overcame will do it again. When losses break our heart, love that carried us thru before will rise up again. When new storms descend around us, hope that refused to die will prove invincible.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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